Editorial, Nov. 29, 2018

Nov 29, 2018

Delay appropriate

We agree with the decision by Searsport selectmen to delay implementing a transitional 18-month budget meant to align the town's financial calendar with the fiscal year used by the state. At the recommendation of the town manager, selectmen decided that the change this year would be too much of a burden on residents, some of whom are facing higher property tax bills already because of a recent revaluation.

The idea for the change was first discussed in November 2017 and approved in February of this year, with the delay approved this month. Now, it is expected the shift will take place beginning in March 2020. That year, according to Town Manager James Gillway, three tax bills will be sent to residents during the 18-month period until the next town meeting in summer 2021.

An 18-month budget is a hard sell on its own. In fact, residents of Searsport have previously rejected the idea in straw polls, and selectmen, until now, have been reluctant to move forward without widespread approval. Former Selectman Aaron Fethke a year ago acknowledged it is a complicated process that requires clear communication from the town.

"People are going to be upset," he said at the time, "but I think ultimately they'll accept it and be grateful for the leadership."

Several years ago, Liberty residents struggled with the change, as well, but ultimately approved the shift and an 18-month budget. Several other Waldo County towns, including Stockton Springs, Northport, Lincolnville and Winterport, also operate on a fiscal year instead of a calendar year.

The shift to align with the school and state budget cycles makes sense. Instead of borrowing money from January until the annual town meeting in March, it will save the town money from interest paid on loans, known as Tax Anticipation Notes or TANs, required to pay town bills in the interim. In addition, it will no longer require the town to guess what the school budget or state aid to the school district will be, as is currently the case.

Legends lost

Waldo County recently lost two prominent citizens — John Ford and Joe Bryant. These two men not only contributed to their communities, but also were known as huge personalities.

Ford, a former game warden who lived in Brooks, made a name for himself with several books telling tales from his years as a warden, dealing with a variety of characters, including poachers who later became friends.

His obituary states during his two decades as a warden, John followed his stepfather’s advice and kept a diary of his escapades. He detailed the serious, as well as his hysterical misadventures, including falling off a plane pontoon into Unity Pond and trying to dislodge a beaver dam with dynamite and instead knocking out power to the town of Troy.

While he conducted book tours with his friend Mark Nickerson — as “two old cops” — there were times Mark couldn’t get in a word edgewise because John stole the show, generating gales of laughter.

Also not to be overlooked is John’s art — incredibly realistic images of wildlife.

Bryant  became well-known as the go-to source for antique stove parts, and for his displays of dolls and trains at Bryant Stove Works in Thorndike. In his obituary, his family noted Joe loved giving tours of the museum pieces and days before his death was still out sharing his love for antiques and music with people.

According to Rita Doughty, who writes the Knox town news column for the Journal, Joe also was known for his sense of humor. She recalls rides in his old cars from long ago, when “it seemed he loved to go through the brook at Chap Larrabee's and for sure, the water would splash on everyone, and he got a big kick out of it. There you'd be sitting in the brook in the open car, and all wet.” Still, she remembers everyone enjoying Joe's antics.

With the loss of these two men, on the same day, laughter in Waldo County was cut short for a time.

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