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Council approves summer paving projects

After months of deliberation, the Town Council has approved the town's summer paving projects. The proposal was first discussed in May, and started by Town Manager Michael Crooker making the council aware that there was $115,000 left in last year's paving budget. The town received six bids for the paving of 2.8 miles of local roads.

An added challenge came when the Winterport Water District approached the council and explained that they were forced to tear up a portion of Lincoln Avenue because of a break in a water line. The district received quotes on repairing that section of the avenue, but was made aware by the contractors that the work couldn't be guaranteed due to the condition of the rest of the roadway.

The Water District approached Winterport's municipal officers hoping that they could schedule the work on Lincoln Avenue with the town's summer paving project. The council agreed to tackle the additional road, with the understanding that the Winterport Water District would pay for the portion that they demolished.

At its first meeting in June, the council awarded the paving project to Winterport firm Wellman Paving. The vote, which was viewed as contentious at times, given that Wellman Paving's bid was $3,000 higher than another bidder, resulted in a tally of three "for" and two "against." Then Councilor Peter Rioux, whose term expired at the end of that month, expressed concern with accepting Wellman's higher offer. "It's not good bidding practice," he said.

In early August the council debated various changes to the road plans that Wellman Paving owner Scott Preston explained would "make the roads better." The council went through, one by one, and approved his suggested changes to Elm, Commercial and Washington streets, as well as Baker and Stream roads. Paving is expected to commence in the coming weeks.

Town Manager Crooker explained to the council that there are likely to be funds left in the road account. Councilors gave their approval to working with Wellman Paving on obtaining an estimate for the repair of additional roads.

Funding roadblock continues for Ambulance Service

For the first time in its existence, the town approved a $30,000 funding request for the Winterport Ambulance Service. The vote, which was passed by the nearly 30 residents in attendance at the yearly town meeting, was contingent upon the town forming a committee to determine the impact that the ambulance service has on the community, and whether or not there are alternatives.

The committee must present its report to the Town Council no later than one month before next year's annual town meeting. The group is expected to consist of one member of the Town Council, one member of the Ambulance Service, and five registered voters of the town of Winterport.

The council began reviewing applications for committee members at its second meeting in August. At that time, two individuals had applied for a spot on the committee, both of whom serve on the Ambulance Service. At a meeting earlier in the month, Winterport Ambulance Director and EMT Phillip Higgins stressed the importance of getting the committee formed, given the seriousness of the service's financial situation. The lack of committee members delays funding for an ambulance service that faced an $80,000 deficit during the 2019 year.

The $30,000 won't be awarded until the council, in conjunction with the newly formed Ambulance Services Committee, determines that the funds are warranted. The committee will start meeting once all vacant positions are filled.

Brooks resigns from Board of Assessors; Skratt reappointed

Joe Brooks, a former legislator and long-time player in local town politics, has submitted his resignation from the Board of Assessors. The Town Council accepted his resignation at the Aug. 25 meeting. At the same meeting, the municipal officers appointed Thomas Skratt to fill the vacant position.

Skratt, a member of the Winterport Fire & Rescue Association and former town councilor, has served on the Board of Assessors in various capacities over the years, namely as the chairman of the board. He played a critical role in explaining the revaluation process earlier this year, and was vital in the hiring of a new assessor's agent at the resignation of Herb Dickey back in October 2019.

According to the Town Charter, the Board of Assessors, in consultation with the assessor's agent, assesses the value of all taxable property within the town of Winterport for the purpose of taxation.