(from the
July 2006 Maine Townsman)

Bremen: Voters handily rejected two proposed development moratoriums in June. The two measures would have banned all residential and commercial construction on the waterfront for 180 days. The local referendums were inspired after developers sought permits to build a 10-lot subdivision for Bremen Long Island and a marine landing on Hockomock Channel, raising concerns about the impact on the town’s working waterfront.

Waterville: The city council voted 4-3 on June 6 to appoint a committee to study merging the Waterville and Winslow fire departments. The Winslow-Waterville Public Safety Consolidation Study has recommended the two communities merge their fire operations. However, the dissenting councilors were concerned about protecting the pay and benefits of firefighters who would be affected by the move. Any merger plan would not take effect at least until 2007, officials said.

Winthrop: Plans for a new public safety building advanced in late June when the town council agreed to buy land off Route 202 and to seek a federal loan for the proposed $3.6 million project. The council plans to hold a series of public hearings on the plan. Reconstructing the existing public works garage on Main Street is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

Newport: Town employees could get a special new benefit if selectmen and the town’s fuel supplier agree that workers can lock in the same prices for their homes that the town pays for public buildings. Selectmen were following the lead of Pittsfield councilors, who voted a day earlier on June 20 to allow their municipal employees to get the lower prices.

Waldoboro: Residents rejected a proposed 45,000 square-foot limit on future retail development in voting on June 13. The proposed cap was defeated by a vote of 1,094 to 770. Opponents of the cap worried that it would discourage new business and stymie job growth, while supporters said small local businesses would be hurt by bigger stores and new businesses would not move in.

Limestone: Effective July 1, the town again began to operate a municipal police department after being covered by the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 months. The town kept its police station open and retained its cruisers, so officials expected a smooth transition back to a town force. Two of the three officers will merely change uniforms from the county brown to the town blue. The town plans to hire a third officer.

Canton: Residents have voted to accept a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help finance the relocation of the town village out of the flood plain. The money will be used to continue buying and re-establishing homes from the flood plain to higher ground. To date, the town has bought the homes of 40 residents who were flooded out in a December 2003 deluge. After voting on the grant during a special June 23 meeting, residents reviewed and discussed the new village center proposal and design. The town is seeking more federal money to help finance the new village infrastructure.

Bath: Nothing lasts forever, including stable water rates, Bath Water District customers have learned. In mid-June, the district unveiled plans to boost rates for the first time in eight years. Under the plan, rates will increase nearly 17 percent on September 1 and another 7.4 percent in April 2007. The increases, which still need state regulatory approval, will help fund the replacement of the North End storage tank.

Georgetown: Town meeting voters agreed on June 17 to ratify an agreement to buy the First Parish Church in Georgetown Center for a possible town office. Among other stipulations, the agreement requires the church parishioners to give the town $50,000 for maintenance and for selectmen to maintain the exterior of the church in its present design and condition. The upper sanctuary will continue to be used as a meeting place for funerals or weddings, under the agreement.

Lewiston: The city had not received a permit application for a methadone clinic a month after a moratorium on the controversial operations was lifted in May. During the temporary ban, the city passed restrictive zoning rules for meth clinics that essentially eliminate most of the city from site consideration. Small western Maine towns in the Oxford Hills region also passed moratoriums last year and adopted rules that would give them more control over meth clinics. The small towns were approached by a clinic after encountering heavy opposition in Lewiston in 2005.

South Portland: The city has become the latest Maine community to shift the burden of property taxes from business to residential following a citywide revaluation. The city revalued property in 2002, but housing values have continued to climb at a faster rate than businesses. The tax rate was expected to fall from $18.27 per $1,000 of assessed value to $13.10 per $1,000 when the new values took effect on July 1. The lower mill rate still won’t fully soften the increase in residential property taxes since the median assessment of a single-family home increased 55 percent over the past four years. The city’s assessed values had fallen to 64 percent of fair market prices by the time the revaluation was completed.

Kennebunk: Residents rejected a proposed $1.6 million bond for a new fire station in voting on June 13. Town officials were surprised by the vote and Fire Chief Stephen Nichols said he was “very disappointed” by the outcome. The bond failed by a vote of 956 to 1,243. Voters also rejected the idea of creating a charter commission, but endorsed a charter amendment eliminating the residency requirement for the position of town clerk.

Union: Voters narrowly defeated a proposal to merge the town’s fire and ambulance departments. Town Manager Andrew Hart had argued that the town could offer more efficient and effective fire and rescue services by combining and cross-training the staffs. The mid-June vote was 280 to 271, a signal that the issue is likely to re-emerge.

West Paris: Selectmen voted in May to impose a $25 fee per pick-up load of demolition debris, wood waste and brush. Permits will be required.