RSU 71 proposed budget

Caitlin Hills, chairwoman of the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors, updated Belfast City Council May 7 on the proposed 2019-20 school budget.

She said the proposed budget is $28,019,030, which represents a 2.35% increase over the previous year. The school board was able to achieve this "modest increase," Hills said, by "consolidating resources" through normal attrition (retirements and resignations).

The district will lose one teacher position each of three schools, Capt. Albert Stevens School, BCOPE (Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education) and Troy Howard Middle School, but also will add "some long-needed positions," she said, including a world language teacher at the middle school.

There was also "better than expected" news about the amount of state funding, Hills said, and the district carried forward $2.2 million.

A public RSU 71 budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 20, at 6 p.m. at Troy Howard Middle School, for voters to weigh in on budget items. RSU 71 voters will cast their votes on the budget Tuesday, June 11, at their local polling locations.

Council says no to treating Searsport wastewater

"This is not going to work," Councilor Neal Harkness said when City Manager Joe Slocum asked the council to consider a request to treat Searsport's wastewater.

Slocum said the town of Searsport is realizing it will need to spend "millions" to upgrade its treatment plan, and submitted a letter April 24 asking about the possibility of using Belfast's wastewater plant.

It's a big question and the city superintendent and engineer have spent a lot of time figuring out whether this would work, Slocum said. "Do we have enough capacity? What would we have to upgrade?" Slocum asked.

Determining whether the plant can physically handle the additional load would require a technological study, Slocum said. "It will cost money, and if Searsport wants to front that, then we will take a look."

Study aside, both the superintendent and the engineer advised, "In the long run, it is not in your best interest to do."

Slocum said, "I don't want people in Belfast to think we are against a regional facility. We actually have a limited footprint down at the bottom of Front Street."

The two biggest concerns, he said, are that the city might be "giving away our last bit of expansion capacity we have that we may need for ourselves."

The current setup could also cause overboard sewage in events of heavy rains, Slocum said. "We don't think this is going to work," he said, "but we didn't want to bypass council."

RSU 71 buses and maintenance

Asked to report on bus and maintenance issues, RSU 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said, "We determined we do need an additional mechanic who is certified to inspect buses. We did not have that in this past year, and that was a problem."

She said the district has re-hired a retired person who has a "fabulous" reputation, "and bus drivers in the bus garage are thrilled that things are getting fixed in a timely way."

A second full-time assistant  mechanic has also been hired, "and we expect by June 2020 he will be fully trained and able to take over as sole mechanic with his inspection license," McLean said.

An additional maintenance worker was also hired, she said. During the RSU 71 board meeting Monday night, McLean announced the district's new director of maintenance and transportation, Jake Gurney, who is already on the job.

Judge Susan Longley

Councilor Neal Harkness announced that Probate Judge Susan Longley will be resigning her position. After unseating incumbent Republican Judge of Probate Randy Mailloux in 2004, Longley was re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

"We wish her the best," Harkness said.

Mayor casts her first tie-breaker

A request from the city of Hallowell to kick in $1,000 as a sponsor of the sixth annual Build Maine conference in Lewiston June 5-6 drew a lukewarm response from all but Mayor Samantha Paradis.

City Manager Joe Slocum said Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge and City Planner Sadie Lloyd Mudge had attended and didn't think it worthwhile to sponsor; he did not recommend it.

Paradis spoke of the value of "networking among peers" and the "opportunity to spark an idea" that could be brought back to the community. When asked the price for individual attendance, she replied it was $83.

Councilor Neil Harkness moved to allow up to four "relevant staff" to attend, and the city would foot the bill. When the vote came in at a 2-2 tie, Paradis looked around at the councilors, began to smile and asked, "Do I get to vote on this? Wow!

"All right, I'll cast a vote in favor," she said. "The motion passes, 3-2.

"It's the first time I've voted!"

— Carolyn Zachary