Selectmen tackle slew of municipal issues

By Fran Gonzalez | Oct 29, 2018

Searsport — Selectmen will have a public meeting and workshop Thursday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m., at Union Hall to discuss a future solar project.

Town Manager James Gillway said the project, a collaboration with SunDog Solar, has been developing for about a year and said the meeting will give residents a chance to weigh in. Gillway said selectmen expect to discuss "the whole package" at the meeting, including site location, costs and benefits.

Josh Treat has submitted a letter of resignation from the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors. Gillway said two residents had expressed interest in taking over his position, Percy King and Tom Hodgkins.

After hearing the position was for two remaining years of Treat's term, King, who was present at the Oct. 16 selectmen's meeting, withdrew. The board then appointed Hodgkins, who was not present, to serve out Treat's term.

Selectmen raised the transfer station tire disposal fee from $1 to $2, effective immediately, and also discussed the bag fee. Currently the fee for one 30-gallon bag is $1 and a 55-gallon bag costs $2.

Gillway said the current two-tier system "created some confusion."  He recommended charging $2 for any size bag. "(But) I don't know what impact it would have," he said. The board took no action on the bag fee.

Selectmen also talked about approaches to enforcing the windshield sticker policy at the transfer station. Selectman Dick Desmarais said, "We have to take the pressure off the operator. He's dealing with people from (other towns) coming over here because it's $2 a bag less."

Selectman Jack Merrithew agreed. "We should be pushing the windshield stickers a little harder," he said.

On Sundays, especially, it is extremely busy, Gillway noted, but said stickers could be issued on the spot to those without one.

"I think there's a way to do it," he said. "It would be a deterrent."

Selectmen later approved spending up to $26,300 for a new police SUV cruiser with funds coming from inactive town accounts. Gillway said the drug forfeiture, cruiser reserve, officer equipment reimbursement and the police RAD accounts all have been inactive and cumulatively add up to $26,300. The price tag of the new, leftover from last year, vehicle is $26,300. Selectman Mark Bradstreet marveled at the two matching numbers.

"We came right up to the penny. That's amazing," Bradstreet said.

Last February, selectmen voted to change the town's fiscal year to match that of RSU 20 and the state, starting in 2019. Gillway said revaluation of the town, along with the fiscal budget year change, is adding another level of confusion to tax bills.

An 18-month transitional budget will be presented at the March 2019 annual town meeting to support town operations from that meeting until June 30, 2020.

The 18-month budget will save the town money by not having to pay interest on loans to cover the period between town meetings and tax collection time, Gillway said.

"I think it's important to do. Interest rates are starting to creep up again," he said. "We were spending all most $20,000 to borrow $750,000."

Gillway asked selectmen to table agenda item "8A" pertaining to the 2019 budget start until the next selectmen's meeting on Nov. 6, in order to get public input. This will be the public's final chance, he said.

"I'm hoping people will be plugged in," for this meeting Gillway said. "Changing the fiscal year is important for the town, but having citizens that understand their tax bill is equally important."

 

 

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