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Selectmen honor Phil Wolley, name interim police chief

By Fran Gonzalez | Jan 06, 2020
Source: File photo

Searsport — Selectmen observed a moment of silence for Phil Wolley Sr. at their Dec. 17 meeting. Wolley, a longtime community supporter, died Dec. 15 at Harbor Hill in Belfast.

According to Town Manager James Gillway, Wolley was involved in the Lions Club and also volunteered as master of ceremonies for many years at the annual town variety show. His personality, quick wit and humor will be greatly missed, he said.

Selectman Doug Norman echoed the thought, saying Wolley was a "Searsport icon."

Later in the meeting, Gillway said because of an increase of $5,000 to the Homestead Exemption, some taxpayers could have their property tax bills erased.

To qualify, Gillway said, the home must be the owner's permanent residence, the owner must have owned the home for two years prior to applying, and an application must be filed on or before April 1. A camp or second property does not qualify and to have taxes erased, the property must be valued between $20,000 and $25,000.

Norman said this year, money from excise tax has increased by more than $75,000, revenue-sharing was up more than $44,000 and ambulance revenues are expected to have a large increase because of increases in MaineCare reimbursements.

The internal wiring at the Public Safety Building is "a bit of a mess" Gillway said, and asked selectmen to approve up to $6,500 to hire someone to fix it. Three companies have said they would not touch it, Gillway said, because it is "that bad."

"I can't make heads or tails of things that have happened over there," he said, adding that he has consulted with the town IT person who also agrees, it does not make sense. "We're going to need some outside help in unwinding it," Gillway noted.

In diagnosing the situation, Gillway discovered the Police Department is not operating on a fiber-optic network, but rather on a cable connection. Because of the multiple functions it performs, he said, the department needs to be on a high-speed network.

The $6,500 would be the minimum to get the job done, Gillway said, and selectmen ultimately approved the request.

Selectmen also designated Gillway as the interim police chief until the new police chief is installed for the purpose of continuing a federal Department of Defense surplus property program. Gillway said the department is currently due for an inspection and must reapply to the program to keep it going, so it needs to designate someone as chief in the interim.

"I've not wanted the designation, but will accept it for this purpose," Gillway said. "It's getting done what we need to do."

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