Searsport fifth-graders take part in selectmen's meeting

By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 06, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Searsport fifth-grade student Savannah Dunham asks how long each Board of Selectmen member has served.

Searsport — Searsport fifth-grade students had many questions for selectmen April 3, ranging from "If you die, will they immediately find a new selectman?"  to "Do you have any money to repair sidewalks? I bike a lot and it's just annoying having potholes in the middle of the sidewalk."

The afternoon meeting, an annual tradition, was designed so fifth-grade classes could attend a selectmen's meeting during school hours and learn how town business gets done.

Selectman Jack Merrithew opened the meeting with, "Welcome, all young citizens. You all have your agendas, I believe?"

"I am the chairman and I was once in fifth grade in Searsport," he said.

Selectmen Doug Norman and Linda Payson also noted they both attended fifth grade in Searsport and Selectman Richard Desmarais said his grandson Jayden is currently in the fifth grade.

"So you can see what you can grow up to be," Merrithew said.

Getting down to municipal business, Town Manager James Gillway told selectmen that board approval was required to execute a bond approved at town meeting. The $1 million bond, which will be used for roads, was unanimously approved.

Merrithew explained, "Anytime someone applies for a liquor license or a junkyard or things of that nature, we have to go to a public hearing and that is to get input from the public, as to what they feel we should do."

The liquor license for Anglers Restaurant was renewed. There was no public comment.

The treasurer’s warrant was approved. Merrithew said, "We have a bookkeeper that tracks all town expenditures and we authorize payment of these bills."

Gillway announced that Carver Memorial Library has been awarded a grant from The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation for $20,000, which will be used to repair the front steps.

He also spoke of the Public Works Department looking into "excessive ground water" on Mortland Road and two subdivision applications.

Police Chief Richard LaHaye spoke about an "influx of robocalls” the town has been experiencing lately. The calls are originating from outside Maine, according to LaHaye. On one such call, the caller indicated an "arrest warrant (would be issued) if they didn't pay their taxes."

"If you don't recognize the call, don't answer it," LaHaye said. "If you do answer it, get as much information about the caller as you can and report it to the police."

LaHaye said to call Searsport Police at 548-2304; and if no officers answer, call dispatch at 338-2040 and ask to talk to a Searsport officer.

Several municipal appointments were made: Karen Newton as ballot clerk; Constable and Police Chief Richard LaHaye; Shellfish Warden Eric Bonney; Steve Bulloch and Mayo Bulloch to the Historical Preservation Committee; and Thomas Hodgkins and Marge Knuuti to the 175th Anniversary Committee.

Chairman Robert Ramsdell will step down from the Shellfish Management Committee this month, Gillway said.

National Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Public Safety Building.

When selectmen opened the meeting for questions from students, Bay Nadeau wanted to know: "How much does a selectmen make in a year? And what percentage of the town's money goes to schools?"

Merrithew said, "$1,000 (per year); and between 60 to 70 percent (of money raised from property taxes) goes to schools."

Ryan Greenleaf asked, "How many times can a selectman stay a selectman?"

"There are no term limits," Merrithew said. "As long as the people want us."

Brenden Courtney asked about sidewalk repairs. "That is something we will be doing right off. We will have new sidewalks downtown," Merrithew said.

Kyra Evans wondered, "Do you ever talk to important people and have them help you with decisions?"

Merrithew noted selectmen work with "all different departments of the state."

Responding to a question from Savannah Dunham, Merrithew and Desmarais both said they've been selectmen for 13 years; Norman said he has been on the board for nine years and Payson said she's served just two months.

Adriana Amaro wondered when the decision is made to send out plow trucks when it snows.

"You can't plow it if it's less than an inch — about an hour after it starts snowing," Gillway said.

In closing, Desmarais said having the students attend a meeting "changes the whole dynamics."

"We signed up for one million dollars and it will be spent on roads," he said. "That's how things happen. We appointed a lot of people, citizens from our town, and they will help  piece pieces together. The town doesn't run on five selectmen — it's a lot of volunteer work."

As the fifth-grade class was leaving, a student remarked, "This was kind of fun, actually."

Searsport Town Manager James Gillway, right, answers a question posed by fifth-grade student Adriana Amaro April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Bay Nadeau asks selectmen April 3 how much they make in a year for the elected position and what percentage of money goes to the school. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Kristen Boehmer asks selectmen how to become a selectman April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Brenden Courtney asks selectmen if the town has money to fix downtown sidewalks April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Kyra Evans asks if selectmen have ever made a decision that had to be changed. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Searsport Town Manager James Gillway answers a question from Brenden Courtney April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Selectmen Jack Merrithew, Doug Norman and Richard Desmarais field questions from Searsport fifth-graders April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Deputy Clerk Joanne Moulton, Town Manager James Gillway and Selectman Linda Payson at the selectmen's meeting April 3. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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