Town Meeting

Townspeople approve entire warrant in record time

By Carolyn Zachary | Apr 03, 2018
Photo by: Carolyn Zachary Adler Michaud-Griswold, 11, after he addressed some 60 residents at the Waldo town meeting March 31. Adler spoke in support of funding for the Game Loft and its after-school programs for young people.

Waldo — An 11-year-old momentarily stole the show when he rose to speak on behalf of the Game Loft’s request for funding during Waldo’s otherwise routine annual town meeting March 31.

Adler Michaud-Griswold, a student at Cornerspring Montessori in Belfast, told some 60 residents in attendance that the Game Loft instills confidence and fosters friendships among its youthful clients. “It gave me the confidence to come here today and speak,” he declared, with poise and composure that belied his age.

Residents approved raising or appropriating the $200 Game Loft request, as well as funding for four other agencies ($495 for New Hope for Women, $235 for Central Maine Area Agency on Aging, $2,872 for Waldo Community Partners programs and $250 for Broadreach Family & Community Services). They also OK’d $500 toward the town’s annual Rena Whitney Scholarship Fund.

Town Clerk Sandra Smith opened the meeting at 9 a.m., casting a single ballot to elect as moderator Waldo resident Walter Whitcomb, who heads the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

With a glitch in implementing ranked-choice voting having made news the day before, Commissioner Whitcomb commented briefly about the issue. Ranked-choice voting “was passed by the citizens,” he told townspeople. The Secretary of State’s Office has discovered a conflict in existing law, he said, “and now they’re trying to sort it out.”

In what was for Waldo a relatively short town meeting (1 ¾ hours), voters by secret ballot re-elected Herb Harnden to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen; Sandra Smith as town clerk, tax collector and excise tax collector; Kellie Jacobs as treasurer; Robert (Bob) Cartier as fire chief; Alphonzo (Tom) Wagner as emergency management director; Alvin Winslow as road commissioner; and Lee Stover and Sue Blais to three-year terms on the Planning Board.

Former Planning Board Associate Member Bob McHatton was elected to a two-year term as a board member, and former Planning Board Member Walter Wagner was elected to a one-year term as an associate member.

All were voted in with no changes in pay. Some discussion arose over the tax collector’s pay, which in Waldo amounts to 2.25 percent of taxes collected ― and apparently that has been the rate for many years. Acknowledging that not many towns “still do it this way,” Whitcomb commented that the percentage might sound like a lot, but in a town the size of Waldo, it’s not.

In fact, 2.25 percent of the $657,274 collected to date in 2017 taxes would pay the collector $14,789. Based on the total due (paid and unpaid) for 2017 of $732,034, the tax collector’s share would be $16,471.

Under Article 5, residents voted to reduce the interest rate on unpaid taxes to 7 percent from 8 percent, and then went on to approve each of the remaining questions in the 27-article warrant, including the budget as presented.

Article 12, to see if the town would authorize selectmen to dispose of real estate acquired for nonpayment of taxes, or to accept a payment plan of monthly payments, drew a question. First Selectman Kathy Littlefield explained that although Maine Municipal Association “discourages payment plans…we don’t take people’s homes.” And there is no law forbidding payment plans. However, she noted, if at some point the issue of payment plans “is ruled otherwise, all bets are off.”

With regard to Article 14, to see if the town would authorize selectmen to borrow money in anticipation of taxes, Littlefield commented that in her 46 or 47 years on the board, selectmen have never done this.

Articles 16 and 17 pertained to garbage and gave selectmen latitude to enter into contracts for door-to-door pickup and disposal. At present, Pinkerton picks up trash and takes it to PERC (Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington). “The garbage industry is very fluid,” Littlefield commented. “If something good comes up, we just want to be able to jump on it.”

Residents expressed some interest in snow removal, currently handled by Earl Anderson Construction of Frankfort. One disgruntled resident said, “Every single mailbox was hit on Kendall Corner Road.”

Although they disregarded Whitcomb's suggestion that they could vote to dispense with the reading of all the individual articles — the most time-consuming part of the meeting — townspeople with little discussion gave blanket approval to 27 budget lines under Article 19. They swiftly agreed to raise or appropriate $123,450 from taxes, $100,000 from excise taxes, $22,000 from LRAP (Local Road Assistance Program), and $60,000 from surplus.

Littlefield explained that a line for “sexton” actually covers cemetery maintenance (selectmen fill the sexton role), and Fire Chief Bob Cartier discussed budget lines for fire equipment, building and compensation.

The first selectman also broke down the technology line ($6,000), which includes the town’s Trio accounting software, TechSource IT support, copier leases, and $150 for the town website.

Largest budget line items were $90,000 for snow removal and sanding, $43,000 for town officers’ salaries, $31,000 for town roads, $28,000 for insurance and tax account, and $27,000 for garbage disposal.

Following discussion of social services agencies, Kellie Jacobs discussed the town’s Rena Whitney Scholarship Fund, established to grant a scholarship to a graduating high school senior from Waldo. Residents OK’d $500 toward the scholarship which, to date, has no applicants for this year.

Voters approved by secret ballot the final article, to see if the town would vote to increase the property tax levy limit of $131,560 established for Waldo by state law, in the event the municipal budget results in a tax commitment greater than that property tax levy limit.

The meeting adjourned at 10:47 a.m. It was, in the words of a resident, "a record" for its brevity — with none of the contention of past annual meetings.

During an informal “conversation” led by Littlefield prior to the meeting, residents discussed Boosters Club activities in support of the Rena Whitney Scholarship, ranked-choice voting, and a need for more information to be posted on the town’s website, among other local issues.

Several candidates for election also addressed the gathering: Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast and Joseph Greenier of Stockton Springs, both vying for the Democratic nomination for state Senate, and former Rep. Jayne Crosby Giles of Belfast, who will oppose the primary victor in November in an effort to succeed outgoing Waldo County Republican Sen. Michael Thibodeau; Jan Dodge of Belfast, seeking the Democratic nomination to run in November for the House District 97 seat being vacated by Herbig; Bevelyn Beatty of Belfast, Republican candidate for the District 97 seat; and Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton, running for re-election.

Waldo Tax Collector Sandra Smith speaks at March 31 town meeting. At left are Selectmen Herbert Harnden and Kathy Littlefield; Treasurer Kellie Jacobs is at far right. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Townspeople vote by secret ballot during Waldo's town meeting March 31. Seated at the table are Treasurer Kellie Jacobs, left, and Nancy Whitcomb, keeping her eye on the ballot box. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Waldo Fire Chief Bob Cartier responds to a budget question during town meeting March 31. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Joseph Greenier of Stockton Springs tells Waldo town meeting attendees why he is running for the Democratic nomination for state Senate. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Jan Dodge of Belfast, running in the June primary for the Democratic nomination to represent District 97 in the Maine House. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Bevelyn Beatty of Belfast, Republican candidate for Maine House District 97, speaks before Waldo townspeople March 31. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Rep. Erin Herbig, running for the Democratic nomination for state Senate, makes a point before Waldo residents at their March 31 town meeting. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Former Republican Rep. Jayne Crosby Giles of Belfast looks on during an informal "conversation" led by town officials before the Waldo town meeting March 31. Giles is running for state Senate in November. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton, running for re-election, waits for the Waldo town meeting to begin March 31. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
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