(from the
June 2006 Maine Townsman)

Kingfield: By a 3-1 margin on May 18, a large turnout of voters here rejected a moratorium proposal aimed at industrial development in town. The proposal would have set up a lengthy citizen review process for new and expanded large-scale developments. The vote appears to have ended attempts to stall a Poland Springs Water Company application for a new bottling plant and pumping station here.

Westfield: A citizen-initiated article to make the appointed positions of clerk, tax collector and treasurer elected was defeated by residents at the annual town meeting. After much discussion, the vote was nearly 2-1 against making the positions elected.

Van Buren: SAD 24, which includes Van Buren, Cyr Plantation and Hamlin, is looking into merging elementary and secondary school operations and sending all the district’s elementary pupils to the Van Buren District Secondary School. If the merger happens, Gateway Elementary School, built in 1975, would be closed and its 180 pre-Kindergarten through grade 6 would be sent to the secondary school (grades 7-12) which currently houses 225 students. The district has had steadily declining enrollment over the past several years.

Brooks: The town has received a $300,000 Housing Assistance Grant from the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). The funds will be used to address substandard housing conditions, to create affordable housing, and to provide housing replacement assistance.

Augusta: The city assessor’s office has released information regarding the city’s first full revaluation since 1988. The city has 8,400 property tax accounts, of which 5,175 are residential accounts. The revaluation created a shift of tax burden from commercial onto residential property taxpayers. Before the revaluation, 47 percent of the total taxable property value was residential; after the revaluation, the residential property climbed to 51 percent of the total.

Skowhegan: Just like many other communities, Skowhegan is dealing with rising asphalt costs. Road Commissioner Greg Dore says that asphalt prices are about 50 percent higher than last year. Adding to his problem, and to the problems of road officials in other communities as well, is the severe deterioration of many local roads following a winter of freeze and thaw cycles.

Dayton: The town has filed a lawsuit against the company that leased the town a modular school building. The town alleges that the building has mold in its walls caused by the negligence of the company. Investigations of the building revealed a number defects, including structural damage to exterior and interior walls, flooring, roof and ceiling allowing for water and moisture damage.

Whitefield: A citizens' petition, with 191 signatures, has been given to selectmen asking them to have a referendum question placed before voters that, if adopted, would reinstate the traditional open town meeting on the third Saturday in March, 2007. Secret ballot voting, instead of an open town meeting, was held for the first time this year. It is expected that the question will be placed before voters at the general election this November.

Waldoboro: A pay-per-bag trash system adopted last July was repealed by residents at the annual town meeting in late April. The rejection of the user fee for trash shifted the cost onto local property taxes and put the town over its LD 1 municipal spending limit. Residents increased the spending limit by a 76-53 vote.

Southwest Harbor: Selectmen have accepted a $1.07 million bid from Sheridan Corp. of Portland to build a new 10,000 sq. ft. fire station. Construction should be completed by October or November of this year.

Wade: This small Aroostook County town of about 264 residents has received a $3,500 Project Canopy grant to hire a forester who will develop a forestry plan for the town-owned woodland. The town owns approximately 1,200 acres of woodland. Project Canopy helps towns develop long-term community tree and forestry programs.

Tremont: On May 9, residents here approved spending an extra $275,000 to complete the construction of the new municipal building. Residents had appropriated $700,000 for the project earlier, but according to town officials, increased material and construction costs, along with an unexpected need for an elevator, pushed construction costs well over that early estimate.

Thomaston: On May 16, voters here decided to set a 150,000 square foot limit on retail developments, rejecting a competing measure that would have set the limit at 70,000 sq. ft. A couple of pending projects, including a Lowe’s home improvement store, now have the green light to proceed.

Hartland: Less than a year after emerging from bankruptcy, the town’s largest employer, Irving Tanning Co., has announced investment plans to create up to 100 new jobs. A new recycled product made from leather scraps is driving the company’s growth, according to company CEO Richard Larochelle. The company is hoping to get tax breaks for its new investments under the Pine Tree Development Zones, a state program that provides tax breaks for new or expanding businesses that create jobs in certain regions of the state.

Saco: A group known as the Saco Energy Committee is exploring the idea of building a large wind turbine that would generate three million kilowatt hours of electricity a year – more than enough to meet the energy costs of all the municipal buildings in the city. In April, three city officials went to Hull, Massachusetts, where the town has a 164-foot wind tower over its high school football field producing 660 kilowatts per hour.

Kennebunk: On the advice of the town’s attorney, the board of selectmen here rejected a citizens petition requesting a referendum vote on a question to change the town budget voting process from open town meeting to secret ballot voting. The town’s attorney advised the selectmen that such a change could only be adopted through a charter revision and thus required the convening of a charter commission.