(from the
November 2007 Maine Townsman)

Acton: Selectman James Driscoll will resign his seat six months early, effective January 1, 2008, apparently in protest over a change in the property value of another selectman. Although the town’s assessing firm said the value of Selectman Michael Conway’s property was reduced by $46,000 for a number of legitimate reasons, Driscoll was critical of how the situation was handled and the lack of a solid “paper trail” for the valuation reduction.

Auburn: The city council approved a new rule in October that will require property owners to register their automatic burglar and fire alarms with the city and pay fines for false alarms. The police department responded to 914 false alarms in 2006.

Bangor: The city has hired Paradise Advertising and Marketing of St. Petersburg, Fla., to generate new buzz and business for the city-owned Bangor International Airport. In all, 14 firms competed for the contract, with Paradise offering the best deal with projected monthly costs of $3,125 and a maximum monthly cost of $5,000.

Bethel: Work has started on the town’s $2.2 million project to install two miles of pipe to the three new wells that will serve as the resort community’s drinking water supply. A severe thunderstorm last July destroyed Bethel’s public water system. A federal disaster grant of $1.37 million will help finance the project.

Cumberland: Sixteen volumes containing some of the town’s oldest and most vital records have been restored thanks to an effort led by Town Clerk Nadeen Daniels. The first grant of $1,500 was won in 2006, followed by another $5,000 grant this year, along with a matching appropriation from the town council. The money has been used to organize and inventory the town’s early records, including births and deaths, restore and laminate the books, and improve the storage area at the town office.

Farmington: The town has installed a wind turbine at the wastewater treatment plant to lower the long-term cost of electricity while helping the environment. The turbine cost $12,500 and town leaders estimate they will get their investment back through lower electricity bills in eight years.

Lewiston: During a trip to Washington, D.C., in mid-October, city officials lobbied federal agencies and the state’s congressional delegation for more federal funding to pay for refugee settlement costs, such as health care and education. The city estimates that 3,100 immigrant refugees have moved to Lewiston, and another 500 to Auburn, since 2001.                         

Manchester: The town mowed down its public works costs this year by joining with nearby Readfield and Wayne to keep the grass clipped along the major arteries of all three towns. In Manchester, every side of every road was mowed, a first for the town. After jointly buying a John Deere tractor with a mower, the three towns paid a total of $3,500 for mowing this year, compared to a $12,000 price tag had they hired the work out separately. The towns are looking for other public works projects to share.

Norway: Town officials have signed a pact with the Maine DOT, agreeing to take over maintenance of a scenic rest area on Route 11 for a annual charge of $1,500 in each of the next 10 years. The popular picnic area near Lake Pennesseewassee costs about $5,000 a year to maintain, according to the DOT. The town will ask volunteer groups to help raise money to fund the annual upkeep.

Readfield: The town and its Conservation Commission have contracted with Two Trees Forestry of nearby Winthrop to manage the Readfield Town Forest, a 100-acre spread used both for recreation and timber harvesting that helps pay for other town services. The firm also will help the town implement the Focus Species Forest Management Plan that aims to protect wildlife while still allowing diverse activities by the public. Selectmen hope the project will ultimately become an educational model for other managed woodlands.

Rumford: Despite past false starts and problems, selectmen decided again in October to take up talks with neighboring towns about possible regional efforts and to reconsider a municipal merger with the town of Mexico. Selectmen also decided late last month to contribute $5,000 toward the cost of hiring a Washington, D.C., firm to recruit new business to the area. The effort is being led by the River Valley Growth Council, the region’s economic development agency.

Portland: The city could pay $60 million over the next half-dozen years to separate its sewer and storm water to continue reducing the amount of raw sewage that escapes into Casco Bay. The city has upgraded about 25 percent of its sewer pipe network to reduce storm water runoff, at a cost of $41 million over the past 14 years.

Sanford: Arbitration was averted in late October when Town Hall employees voted 13-10 to accept the town’s offer of a lump-sum raise for fiscal 2007 and a 3-percent raise for each of the next three years. The employees agreed to pay more for their health insurance, a major hurdle in contract talks that lasted more than a year.   

Trenton: The state transportation department didn’t make any friends after announcing recently that it won’t apply for local permits when it builds the proposed Acadia Gateway Center, the new home of the Island Explorer bus system that shuttles visitors and residents around the greater Mount Desert Island area. DOT officials said the Route 3 project was too critical to the entire MDI region’s transportation needs to be blocked by one town.

Waterville: The city council has agreed to fight domestic violence by making referral cards available in city offices and buildings for the Family Violence Project and the Rape Crisis Assistance and Awareness and to display “No Excuse for Abuse” bumper stickers on municipal vehicles and school buses. The city also will consider a “zero tolerance” domestic violence workplace policy, as well as awareness training for city employees.

West Gardiner: The town’s new 5-bay fire station opened in late October, allowing Road Commissioner Gary Hickey to move one of the town’s three fire trucks out of his home garage. The 75-foot-by-80-foot steel building cost $552,000.