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10/2/2013 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset Assessing Complications Continue
Wiscasset Selectman Ed Polewarczyk tells his fellow selectmen he will not perform the work of assessor, because, in his opinion, the selectmen have not been authorized by the town to perform those duties. The selectmen will seek legal guidance on the issue. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
Wiscasset Selectman Ed Polewarczyk tells his fellow selectmen he will not perform the work of assessor, because, in his opinion, the selectmen have not been authorized by the town to perform those duties. The selectmen will seek legal guidance on the issue. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
By Charlotte Boynton

The ripple effect of the rejection of Wiscasset's assessing budget by voters in June, and again Sept. 10, is creating more problems for the town.

Currently Wiscasset does not have enough money at this time to pay their county tax bill, roughly about $495,000, which is due at the end of the month, and will ask the Lincoln County Commissioners for an extension. The town has not been able to make a tax commitment as a result of the rejected assessing budget.

During a meeting of the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen Oct. 1, Selectman Ed Polewarczyk told his board members he would not do the assessing work. Polewarczyk said, in his opinion, there is a difference between the board of assessors, and an assessing agent.

"I will not perform assessing work," Polewarczyk said. He went on to give three reasons why: the voters rejected the assessing budget closing the assessing department therefore the selectmen have not been authorized to do the assessing; for the selectmen to do the assessing, it creates a liability to the town with them not having the knowledge to assess; and since the town has an open contract with the union the selectmen would be performing a union job.

Not all the selectmen agreed with Polewarczyk. Selectman Jeff Slack indicated he thought it was the board's responsibility. Budget Committee member William Barnes didn't agree either. During public comments Barnes said, "Part of the selectmen's job for many years was to do the assessing. You knew that when you took the job. You should resign if you don't want to do the job."

Selectman Pam Dunning suggested the town seek legal advice to find out exactly what their role should be. Selectman Judy Colby agreed with seeking legal advice, as did Polewarczyk.

A motion was also made to postpone any action on assessing issues until they received clarification from their attorney. The motion carried 3-2 with Selectmen Tim Merry and Slack voting in opposition.

RSU Withdrawal Comments
Wiscasset Research Educational Panel Chairman Doug Smith told the board Wiscasset has three choices if they vote to withdraw from Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12, which he described as an opportunity to lower taxes and put the control of the schools back in the hands of the parents.

The three choices include: keep all three schools in Wiscasset open; close the middle school and split the students in the middle school to the high school and the primary school: close the high school and tuition the high school students.

Smith made it clear option one, to continue operating all three schools was not a good option, because of Wiscasset's school population. "We need a school system that will fit our population and finances." Smith said. "Currently 72 percent of our property taxes is for our schools. Seven other towns control our taxes."

Smith also reminded the board four of the eight towns in the RSU are considering withdrawal from the RSU. He warned, if that happened, Wiscasset's taxes could increase because of the RSU's decrease in revenue.

Smith also urged the importance of having the required minimum number of voters, 833, turn out for Nov. 5 election.

Tax acquired property bids
The town requested bids on three parcels of tax-acquired property, two parcels on Route 1, and the other on 25 Middle Street. Only one bid was received for the house and property on Middle Street.

The selectmen accepted a bid of $67,250 from George Freeman for the Middle Street property.

The two vacant lots, one next to the Heritage Village, and the other next to McDonald's, will be sold by a real estate agency. If the realtor is unable to sell the property, the selectmen's next step would be to have a property foreclosure auction, a suggestion by Budget Committee member Bob Blagden to the board.

Budget Committee member suggestion
Budget Committee member Robert Blagden suggested the announced retirement of Morris Pickering, a truck driver for the Public Works Department, is an opportunity for the selectmen to down size that department. "Why not take this opportunity," he said. "I was surprised to see you are advertising for the position."

Noise complaint
Wiscasset resident Donald Jones told the selectmen recently when he was at the Sunken Gardens a very large truck was engine braking. Since there was a sign posted in the area forbidding engine braking, Jones took the license plate number and notified Police Chief Troy Cline.

Jones said he was told by Chief Cline the sign was not enforceable because there was no ordinance to back it up. Jones suggested the selectmen ask the ordinance review committee to develop an ordinance that would allow the sign to be enforced.

In other business
The selectmen went into executive session to discuss requests for two poverty abatement of taxes. After returning from the executive session they voted to extend action until Oct. 15 on one case. The other case they denied.

Dunning said the board denied the abatement because the request was for 2013 and those tax bills have not been sent out yet. "We will consider the abatement at a later date," Dunning said.

Special town meeting
Wiscasset voters are asked to attend the special town meeting Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m., at the Wiscasset Middle School Cafeteria. They will be asked to vote on the assessor's severance pay of $67,340; $16,000 for the assessing budget; $20,000 for additional legal fees, and asked to change the date when semi-annual tax payments are due from Oct. 15 to Dec. 6, with the second payment due on April 25.

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