NEWS
(from the
March 2005 Maine Townsman)

Bath: The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness awarded a $79, 443 Operations and Firefighter Safety Program grant to the city’s fire department. The money will make possible a purchase of breathing equipment for firefighters and a ventilation system at the fire station.

Mexico: The town’s fire department is now billing insurance companies for services provided at auto accident scenes. Fire Chief Gary Wentzell reports that he has received payments on two of the five bills he has sent out since January. The town charges insurance companies a flat fee of $250 for a fire engine responding to a scene, and approximately $9/hr for each firefighter who responds. Auto accidents in the Jackman-Moose River region often don’t involve local residents, giving impetus to this cost-recovery billing that helps pay for fire services provided.

Fort Kent: The town council voted unanimously to approve the application for a $50,000 grant to fund a market feasibility study for resort development in northern Maine. Alain Ouellette of the Aroostook Partnership for Progress, in a presentation to about 25 Fort Kent residents, suggested that a resort hotel may be a regional goal and that such a study would answer many questions.

Bangor: The Bangor Land Trust is receiving a gift of 410 acres of prime wildlife habitat and recreational land. Two Bangor families are donating the land and have asked the trust to preserve and maintain the land in its natural state and to keep it open for public recreational use.

Cape Elizabeth: The town council approved a 3.3 percent budget cap for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. The cap is based on the national Consumer Price Index for urban areas.

Stockton Springs: At a special town meeting, 20 residents approved an article to change the town clerk’s post from elective to appointive. The town’s current longtime clerk will leave at the end of June, after which time the position will be appointive.

Litchfield: The town’s fire department was awarded $81,000 by the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security and the Office for Domestic Preparedness. The fire department will receive new communications equipment and an exhaust extraction system.

Norridgewock: The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is providing $171,000 to the town’s fire department. The grant funds will be used to replace the town’s 1980 tanker, which holds 750 gallons of water. The new tanker will hold 2,500 to 3,000 gallons. The Somerset County Emergency Management Agency awarded the fire department $31,000 for radio equipment upgrades.

Cooper: Residents of this small Washington County town have voted to move forward with the deorganization process. They want the town to deorganize and become part of the state’s unorganized territory. The next step involves the Legislature. If the town receives approval to proceed, residents would need a two-thirds vote in the November general election. If passed, town dissolution would take effect July 1, 2006.

Kennebec County: Municipal leadership in the communities of Fairfield, Winslow, Pittsfield and Waterville hold differing views on policies governing tax-acquired property. Fairfield’s town council agreed in February to allow property owners 30 days to re-purchase homes seized by the town for non-payment of taxes. Pittsfield follows the same policy as Fairfield. The town attorney for Winslow advises against allowing previous owners of property to pay their outstanding debt after the property is foreclosed upon. Winslow has a firm policy in which the town takes a property once foreclosed upon, and puts it out to public bid. No extensions. Waterville adopted a firm policy on tax-acquired property several years ago, and the number of delinquent taxpayers has dropped dramatically.

Old Town: The city is considering merging its Parks and Recreation Department with the Orono-Old Town YMCA. The purpose for merging is to save the city money as well as to allow the two organizations to make the best use of resources and staff, by minimizing duplication of programs offered. At this point in the process, the city manager cannot determine the cost, but is making every effort to make the endeavor affordable.

Sweden: Taxpayers will soon be deciding whether the town’s volunteer fire department stays in operation or disbands. Engineers are recommending that the current structure be condemned due to age and structural problems, but the fire chief and other fire officials are hoping to find a suitable new site on which to build a four-bay structure.

Hollis: The town has filed suit against Regional Waste Systems (RWS). Disagreement exists between the town and RWS as to interpretation of the contract that exists between them, and determination of the cost of the town’s withdrawal. The board of selectmen’s motivation for leaving RWS is financial.

Mapleton, Castle Hill and Chapman: These three towns have jointly purchased a new fire truck. The $230,000 truck was paid for by property tax funds held in a reserve capital improvement account. The three towns have a total population of about 2,400. This truck will be Engine 1 of a fleet of five.

Mount Vernon: The town’s Fire & Rescue Department has received a $28,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. Firefighters will soon have a much-needed sprinkler system installed in the remodeled second floor of their fire station. The town will provide a 10 percent match to the federal funds.

SAD 3: Residents of this 11-town school district in Waldo County voted unanimously, 131-0, approving a proposed site for a new pre-K through grade12 school. After site approval is received from the state Board of Education, the next step will be obtaining concept approval this summer.

Augusta: The city council is considering a June referenda to decide two petition-initiated questions. One of the referendums would overturn a June 2004 city council decision that changed the zoning designation of 14 acres to accommodate a large retail development project. The other would reverse a March 2004 council vote to sell the newer portion of the current Cony High School.