SWANVILLE — In about an hour Saturday, March 12, 33 Swanville residents approved 15 warrant articles — all but two unanimously — with minimal discussion, including the addition of a municipal clerk and an essentially “flat” budget with no tax increase.

Before the meeting began shortly after 10 a.m. in the Community Room beneath the Town Office, the Select Board honored Deb and Rob Newcomb, owners of Swan Lake Grocery. Select Board Chair Cindy Boguen detailed the couple’s myriad contributions to the town, including a Dave Hurley painting of Swan Lake and the dam that the town now owns. She said that despite all the Newcombs have been through — including a devastating fire at their store — they have always stepped up to help whenever help was needed, from the town’s 200th anniversary celebration to school supplies.

“You never said no,” Boguen said. “I think it’s very important that we recognize you.”

Select Board member Scott Cournoyer presented a plaque to the Newcombs. “In recognition of your philanthropy to our community throughout the years,” he said, “we are putting up this plaque in this room and it’s going to be the Deb and Rob Newcomb Community Room.” Residents signaled their approval with rousing applause.

Moderator Bill Kelley led voters through the warrant as they approved $101,500 for town administration and $180,250 for compensation, including $25,000 for payroll expenses (Social Security, Medicare, etc.). Of that, the town has created a new $18,000 municipal clerk position to help handle increasing demands on the Town Office, in part as a result of “more full-time residents,” according to Boguen. “If we had to pay a town manager,” the cost would be $35,000 to $50,000, she added.

As part of its Town Office restructuring, the Select Board also proposed raising the excise clerk’s compensation to $25,000 from $17,000 to offset a drop in agency fees paid directly to the clerk before the advent of Rapid Renewal Service in Swanville. With Rapid Renewal, the town still gets the excise tax revenue, but not the agency fees for online motor vehicle renewals.

The largest single budget item was $370,000 for town roads, of which $268,578.33 will come from excise taxes, and $101,421.67 is to be carried over and reappropriated.

Town services came in at $154,493 to be raised from taxes. Of that amount, the town’s largest expenditure will be $60,750 for fire protection furnished by the Belfast Fire Department (including a 15% scheduled increase of $30,162).

Residents also voted to raise $275,000 toward constructing a 4,000-cubic-yard “coverlet” for the salt and sand pile, and appropriated $142,686.96 from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for Swan Lake Dam repairs and gate replacement.

Boguen said the funds were received as a result of a grant she wrote, and the Select Board chose to spend it to repair leaks in the dam and replace the gate at no cost to the town. The dam “was losing more water underneath it than was our required minimum flow,” she said. “It’s already been repaired, so it’s no longer doing that,” she said. The town also voted to raise $5,000 for a maintenance account for the dam and another $5,000 for a survey of the dam property.

In response to a question about whether there was any money coming to the town without having to write a grant, Boguen said, “No, you had to write it, and it’s very detailed. … I spent a lot of time on this, and I’m not done yet. Now we’re in the reporting. To report it, just to sign into the federal government page is a 55-page document to tell us how to log into the page to do it. So it’s a lot of work, but it was a lot of money.”

For social services and nonprofit agencies, voters approved $24,325, including $2,500 for Belfast Area High School Boosters, which lost revenue because of the COVID-1 pandemic, and $4,000 for the Green Lawn Cemetery Association. The cemetery is privately owned but contains a number of veterans’ graves, which the town is obligated to maintain.

The final town budget amount to be raised from taxes is $497,731.08, up slightly from $478,498 in 2021, an increase of just over $19,000. Repeating what she said to voters Saturday, Boguen told The Republican Journal March 15 that “A $20,000 increase on a budget this size is, essentially, flat.”

At the start of the town meeting, several candidates for election in the fall spoke: Betsy Garrold of Knox, running as a Green Independent, and Democrat Robyn Stanicki of Unity, both vying for state representative from new House District 38 (Brooks, Jackson, Knox, Monroe, Swanville, Thorndike, Unity, Waldo and part of Frankfort), and Searsport Police Chief Todd Boisvert, who is running against Chief Deputy Jason Trundy for Waldo County sheriff.

Next year’s town meeting will be held March 11, 2023, with a storm date of March 18.

In the town election the previous day, 24 people voted, Town Clerk Helen Christianson reported. Fredric Black received 23 votes for a three-year term on the Select Board, Erwin Hood won a five-year term on the Planning Board with 17 votes, and Cory Seekins was elected to a three-year term on the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors with 24 votes.

 

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