In a special town meeting April 18, Unity residents dealt with bridge repairs, Firehouse lot paving and mobile home standards. Approximately 30 townspeople, including municipal officers, attended the meeting, which at times drew lively debate.

The Farwell Bridge on Berry Road has needed new wooden planks and guardrails for some time now, as evident from the Nov. 7, 2017, selectmen's meeting minutes. The town wishes to use $14,500 from tax increment financing, and not from taxation, to repair the bridge.

TIF refers to a method by which municipalities can self-finance redevelopment programs. TIF funds can pay for public improvements using the increased property tax revenue the improvements generate.

During discussion, a town resident exclaimed, "It is an extreme safety hazard! A car has all ready gone off (the bridge)!"

A two-ton (4,000 pound) restriction will remain posted on the bridge, but regardless, a resident said, "I still wouldn't drive on it — it's scary."

The article was approved by a majority.

The town pump house came up for discussion, as $1,000 had been requested for repairs.

A resident spoke about the history of the pump house and how it brings water to five or six properties. Historically work done on the pump house has been paid for by the owners.

Selectmen said they wished to "get it up to par" and then pass it along to the owners.

"Like a birthday present?" asked a resident. "I would like to see them pay for it."

A proposal to fix the pump and then sell it outright to the owners was floated. "The town has some legal funds for items such as this," Selectman Penny Sampson said. "We got a good deal on seconds (for the siding), but it has to be charcoal."

At length, the moderator reined in the discussion and reminded the room of the article at hand, which was whether to approve $1,000 for repairs to the pump house.

When finally voted on, this article passed by a majority as well.

Shifting gears, residents then moved swiftly to approve spending $2,000 to fix facilities at the Kanokolus Beach Trailhead and $1,000 for Unity Recreation.

 

"Recreation isn't just for Little League or soccer," Sampson pointed out. "I don't want this to be just for children — but for older folk, too."

Another article dealt with the right of first refusal for $1 to the Unity Fire Department for a Polaris Ranger ATV and a utility trailer. What this means is the Fire Department would donate the ATV and trailer to the town for a dollar. The town, in turn, will pay for repairs and insurance; when it is time for replacement, the Fire Department would take it back and then raise funds for a new ATV.

The motion was approved by a majority.

Paving the front of the Unity Fire Department lot was by far the night's longest and liveliest debate, with residents arguing the virtue of getting the job done right over having to replace it year after year.

"We may be back — but we do need to do this work with the little money we have," Sampson said. "We're OK with doing the minimum because we don't have $20,000."

Residents discussed a proposal to table paving plans with the idea of having an engineer determine the best long-term course of action and waiting until the money is raised.

A Fire Department member said she received a quote for $20,000 from All States Asphalt. "I really want to pave the parking lot, but I am going to have to vote no on this because spending $10,000 on two inches of pavement will crack quickly," she said. "I would rather spend all at once, and get a better quality job for the money."

A resident added, "To do it right, it's going to cost a lot of money…. This is going to be a patch. How much do we want to spend on a patch?"

Another resident remarked that the station was built on a swamp and the water would seep back no matter what. The process would involve digging down a few feet, putting material down, then back-filling with gravel and then topping it off with asphalt. "A lot more than $10,000."

In the end the motion was defeated with 10 in favor to 12 opposed.

The last article discussed was that of mobile home standards. Any mobile home to be located or relocated within Unity will need a licensed electrician to inspect and approve the electrical system; a licensed fuel burning expert would need to inspect and approve the heat, hot water and cooking appliance; and if using non-fuel appliances such as heat pumps, solar electric and geo-thermal, a professional installer will need to inspect and approve such systems.

Selectmen explained how this would protect innocent children from harm. "I don't think this is asking too much," one said.

One resident said, "If it was expensive, young couples on a limited income or elderly on fixed incomes would find this difficult."

Another resident asked the selectmen how many applications had been received for locating a mobile home within town.

"One last year and none so far this year," Sampson replied.

The resident then remarked that this could be like "opening a can of worms for one or two units a year."

When it came time to vote, there were 13 in favor to 9 opposed.

The meeting concluded around 8 p.m.