MORRILL — Residents discussed several topics in depth at the nearly 3 1/2-hour meeting April 16. They discussed a moratorium on solar farms for an unspecified term, the town’s share of Regional School Unit 71’s school budget and charitable donations.

They approved the solar  moratorium so town officials could develop an ordinance governing solar farms. There has been some discussion about possible solar farms in town, but no formal applications have been submitted, according to the Select Board.

Select Board members said they would probably take a year to develop such an ordinance. Residents fumbled over how to word the article and ended up enacting a year-long moratorium, which is longer than the maximum period allowed for a moratorium.

For a town to adopt a moratorium, there must be a need for it, according to state law, under Title 30A, Part 2, Sub-part 6-A, Chapter 187, Subchapter 3. It must be to prevent a shortage or overburden of public facilities that is reasonably foreseeable or because the existing Comprehensive Plan, land use ordinance or regulations are inadequate to prevent public harm.

It must also have a defined term of no more than 180 days, the statute says. The moratorium can be extended for an additional 180 days if the need for it has not been met and reasonable progress is being made to meet the need. It can be extended by a Select Board after public notice and a hearing.

The original article read “to vote to allow the selectmen to create a moratorium on solar farms until a solar farm ordinance can be developed.” Residents amended the article to define the term length to be a year and for it to take effect immediately, but that was voted down because some residents thought it might conflict with approving a solar farm ordinance at next year’s annual meeting.

Next, residents voted to revisit the article and approved the final amendment to the article, which read “to allow the selectmen to establish an immediate moratorium on solar farms, so a solar farm ordinance can be developed.” Residents spent nearly half an hour discussing the article before passing the last amended version.

The Select Board drafted the town warrant rather than having the town attorney do it because most article wording does not change from year to year, Select Board member Randall Place told The Republican Journal after the meeting. He said the Select Board will have to reach out for guidance from Maine Municipal Association on the moratorium that was approved by voters.

There was also a lengthy discussion at the meeting about the amount the town has to pay in taxes to Regional School Unit 71. School Board representative Jean Dube spoke at the meeting about her efforts to keep district spending down.

She said sometimes board members from towns outside Belfast are outvoted by the Belfast representatives. Because the city pays more toward the school budget than all the other towns, it has more representatives.

Dube talked about the school board discussions regarding consolidating all of the elementary schools in one location or fixing up the multiple elementary schools in the district. One resident thought it could be cheaper to fix what needs to be fixed in the existing schools than to consolidate all the schools in one place.

In the past, Morrill has stood out in the district as one of the only towns to have the majority of its voters oppose the school budget.

Voters spent nearly 40 minutes discussing the proposed $10,794 worth of charitable donations to several local public service agencies on the warrant. Some residents voted against allocating any funding to them at all.

Ultimately, voters approved all the requests except an $884 donation to LifeFlight of Maine because most people at the meeting felt it was enough that the organization was reimbursed through insurance companies for accidents it responds to.

After much debate on a couple of different articles, residents approved a $2,500 charitable donation for the Morrill Village Water District and voted to allocate $10,000 worth of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the organization. It was half of the $20,000 issued to the town by the county from ARPA monies it received.

The $10,000 will go toward new water tanks and the $2,500 will go toward electronic equipment and software for bookkeeping, one resident said at the meeting.

Some residents felt that allocating town funds to the water district was giving a subsidy to some people in the town but not all. Others argued that there are several lots connected to the water district that are too small to dig a well on and if the water district fails it could severely reduce the value of dozens of properties in town connected to the district, which could affect the whole town.

Residents voted to use $93,892.46 worth of ARPA funds issued to the town by the federal government and the remaining $10,000 worth of ARPA funds from the county to build a training room addition to the Morrill Fire Department. The room could also be used for emergencies and meetings, according to town officials.

Mike Farris was reelected to a three-year Select Board term and Dean Rowlands was reelected to a one-year term as fire chief. The overall budget increased by 7.3%, from $481,031.45 last year to $516,127.50 this year. However, voters approved raising only $197,840 from taxation this year, down 16% from last year’s $235,902.

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