(from the
May 2006 Maine Townsman)

Lewiston: City officials are considering the creation of a stormwater utility and the imposition of a fee to cover storm-related sewer costs, as opposed to paying for these costs through property taxes. Such a fee would be based on the amount of hard, paved surfaces on a piece of land. As a utility fee, tax exempt organizations, such as hospitals, churches and colleges, would share in the cost of providing this city service. Private homeowners would pay a set fee of $30/yr. Anticipated revenues would total nearly $1.6 million and would allow the city to make a corresponding reduction in property taxes.

Kingfield: Poland Spring Water Co. submitted a permit application to the town’s code enforcement officer on April 3 to build a proposed $100 million plant in town. The town’s water district members told Poland Spring officials that the district had the capacity to provide 43,000 gallons of water per day to support the bottling plant operation. The permit application will now go before the town’s planning board.

Old Town: City officials here are working on next year’s budget in the wake of the closing of the Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill. In order to retain the city’s property tax rate, city officials may need to find over $1.5 million of cuts in the city and school budgets. The mill had represented 34 percent of the city’s tax base. City and school staff will be reviewing areas for potential cuts over the next several weeks, and will then present their recommendations. In a related matter, the Legislature’s Taxation Committee reported out a bill on April 5 to immediately reduce the city’s state valuation due to the closure of the paper mill. If the bill gets enacted, the state valuation reduction would increase state education aid to Old Town and reduce the city’s county tax.

Belfast: The Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce wants city support to hire an economic development professional and an assistant. The chamber’s proposal comes as a five-year plan, during which time city councilors would be asked to make payments to help support the endeavor. The first-year payment would be $70,000, declining to $56,700 in the fifth year. The city has not had a formal economic development program in recent years, and some city officials want to be more proactive in this area.

Rockland: The city’s planning commission granted approval for the conversion of a former shoe store to a methadone clinic to be run by “Turning Tide.” Turning Tide is yet to receive approval by a federal agency as well as two state agencies. The clinic was first proposed in 2004.

Greenville: The municipal election on June 7, 2005 has been ruled invalid by a Superior Court justice. The polling place was closed one hour earlier than usual, thus preventing some residents from casting a vote. Maine law requires that warrants list the hours that the polls will open and close. Greenville’s warrant for that election listed the polls opening time only. A new election was scheduled for May 23 to fill two positions on the board of selectmen that had originally been voted on at the invalidated election.

Cutler: The former Cutler U.S. Naval base is being converted to condominiums, and 19 acres of commercial land there will be available for lease to businesses. Engineering Technologies Inc. (ETI), a Portland company, is developing the property. The property was purchased by private developers on April 3 for $1.5 million (residential portion) and $600,000 (commercial portion).

York: A development group planning to build housing units for the elderly and a 75-room hotel with condo units off Route 1 is suing the town for denying approval of a sewer extension in the rural zone proposed for development. State law requires sewer extensions to be authorized by a town’s municipal officers, and according to town officials, such an extension does not conform to the town’s comprehensive plan.

Bath: City councilors approved an emergency ordinance on April 19 to take $1.5 million from the “Sewer Utility Fund,” to remedy underground piping problems that have been causing raw sewage to surface in various locations around the city. Ordinarily, the city’s spending cap would have prevented access to the fund, but by deeming the sewage problem an “emergency,” city officials were able to bypass the spending cap.

South Portland: After surveying the condition of 74 miles of sidewalks in the city, the Parks, Recreation and Public Works Department staff concluded that 29 percent of the sidewalks are in dangerous condition. The city’s capital improvement plan allots $200,000 for sidewalk repair. School areas and major arteries will likely be priority areas for receiving sidewalk repairs. The city staff plan to develop a policy on sidewalk repair, including a recommendation on the use of asphalt vs. concrete.

Winslow: The town council voted on April 10 in favor of jointly purchasing with the City of Waterville a fire truck to be shared by both municipalities. The truck will serve as a reserve vehicle.

Farmingdale: A comprehensive plan that has been in the works for three years was approved at town meeting on March 25. Town officials can move forward with the plan once the State Planning Office approves it. The town and SPO are not yet in agreement regarding density and rural lot sizes.

S.A.D. 58/Salem Township: Municipal officials here are considering wood heat as a future heat source for their schools, taking their cue from some 30 Vermont schools that transitioned to wood heat during the past 15 to 20 years. The Barre Town School in Vermont reportedly began saving money shortly after having a wood-burning system installed. Beginning such a system in Maine schools could take years, but district officials here see the use of wood heat as a money-saving possibility as well as a boost to the state’s timber economy.