NEWS
(from the January 2009 Maine Townsman)

Anson: Firefighters from eight municipalities saved a number of buildings in the small town’s village district last month after a fast blaze destroyed an historic building that housed a food cupboard and thrift store. The cause of the fire could not be determined because of the extent of the destruction, fire officials said.

Augusta: The city could face a municipal budget deficit of $1 million in its new fiscal year budget because of current-year department shortfalls and plummeting revenue. The city’s school department also is confronting a $1 million projected budget shortfall for the new year.

Carrabassett Valley: The town is asking the Legislature to pass a special law allowing it to annex about 10,000 acres of Redington Township in order to garner tax revenue from an industrial wind farm proposed for the township. The proposed bill is similar to a request rejected in 2007 by the Land Use Regulation Commission, which governs Maine’s unorganized territories such as Redington.

Enfield: A New Year’s dance to raise money for the town’s volunteer fire department attracted 150 people this year. The department sponsors numerous fund-raising efforts to buy equipment or share their donations with the town’s food pantry. The department covers not only Enfield, but also Edingburg, Howland and Maxfield. Firefighters are hoping to expand the fire station, so some of the New Year’s money will be set aside toward that project.

Howland: Selectmen decided last month the town will not reimburse residents for damage to their mailboxes by snow plows if the boxes are within a dozen feet of the center of the road.

Jackson: Special town meeting voters on January 6 passed a moratorium on wind turbine construction in the Waldo County town of about 500 residents. The issue was brought to a vote by petition after several companies showed an interest in building wind farms in the town. Two firms already have signed lease agreements with private landowners. The 6-month moratorium passed by a vote of 84-36 and allows officials to create standards for any future projects.

Kennebunk: Two part-time jobs have been eliminated and a patrolman position will remain unfilled as the town faces a $250,000 budget gap for fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30. The cuts were made because of declining revenue, including excise taxes, according to town officials. The jobs cuts were effective December 31.

Mexico: While the town’s advisory budget committee is lobbying for earlier involvement in reviewing the municipal budget, Town Manager John Madigan last month cautioned that the western Maine town is running so tight already that no job could be eliminated without also cutting services. He said he plans to continue taking a long-range view of the town’s municipal operation and urged officials not to make short-term cuts that would negatively affect the solvency of local government.

Newport: Citing a growing population, town officials are projecting increases in spending for police and fire department budgets for the coming year. Fire will get the biggest increase at $137,000, or 28 percent more than 2008. Newport is located about 30 miles south of Bangor.

Topsham: Selectmen have named a 7-member advisory committee to study ways to improve municipal government and increase residents’ participation in town meetings and other forums. Last November, voters rejected a proposal to eliminate the annual town meeting.

Statewide: The state last month awarded $4.9 million in riverfront grants to 13 communities and five more that applied jointly. The money was included in a bond package OK’d by voters in November 2007 and will help finance projects ranging from helping Milo rebuild a charred area of its downtown to building riverfront parks and walks in many of the winning communities. State officials said they received almost twice the amount available in grant requests. The 14 towns are Bangor, Biddeford, East Machias, Gardiner, Houlton, Milo, Orono, Pittsfield, Richmond, Saco, Sanford, Skowhegan, Thomaston, and a northern Maine conglomerate that includes Madawaska, Fort Kent, Grand Isle, Frenchville and Van Buren.