NEWS
(from the
February 2005 Maine Townsman)

Bowdoin: The town’s new fire truck was expected to be ready for use in mid-February. Last March, townspeople approved spending up to $260,000 for the new fire truck. The town used a reserve fund, some money from the sale of the former Bowdoin Central School, and surplus monies to pay for the truck.

Alna: The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association has purchased 90 acres and 1,250 feet of frontage along the Sheepscot River here to be set up with a conservation easement providing a sanctuary for wildlife. The property was purchased for $650,000 which was raised through private donations and federal and private foundations.

Belfast: The city council voted 4-0 in early February to end its lease with Railstar Corp., operator of an excursion railroad primarily for tourists. The railroad runs along prime waterfront property owned by the city. The company was four months behind in lease payments. The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad was chartered in 1897, running 33 miles from Belfast to Burnham.

Madison: A 34-acre parcel here, just 900 feet from the Skowhegan line, is being eyed as a potential site for a new Somerset County jail. The current jail, which is over 100 years old, has a long list of code violations and fire and safety issues. The Maine Department of Correction is pressuring county officials to move quickly on a plan that would be presented to voters.

Wilton: Selectmen are proposing a revaluation project to be put before voters at the June town meeting. The estimated cost of the project is $155,000 to $200,000. According to town assessor Rob Stevens, there are large discrepancies between what property is being sold for and the assessed values.

Richmond: A proposal to create a tax increment financing district (TIF) for the downtown area was to be voted on by residents at a special town meeting on February 22. The proposed district would encompass 101 acres.

Brunswick: All four bids to construct a three-bay fire station at Cook’s Corner exceeded initial cost estimates. The bids ranged from $1.44 million to $2.35 million. Town officials had earlier estimated spending for the project between $1.25 and $1.5 million.

York County: At least three communities in Maine’s southernmost county are considering merging their emergency dispatch operations. Municipal managers from Old Orchard Beach, Saco, and Biddeford have been meeting regularly to discuss a host of regionalized services, including dispatch. At the same time, SSI Services of Harrisburg, PA, is conducting a countywide study to determine the most efficient and effective way to handle emergency dispatching in the county. It is anticipated that SSI will recommend four regional dispatch centers for the county (the county currently has 13 PSAPs – public safety answering points – which provide dispatching).

Wells: Following a study of building and inspection fees, the board of selectmen have decided to go ahead with a new fee schedule that aims to make the Offices of Planning and Code more self-supporting. The new fee structure remains consistent with the town’s historical approach of basing those fees on square footage. Also, town officials looked at what surrounding communities charge before setting the new fee schedule.

Kennebunk: Two vacant elementary schools will likely be turned over to the Town of Kennebunk by SAD 71. In late January the SAD board of directors unanimously voted to offer the two schools to the town. Both schools were closed last year when the new Kennebunk Elementary School was opened.

Waterville: Members of the charter commission are recommending a change to the city charter that would allow the formation of a finance committee. The committee would be advisory only. The committee would review city and school budgets with the goal of improving communications between city and school officials.

SAD 68: A new elementary school that will serve the towns of Dover-Foxcroft, Charleston, Monson and Sebec will be funded entirely by the state, if voters approve a referendum question to build the school on March 1. The new school will be connected to the SeDoMoCha Middle School in Dover-Foxcroft. The proposed construction project, estimated at about $10.8 million, includes a 59,000 sq. ft. addition to the middle school and the renovation of about 10,000 sq. ft. of the middle school.

Appleton: On January 19, voters approved a $531,000 school renovation project at a special town meeting. The renovation project of the Appleton Village School includes a 420 sq. ft. addition and interior remodeling of about 900 sq. ft., a roof replacement; and a new gymnasium floor.

Bristol: Selectmen reviewed a 15-page draft personnel policy at a special board meeting in mid-January and were expected to adopt the policy at the board’s next regular meeting. The policy covers overtime, holidays, benefits, grievance procedures, and several other personnel issues. The town has five full-time employees.

Tremont: Residents and town officials are exploring the idea of contracting with one of the other towns on Mount Desert Island for police services. Tremont is the only island town without a municipal police department.

Old Orchard Beach: The saga of the Ballpark continues. In the early 1980s, the town invested $2.3 million borrowing money over 20 years. The town council recently voted to work with a Portland real estate broker to create a development plan for the stadium and land and find a buyer. A citizens’ vote on what to do with the 53-acre parcel could come as early as November of this year, according to Town Manager Jim Thomas. A stumbling block to the council acting on its own is that the town charter was changed (after the Ballpark was built) requiring voter approval any time the town council wants to buy or sell real estate.

Skowhegan: The town’s police dispatching made its final transition to the Somerset County Communications Center at the end of 2004. The switch to county dispatching is estimated to save the town $143,000 annually.