NEWS
(from the December 2009 Maine Townsman)

From Around the State and City Hall

Alfred: The York County town of about 2,800 residents has the best tasting public water in Maine in the chlorinated category, while the even smaller Somerset County town of Solon took first place for non-disinfected water in the yearly competition sponsored by the Maine Rural Water Association. The winners advance to the national contest, which is scheduled for next April in Washington, D.C. In all, more than 20 public water systems competed in the Maine competition.

Auburn: The city is being sued by a Lewiston resident who was struck in the face by a hockey puck in 2008 while attending a game at a city arena. The woman’s son was a player in the game. The lawsuit claims the woman, age 39, sustained serious permanent injuries, lost wages because of her injuries and suffered emotional and mental pain. The woman already has settled out of court with the Auburn School Department for medical expenses. According to the Sun Journal, the woman settled a lawsuit out of court five years ago with a Rockland recreation center after slipping in a hockey arena and injuring her back when she fell on the concrete floor.

Bangor: Maine’s third-largest city is one of several municipalities already discussing ways to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed under a new state law enacted by Maine voters on November 3, 2009. State officials noted in early December that towns and cities will need to be careful in developing zoning restrictions for the clinics, but are allowed to set limits under the new state law. Bangor already is home to several methadone clinics that have caused some concerns from residents over the years.

Brunswick: The town council in December wrote to Gov. John Baldacci asking that Town Manager Gary Brown be re-appointed to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. Councilors said the redevelopment of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station is crucial to the future of the city and therefore councilors want a direct link to the authority and its decisions.

Cumberland: The town is studying whether a number of private wells in a small area of town have been contaminated by municipal salt. The problem is being investigated after an independent water quality test last fall showed elevated salt levels in one private well that could have been caused by winter road salting, town officials said. The town has hired an engineering firm to study the problem and recommend a solution.

Falmouth: The town has added a six-part section on its municipal website to help recruit new businesses and potential economic developers. The site now provides detailed information on such matters as site location and financing, including a database of available commercial properties. The work has been spearheaded by Theo Holtwijk, director of long-range planning for the town, but also involved input from numerous other people, including town councilors, the manager and assistant manager, the economic development director and the Falmouth-Cumberland Chamber of Commerce.

Mount Desert Island: One of Maine’s wealthiest areas has seen a steep increase in requests for federal food stamps in the past two years, illustrating the depth and seriousness of the present economic downturn. Food stamp use in the town of Mount Desert, which has the highest property value in Hancock County, increased 37 percent. Overall, food stamp use in Hancock County jumped about 40 percent from 2007 to 2009.

Pittston: Property tax bills are being mailed to homeowners late this year because of a dearth of help at the town office. Over the past several months, the town has lost its tax collector/treasurer and assessor, forcing selectmen to change the tax due date from December 11, 2009, to January 25, 2010, to give the town’s new tax collector time to get the work done. Also, the town recently hired a private assessing firm to help get caught up. Without changing the tax due date, residents would have been assessed interest on tax bills they had not received. Exacerbating the problem was the selectmen’s inability to secure a tax anticipation loan last summer because the town did not have a tax collector. The town recently was approved for a $500,000 TAN, much of which was handed over to the regional school district for money owed by the town.

Portland: City officials have applied for $23 million in federal stimulus funding to build a berth for cruise ships, assist pier owners to improve the waterfront and to upgrade the international marine terminal -- projects that would create about 2,600 permanent jobs, according to officials. Municipal and state leaders fear Portland’s chances are slim because there are so many projects across the nation competing for the economic development money. Eastport and Searsport also are included in the total $32 million stimulus request submitted by the state for its “three port” strategy.

Rockport: Employees of the public works department took the first step toward joining the Teamsters Local Union 340 when they filed a petition seeking to unionize with other town employees in November. The town’s police department already is part of the union. The Rockport PWD employs five drivers and one administrative assistant.

Rumford: Selectmen are considering shutting down fire call boxes when they break in order to save money in the next budget. However, the fire department would need to replace the boxes with newer technology if the board ultimately decides to move forward with the idea. The board decided to get more information before making a decision.

Vienna: The town may abandon paved roads because the road maintenance account is broke, officials said in early December. The road commissioner told selectmen the account contains $60 and raised the specter of curtailing repairs -- other than potholes -- because of rising costs, lack of money and increasingly bad road conditions. Earlier this year, selectmen asked for estimates to repave all 14 miles of town roads, but rejected the price of $1.5 million because the loan would last longer than the road work.

Woodstock: The town has sold its 1974 Ford pumper truck to the Sweden Fire Department for $1. Woodstock firefighters sought out a town that needed a pumper but was ill-prepared to buy one. Sweden officials picked up the donation immediately -- and gratefully.