(from the
January 2007 Maine Townsman)

Albion : An estimated 100 voters agreed at a special town meeting last month to accept the terms of a federal grant of $262,000 that will pay for most of the cost of a new fire truck. The town agreed to ditch the two pumper trucks that are both at least 30 years old. The new truck will carry 2,500 gallons, some 300 gallons more than the two trucks being retired. The grant required a local match of $13,800, and voters endorsed a separate article to raise another $75,000 to reach the purchase price of $350,000.

Bangor: The city’s emergency dispatchers were the first employees to be moved into the city’s new $8 million police station, which was set to open completely at the end of December.

Belfast: City non-union employees opted to take a lower raise in 2007 rather than pay part of their health insurance costs. The vote was 15-14 and mirrored a decision by the unionized police department, which agreed to take 3 percent raises in each of the next three years, with the city continuing to pay the full cost of insurance coverage. The highway department, meanwhile, also unionized, voted to take raises of 3, 4 and 4.5 percent over the next three years in exchange for paying 10 percent of the their individual health insurance premium.

Brewer: A high school trustee resigned last month over concerns he was breaking the law by serving while his wife worked as a teacher in the same system. Frank Breau resigned following a dispute in Bangor after the former city councilor was the highest vote-getter in his run for the school board, only to find out after the election that he could not serve because his wife worked for the department.

China: A house fire in early December has compelled firefighters to ask the town for standard road widths after a propane tanker flipped over on a one-lane private road and ignited a nearby home while also blocking and delaying the department’s ability to respond to the fire. Firefighters told selectmen the narrow road and the bottleneck it created cost a family its home. They asked the town to consider imposing a rule that all roads must be wide enough for two truck to safety meet and pass.

Hope: Town Administrator Jon Duke has suggested the town attach a list of nonprofit organizations the town has supported and provide a donation form as part of the town’s annual tax bill to give people a chance to donate to any of the causes. Duke said the change would give far more people a chance to donate to local non-profit efforts than the number of voters who attend the annual town meeting, where the subsidies to non-profit groups often cause extended debate over relatively small amounts of money.

Kennebunk: A proposed bus and RV parking lot that would be located near an elementary school has drawn fire from critics over the past several weeks, including those who fear more development in the residential area if the parking lot is developed. Supporters say the problem of lack of parking for visitors dates back two decades and is depressing tourism in town.

Lyman: A petition effort to recall the town’s three selectmen has failed because the petition signatures were collected before the town passed a recall ordinance on November 7.

Presque Isle: The seven northern Maine municipalities that share the cost of the Presque Isle Landfill have voted to spend $8 million to expand the facility by 6.4 acres and increase its life by 30 years. The project also includes placing a new liner over the existing 13-acre landfill to resolve a draining and clogging issue.

Prospect: Ending a tradition that spanned more than 200 years, the voters of Prospect have decided to change the town clerk’s job from an elected to an appointed position. Current Town Clerk Mary Lou Griffin’s term expires in March.

Richmond: The town’s water supply ranked No. 1 in Maine in the annual Maine Rural Water Association’s drinking water contest. The Richmond Water District serves 550 homes and businesses.

Rockland: In what might become a trend in the new year, a developer announced in mid-December he will not move forward with the largest proposed housing development in the city’s history. The developer, Sandy River Health Systems, cited the decline in the housing sector for putting off the project indefinitely. The project called for building 86 house lots on 38 acres.

St. Agatha: The newly-formed Long Lake Public Library has received a donation of a 3,000-book collection from George Neavoll, a former editorial page editor for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Library officials say the collection will fill half of the new library. Neavoll said he wanted to donate his books to a small town that reminds him of the rural farming town where he grew up in Oregon.

St. John Valley: The Maine Department of Transportation has drafted a plan to create commuter service from the “Valley” to Caribou for residents of one of Maine’s most remote areas. The St. John Valley Times reported in December that a DOT official said both Cyr Bus Lines and Aroostook Regional Transportation are interested in talking about providing shuttle bus service from places such as Fort Kent and Madawaska to Caribou. The DOT estimates the net annual cost of the service at $100,000.

West Bath: In what is arguably a test case for school administration consolidation in Maine, School Union 47 and the Bath School Department have agreed to share one superintendent, Union 47’s William Shuttleworth. The superintendent got a pay raise of about $20,000 a year, to $110,000. The arrangement will be evaluated as early as March. The two school entities decided to approach Shuttlesworth about the idea after Bath School Superintendent Robert Connors retired effective December 31.

Wilton: “If at first you don’t succeed....” could be the motto in Wilton after voters last month – following two full years of controversy and debate — approved buying a new fire truck. In a December special town meeting, voters agreed to take $190,000 from surplus for the truck. The vote followed an emotional plea by a resident who said he would have lost his family home a month earlier without the help of the town fire department.