(from the October 2009 Maine Townsman)
From Around the State and City Hall
Arundel: Fire department officials have asked selectmen for the “okay” to hire a consultant to assess the department’s personnel needs and develop a five-year management plan. The town has been served by six fire chiefs in the past 10 years. Changes to the town charter are being discussed that would bring the existing independent fire department under the town’s full jurisdiction, as a municipal department. Chiefs presently are elected by department members and are not directly accountable to the town manager or selectmen.
Augusta: Although unable earlier this year to find a company to buy the naming rights to the Augusta Civic Center, the city council in September authorized a nonprofit group to raise funds for some of the city’s recreation trails by selling the naming rights for kiosks and bridges within the Bond Brook trail complex. Officials said the entire complex could be named for a single donor. Any bidder names must be approved by the nonprofit governing board.
Bridgton: Voters will be asked in November to approve spending as much as $400,000 to rehabilitate the Town Hall, which was built in 1851 and accommodates municipal offices as well as recreation programs. An engineer who volunteered to assess the building, told selectmen in late September that the building is in remarkably good condition for its age.
Cutler: The town’s state valuation increased this year from $43 million to $73 million, resulting in a loss of $94,000 in state education funding. When combined with the delay in developing housing on the former Navy base, unpaid taxes have escalated to $171,000, with the base developers responsible for $50,000 of the revenue shortfall. Still, annual town meeting voters in September approved all spending requests, which represented a 10.9 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxation for the new fiscal year.
Fryeburg: Special town meeting voters in August approved allowing the town’s administration department to spend 65 percent of the $374,000 it requested on the regular town meeting warrant in June. At that time, voters decided they wanted more information before approving the entire amount, so they authorized only 35 percent of the request in June.
Jefferson: Special town meeting voters in September decided by a margin of 193-5 to allow an Internet company to build a tower on town-owned property. The new tower will improve residents’ access to high-speed service.
Jonesport: Selectmen will ask voters to consider changing to a selectmen/manager form of government because of the increased workload and complexity of running the town of 1,400. The three-member board hopes a manager could save or raise enough money to pay his or her own salary. Selectmen will put the issue on next spring’s annual town meeting warrant.
Kennebunkport: While their neighbors continue pondering how to address increasing complaints about motorcycle noise, selectmen gave police approval in September to post signs asking cyclists to lower the volume of noise they create -- a growing frustration for several communities in Maine. Police Chief Joseph Bruni told selectmen the signs apparently have been effective in other communities outside of Maine. Old Orchard Beach: Money generated by town ambulance fees after August 4 can be used toward the cost of building a new public safety facility, the council decided in August. Ambulance fees generates $350,000-$400,000 a year.
Scarborough: Local police used a public works truck rather than a cruiser to conduct an 8-hour speeding detail in mid-September and identified nearly 100 drivers who were going 5-35 mph over the speed limit. Two officers in the truck cab radioed the license plate numbers of speeders to other officers in cop cars and on motorcycle. The effort took place in the area that gets the most complaints from the public, police said. Although some people characterized the effort as a “sting,” police leaders said it was effective and they plan to use other non-cruisers in the future.
Waterboro: The town’s phone system was breached by a hacker in June, a problem realized when town officials got a $15,000 bill in July. Municipal staff are working with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to resolve the bill, while the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security are investigating the crime. The calls are believed to have been made from overseas.
Mapleton/Chapman/Castle Hill: These three Aroostook County towns were recently successful in ratifying a new Interlocal Agreement, thereby continuing a long standing tradition of cooperation by effectively and efficiently sharing services. At a combined town meeting on September 9, all three towns separately confirmed the agreement with unanimous votes. The Interlocal Agreement is a cost sharing arrangement that provides significant savings to residents of all three towns, and high quality services. All three towns share ownership in buildings, equipment, and administrative costs. In addition to sharing a town manager, these towns also share a town clerk, a road commissioner and a fire chief.