NEWS
(from the January 2010 Maine Townsman)

From Around the State and City Hall

Bath: The city will borrow $300,000 to combine with $330,000 in privately-raised funding by Friends For Our Future for new turf for the Morse High School athletic field. The vote was 3-2, with Council Chairman Bernard Wyman casting the tie-breaking vote.

Belgrade: Town meeting voters in March will have competing municipal building proposals to consider after selectmen in early January approved a citizen-petition plan for the March warrant. The selectmen are seeking $3.6 million for a town complex that would include a town office, public library and food pantry. The smaller proposal would cut the price to $1 million for a new town office only.

Biddeford: The city is drafting an ordinance to require property owners to secure their buildings when they become vacant to avoid people using the buildings for shelter or stealing goods from the residence. The issue is a growing problem for the community.

Buckfield: Voters easily passed a six-month moratorium on wind power development, reflecting a trend across Maine over the past two years. The moratorium will give the town time to formulate regulations for wind projects, such as a three-turbine proposal atop Streaked Mountain where 20 residences are located within a mile of the proposed site.

Burlington: The town’s Triangle Fire Department has disbanded, at least temporarily, due to an inability to get members. In the meantime, the Town of Lincoln has stepped in to provide the town with fire protection services on a temporary basis. The agreement, which could last until April, was approved unanimously by the Lincoln Town Council on January 11. A longer-term contract for fire services is expected to be presented to Burlington residents at the annual town meeting in March.

Glenburn: Residents will be surveyed this year about ideas to recruit and support business in the Bangor suburb of 4,300 people. Town Manager Michael Crooker said the effort will focus on increasing jobs and the tax base. The project will begin with a first survey in January to get information to help develop an economic development program.

Madawaska: The Madawaska Ambulance Service received the 2009 “Service of the Year” award in December from the Midcoast Emergency Medical Services. Selectmen and the town manager praised the ambulance crew during a December meeting.

Old Orchard Beach: A new ordinance bans public and private marinas in Saco Bay, the first step in getting the town’s boundary moved three miles out to sea, and gives Old Orchard Beach and neighboring Saco jurisdiction over their portions of the bay. Saco must also enact a ban.

Mars Hill: The Aroostook County town’s utility district has been awarded more than $2.5 million in grants and loans under the federal stimulus program to replace 10,000 feet of cast-iron water main and install nine hydrants, among other plans. Meanwhile, the town of Lincoln in Penobscot County will get $1.4 million for sewer pump upgrades as part of the state’s overall $4 million stimulus award for water quality work. In Lincoln, the municipality will replace 30-year-old pump stations.

Sanford: A spending and hiring freeze was imposed in late December because of a projected $1.1 million budget shortfall for the last six months of the fiscal year.

South Portland: The city council’s recent edict to keep property taxes stable in 2010 will likely force officials to proposed significant cuts in municipal and school service jobs. The school department is anticipating a state funding shortfall of at least $2.1 million and perhaps as much as $2.3 million, while City Manager James Gailey said the city could see a $1.3 million budget shortfall. In what has become commonplace in most Maine communities in the past few years, South Portland faces declining non-property tax revenue but increasing operating costs.

St. Agatha: The town is refinancing its sewer debt, which will result in a savings of $390,000 in principal and interest. Town Manager Ryan Pelletier asked for authority to refinance three U.S. Department of Agriculture loans into one with the Maine Municipal Bond Bank under the Department of Environmental Protection’s clean water revolving loan fund. Pelletier said the consolidation would shorten the payback term by nine years and get the town a much better interest rate.

Waldoboro: Selectmen in late December voted to oppose a legislative bill that would put the Department of Environmental Protection in charge of establishing rules for identifying products suitable for recycling under a new “stewardship plans” program.

Wells: The town in late December earned an above average rating in its latest audit, in part for growing its undesignated fund balance to $7.7 million and dedicating $3 million to capital reserves. The town also has put aside another $3.5 million in special and dedicated funds.

Statewide: Five counties in Maine were designated as disaster areas in 2009 by the federal government. Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset were named natural disaster areas for both flooding and drought.