Residents of Swanville approved raising some money for road maintenance while rejecting funding requests for social services during their annual town meeting.

The annual town meeting, held Saturday, March 9, ran for two and one half hours, with about 32 residents in attendance. Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) moderated the meeting.

Road maintenance was a hotly debated subject, as selectmen recommended raising $125,000 per mile for reclamation and resurfacing of the roads. They also recommended doing the reclamation and resurfacing on three miles of road per year.

The Budget Committee did not make any recommendations regarding how much money should be raised.

Upon reading of the article for the funding, a motion was made to raise $0, but that motion failed after it failed to receive a second. Brian Thompson, chair of the select board, motioned to raise the full $125,000. Thompson explained that the money would allow the town to begin the process of getting the roads on a six-year maintenance cycle.

Selectman Jeanna Bonin also noted that there is discussion about possibly turning state roads back over to the town. Currently, Swanville has 18.71 miles of road.

As discussion continued, it was noted that raising $125,000 in conjunction with other funding requests, would exceed LD 1.

LD 1 is a bill that was signed into law in 2005 to limit the growth of taxes and appropriations made by state, county, municipal government and school districts. Towns can vote to exceed or increase the limit by written ballot at the town meeting.

Thompson amended his motion to reduce the request for $125,000 down to $80,000 in order to stay under the Property Tax Levy Limit, as stipulated by LD 1.

Following the amended motion, a second motion was made to table discussion about the funding until after votes were taken on how much the town would raise or allocate to patching, ditching and mowing the sides of town roads, and how much the town would raise or allocate for social services and non-profit organizations. That motion passed and residents began discussing how much to raise for roadside maintenance.

The Board of Selectmen recommended raising $100,000 for patching, ditching, mowing and general maintenance, while the Budget Committee did not make any recommendations.

A motion was made to reduce the $100,000 recommendation to $30,000, which would free up more money to put towards the reclamation and resurfacing of the roads. Residents debated the wisdom of reducing roadside maintenance funding, noting some of the issues with the roads are related to issues with ditching and other problems.

Bonin acknowledged that she has received verbal complaints from residents in regards to potholes in the roads. Several residents agreed that addressing issues, such as water runoff, would help alleviate some of the condition issues of the town’s roads.

While suggestions were made to fund at the full $100,000 no motions were made to do so and the issue was moved to a vote.

Residents approved raising $30,000 for patching, ditching, mowing and general maintenance for the sides of the roads.

Social Services/nonprofit organizations

How much money should be raised for social service programs and nonprofit organizations was also hotly contested, as residents disagreed about whether taxpayers should be forced to make contributions in their property tax bill.

There were 15 organizations/programs seeking $17,369 in funding.

Resident Dan Horton pointed out that the town contracts out its fire and ambulance services, but refuses to contribute to social services and nonprofit organizations. He suggested giving at least 10 percent in funding, or $1,736.90.

However, some residents disagreed that any money should be raised because he believed contributions to the programs and organizations should be a personal choice and not mandated by the town.

The only motion on the floor was to raise $0 for social services and nonprofit organizations. That motion was amended to raise about $13,000 to contribute to the programs and organizations that directly assisted Swanville residents.

Once the issue was called to a vote the motion to raise $13,000 failed 14 in favor to 15 against. A second vote to raise $0 failed as well after it ended in a tie, 14 in favor and 14 against.

After both motions failed, a motion was made to fund the social services and nonprofit request across-the-board at 50 percent. That motion was then amended to raise $0, despite a challenge from resident Charles Miklovich who questioned the legality of the motion, citing the failure of a previous motion to raise $0.

The amendment and the motion to raise $0 was approved.

Road reclamation/resurfacing revisited

After returning to the question of how much the town should raise for reclamation and resurfacing of the roads, a motion was made to raise $80,000 without further discussion. That motion was approved and a recommendation was made to people suggesting they attend the selectmen’s meeting to help officials decide how and where the money is spent.

Salt and sand shed storage

In addition to requests for road maintenance funding, residents were asked if they wanted to transfer about $130,000 in an account designated for the construction of a salt/sand storage shed and transfer that money into a dedicated road maintenance account.

Thompson explained to residents that the state is requesting the town move the pile of salt and sand, which is located next to Route 131, to a new location. Two sites for the storage shed, one behind the Town Office and one at the Transfer Station, have received pre-approval from the state.

He continued by stating that he felt it would be “very short-sighted” to remove the money designated for the storage shed to pay for other town expenses.

Residents suggested several options for addressing the issue, such as covering the salt and sand with a tarp or stockpiling less sand.

After discussion ceased, the motion to move the storage shed funds to a road maintenance account failed by a vote of 15 in favor to 17 against.

Next year’s town meeting will be held Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 10 a.m. Municipal elections will be held March 7, 2014. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Office. Candidates Night will be held March 5, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building during the normal selectmen’s meeting.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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