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6/4/2014 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset Voters Approve Reserve Fund Withdrawal, School Resource Officer

Wiscasset Airport Manager Ervin Deck, left, and Wiscasset resident Shawn Rafter chat briefly after the town meeting, May 31. Rafter said he was very pleased with the open town meeting. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
Wiscasset Airport Manager Ervin Deck, left, and Wiscasset resident Shawn Rafter chat briefly after the town meeting, May 31. Rafter said he was very pleased with the open town meeting. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
By Charlotte Boynton

After voting to decrease the overall municipal budget by $8,000, Wiscasset voters agreed to withdraw $1.25 million from the town's reserve account in an effort to keep taxes low, during an open town meeting May 31.

Among other decisions, Wiscasset residents approved hiring a school resource officer, increased the Wiscasset Public Library appropriation from $60,000 to $68,950, and reduced the vehicle maintenance account by $13,000.

Although there was much discussion on the article to take $1.25 million from the reserve account, most spoke in favor of doing so to offset an expected tax impact from the new Wiscasset school budget. Proponents spoke in favor of the measure because applying $1.25 million would lower the expected tax increase from 27 to 9.88 percent.

"It is like committing suicide if we don't vote to do this," said resident Richard Grondin. The vote to withdraw was 123 in favor and 26 opposed.

It took three votes to resolve the decision of the school resource officer. This was the first time Wiscasset used a remote electronic keypad voting system. The first article the keypads were used for was the police budget.

The motion to accept the recommendation of the selectmen, $376,374, which included the funding for a school resource officer, failed as a result of tie vote, 83-83.

A motion to accept the budget committee's recommendation of $336,776, failed with 98 opposed and 69 in favor. The third motion, to accept the recommendation of the selectmen, carried 91 in favor, 76 opposed.

In most cases where the selectmen and budget committee disagreed on a recommended dollar amount, the voters supported the recommendations of the selectmen throughout the meeting.

The voters went along with the selectmen's recommendation for the town planner. The budget committee had recommended a reduction in hours from 40 hours per week to 20 hours per week. The position and the current planner, Misty Parker, received much support from the voters present at the meeting.

The selectmen recommended a planning budget of $77,384, and the budget committee recommended a budget of $50,884.

The voters also accepted the selectmen's recommendation for the code enforcement officer's budget of $45,300 for 20 hours per week. The budget committee had recommended a reduction in his hours from 20 to 15 hours per week.

The voters accepted the budget committee's recommendation to keep the town's administrative assistant's position to 30 hours per week, instead of 35 hours per week recommended by the selectmen, a $4,000 difference.

There were 181 voters registered at the town meeting, however before the four hour meeting ended the attendance went gone down to about 60.

Article 55, the last question on the warrant, "to authorize the municipal officers to make final determination regarding the closing or opening regarding of roads," received a vote of 56-4 in favor.

A motion to amend the appropriation for Lincoln County Television, by Shawn Rafter, from $6,000 recommended by the selectmen to $9,664 failed. Rafter told the voters the town receives over $44,000 in franchise fees, and the town should appropriate what Lincoln County Television requested.

The motion to amend failed with 93 opposed and 51 in favor. The motion to appropriate $6,000 passed.

The shellfish conservation budget of $10,630, as recommended by the selectmen was approved by a vote of 111-55.

The voters did not accept the recommendation of the selectmen or the budget committee for the municipal highway department budget. The selectmen recommended $653,741. The budget committee recommended $627,741. A motion to amend was made to raise and appropriate $640,741, the amendment passed, 97-49; a decrease of $13,000.

The parks and recreation department budget of $748,572, as recommended by the selectmen, passed 89-60.

The selectmen's recommendation of $40,649 was accepted for the Wiscasset Senior Center. The budget committee had recommended $35,750.

The voters approved the budget of $51,254 for the waterfront and harbors' budget. The budget committee recommended $49,379, by reducing the harbormaster stipend by $1,875.

There was little discussion on articles the selectmen and budget committee agreed on which included: boards and committees, $1,611; municipal building maintenance/operations, $62,392; contingency, $35,000; contractual services, $84,000; office of selectmen, $27,380; office of assessment/human resources, $78,348; office of finance/tax collector, $153,456; town clerk/excise tax collector/registrar, $62,224; office of elections, $18,000; general assistance, $20,510; tax anticipation note (interest), $17,000; municipal insurance, $83,876; unemployment, $5,000; celebrations, $14,500; fire department, $108,786; emergency medical services, $312,944; animal control, $10,390; public utilities, $182,000; wastewater treatment, $391,649; cemeteries, $86,537; airport, $316,657; and transfer station, $517,730.

The estimated revenues include: recreation, $475,000; excise, $500,000; state revenues, $346,100; miscellaneous, $259,600; emergency medical services, $249,000; transfer station; 262,842; charges for service, $530.900; senior center, $25,750; airport, $323,415; and waterfront, $18,750. a total close to $3 million.

The voters approved the capital improvement articles recommended by the selectmen, which included municipal roof repair, $40,000; municipal building generator, $25,000; emergency medical services pagers, $7,000; fire department repeaters, $12,000; Main Street Pier electrical upgrade, $10,000; Parks and Recreation community center roof, $150,000; public works truck, $55,000 (the budget committee did not recommend this article); road and sidewalk repair, $77,201; town's share of airport easement and obstruction remediation, $8,000; and airport tractor/mower tug, $17,000.

During the meeting, the selectmen took criticism on their decision to hold an open town meeting instead of the secret ballot referendum vote, which Wiscasset has used exclusively since 2006. In brief interviews with voters after the meeting, several said they enjoyed the open town meeting. According to Town Clerk Christine Wolf, there were 403 votes cast in the June 2013, and 207 were absentee.

The Wiscasset school budget will be voted on June 10, by secret ballot along with the election of three selectmen. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Wiscasset Community Center.

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