NEWS
(from the April 2010 Maine Townsman)

From Around the State and City Hall

Addison: The town will receive $76,000 in federal stimulus money to buy energy-efficient equipment, such as a wind turbine and solar panels. The town must match the grant by 10 percent. The grant was written in one week, according to town staff.

Auburn: The cities of Auburn and Lewiston plan to expand their efforts to synchronize traffic lights on major arteries on both sides of the Androscoggin River so traffic will flow better between two of Maine’s largest cities. The Twin Cities linked their traffic signals on the busiest route between the two cities in 2006, but will now branch out to the other heavily used roads.

Beals: Selectmen in March voted to use $181,000 from its surplus to cover a budget hole created by an omission when the tax rate was set last year. The board preferred not to send out a second tax bill to property owners. The money is for Beals’ share of the regional high school budget.

Cumberland: A sluggish economy and increased competition have helped the town save as much as $400,000 on its projected $4.5 million road project on Route 88. The town council voted last December to borrow up to $4.5 million for the work. The lower bid also will save the town $25,000 to $35,000 on next year’s bond payment.

Freeport: The town councils of Freeport and Brunswick voted to merge their emergency-dispatch services, effective as early as July 1. Two days later, a citizen petition was initiated to repeal the vote. The Brunswick 911 communications center already takes 911 calls from Freeport residents under a state 911 consolidation mandate. But under the merger, the Brunswick communication staff would dispatch the calls directly rather than routing them to Freeport, which then in turn dispatches help. Freeport officials expect the change will save the town $80,000 in the 2011 budget, now being drafted, and $100,000 annually beginning in fiscal year 2013.

Machias: Good things do come to those who wait, Washington County residents learned in March when the state Department of Transportation announced it would repair two bridges and 122 miles of roads this summer, including shoulders and guardrails along Route 1. Bids are being solicited and DOT officials hope to start the work a month earlier than expected.

Newport: Selectmen reversed themselves in early April and decided against creating town-run recreation programs for the summer due to confusion among residents regarding who was offering baseball and softball programs for kids. Selectmen in March voted to deny the Newport-based Sebasticook Valley Community Center $100,000 in funding and have the town develop the programs because of questions about financial problems at the nonprofit community group. They changed their minds after parents said they were not sure where or how to get their children signed up. Also, the district attorney is now involved in the community-center issue.

Portland: The proposed 2011 budget for Maine’s largest city would cut 40 municipal jobs, but add some positions with grant money for a net staff reduction of about 12 full-time jobs. Of the 40 jobs being cut, 25 are now filled. The proposal also calls for numerous increased fees and other efforts to balance the $196 million budget, which is up $7 million over the current-year budget.

Presque Isle: The city has become the latest in Maine to consider a moratorium on establishing marijuana dispensaries, which are now allowed under a new state law. The Legislature this month passed a bill that creates eight “public health districts” across the state and allows one nonprofit dispensary in each of the districts in the first year. It also establishes a tracking system for people who use the drug for medicinal reasons and gives the state authority to create rules and assess licensing fees. The Presque Isle six-month moratorium would give officials time to draft an ordinance to regulate dispensaries. Two hearings are set before the council votes on the matter later this spring.

South Berwick: The town’s village, which comprises most of its downtown, has earned a place on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. The designation, announced in March, indicates the national group thinks the 117 buildings and sites downtown are historically significant and worthy of notice. The honorary listing does not restrict property owners from changing their buildings, but it does offer tax incentives to both owners and the town to develop or rehabilitate the buildings. The town started its effort to gain historic designation in 2007.

Statewide: Residents in Maine’s poorest county spent the most on lottery tickets in 2009, according to an annual report. On a per-capita basis, Washington County customers spent $238, while Kennebec County residents spent the second most at $192. Waldo County residents spent the least at $121 each. Washington’s poverty rate is 20 percent and the new figures support a university study which concluded that as income declines, gambling increases.