(from the
February2007 Maine Townsman)

Alfred: Fourteen York County municipalities changed their dispatch service in January from the county to a regional communications center in Gray operated by the state. Several towns in Maine also decided last month to forego any kind of consolidation of dispatch services.

Athens: Selectmen have extended for the third time a 180-day moratorium on commercial burning of demolition and construction waste. Local activists last year successfully fought a biomass plant proposed by a Massachusetts company. Selectmen are now writing an ordinance for town meeting asking whether the town wants to formally ban the commercial burning.

Augusta: City councilors in the capital city have decided to slow things down a bit by imposing a commercial development moratorium. At the request of new Mayor Roger Katz, the council agreed to ban new applications or permits for commercial enterprises for 60 days. During the ban, the council will consider a planning board recommendations that projects of up to three acres be subjected to board review. Presently, only projects of three acres or more trigger a “major development” review.

Brunswick: Town Councilor David Watson resigned as the board’s vice chairman after admitting he mistakenly sent an offensive email to a town committee in mid-January. The council passed a resolution censuring Watson, who apologized for the mistake and said he planned to continue serving on the board.

Camden: The downtown district has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, joining two other federally-named historic districts in town. The new district was listed because it still looks like the Camden of 1892, when the downtown was rebuilt after a large blaze.

Farmington: Firefighters announced they would use a $52,093 matching grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement a wellness and fitness program that would include nutrition counseling, cardiovascular risk assessment and Universal gym equipment that will be available 24 hours a day.

Hope: The volunteer fire department opened up its station in late January for an open house for people interested in joining its ranks and to let residents know about the department’s efforts.

Kennebunk: A proposal by Kennebunk Selectman Tom Wellman for the town and neighboring Kennebunkport to study the feasibility of merging the two towns’ police departments was met with swift rejection from the Kennebunkport police chief.

Kingfield: Selectmen will ask town meeting voters on March 3 to approve hiring an administrative assistant after deciding against sharing a town manager with surrounding towns. Kingfield will be the new site of Poland Spring Water Co.’s second bottling plant in Maine, believed to be the single largest investment ever in Kingfield.

Lamoine: After years of study, debate and planning, voters rejected a proposal to build a new gym and three classrooms on the town’s elementary school at an estimated cost of nearly $3 million. Residents did approve borrowing about $650,000 for extensive repairs to the K-8 school. Voter turnout was 54 percent.

Lincolnville: Selectmen will not remove two appeals board members, as requested by one resident after the board reversed the planning board’s rejection of a proposed cell tower. The town is now being sued over the appeals board’s decision on Dec. 23.

Phillips: Selectmen were correct in keeping the excess money gained in the sale of a foreclosed property, a district court judge ruled in late January. Judge Ralph Tucker said the couple who lost their house for failure to pay $3,000 in property taxes were entitled to none of the additional $18,000 the town collected in the sale. The town also is not obligated to pay any of the couple’s creditors with the sale proceeds.

Rockland: The city paid former police Lt. William Donnelly $100,000 just hours before a trial was to commence in his federal whistle-blower lawsuit. Donnelly had alleged he was fired as a state drug agent because of critical comments he made against the Rockland Police Department. The city continues to deny the allegation and said the suit, like many others, was settled for practical reasons, at the urging of the insurance carrier.

Rumford: The police department plans to launch its first Citizen Policy Academy this month to build stronger ties with residents. The 30-hour class will help residents better understand how the department works. “Graduates” are not trained to conduct police services. Meanwhile, Lincoln County has started a fire academy with 35 enrollees from 15 municipalities, who will take Firefighter I and II training for the next nine months.

Saco: The town is considering offering U.S. passports as a new service to residents. The post office does not offer the service in Saco.

Sanford: Officials had a tough month with personnel issues in January. A councilor resigned after allegations she tried to use her elected office to squelch a speeding ticket issued by Biddeford police. Councilor Laura Finn Nickerson, who had been re-elected last November, said she resigned after taking a new job with the state. By mid-January, former Major Lyndon Abbott had sued the town after he was fired for allegedly having several extra-marital affairs and then lying about them. Town Manager Mark Green said the lawsuit didn’t surprise him and stood by his decision to fire the officer.

Searsport: Town officials decided last month to designate a “back country” route around Route 1 to be used in emergencies, such as when truck drivers drop their 40-ton loads in the middle of the area’s main highway. That’s what happened last September and brought traffic in both directions to a solid halt for three hours.

South Portland: Former Deputy Police Chief Amy Berry has filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging her job description was gutted, essentially demoting her, in a department overhaul in 2005 because she was a woman. Last fall, the Maine Human Rights Commission found no grounds for her sexual discrimination complaint.

St. Agatha: Selectmen will ask March 27 town meeting voters to approve a local property tax relief program that could give qualifying homeowners a refund of up to $300 a year, based on how much they receive under the state’s Circuit Breaker program. If approved, the local property tax refund proposal is believed to be the only one of its kind in Maine.

Union: Two regional solid waste groups have agreed to develop one recycling facility for construction debris. The facility is estimated to cost $400,000 to $500,000 and will serve about 10 coastal towns from Camden to Washington.

Vienna: Residents have rejected a proposal by the town attorney to settle a court case with a snowplow contractor for $15,000, even after being told it would be cheaper than going to court.

Windsor: After skimping on road work for three years to help the town stay within the limits of LD 1, selectmen are making road repair a financial priority this year. They have asked the budget committee to look for ways the town can generate new money for the work, which would take four or five years to complete.

Woolwich: Selectmen turned down a request from the town health officer to buy a pair of gloves and a respirator mask for each of the town’s nearly 3,000 residents to be used against a pandemic flu or other community health crisis. The equipment would be good for only one year.