(from the
November 2006 Maine Townsman)

Auburn: The city has been recognized with a national award from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection for its efforts to reduce combined sewer overflows. The city, which won a first-place award from EPA, estimates its overflow mitigation plan is about half done.

Augusta: The city council has passed a voluntary ban on tobacco smoking and chewing in city parks, recreation areas and cemeteries. Mayor William Dowling said he hoped that passing the order and publicizing it would encourage residents to kick the habit, at least while on city property.

Chelsea: Controversy erupted in October over a proposal by the Kennebec County Commission to house up to 50 nonviolent inmates at a vacant commercial building on River Road. The plan is being opposed by Chelsea residents and neighbors. The commissioners are trying to find a place to put the low-risk inmates because of overcrowding at the county jail.

Damariscotta: Selectmen have saved the town $382,000 by consolidating two existing loans with Damariscotta Bank & Trust. The board thanked Town Manager Greg Zinser for his leadership role in negotiating the consolidation. The merged loan carries a fixed interest rate of 4.64 percent.

Gray: The town council has approved a plan to transfer dispatching services to the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham, a move councilors say will save the town $100,000 over the next two years. Presently, when someone in Gray calls 911 from land lines, their calls are received by the regional center in Windham, and then transferred back to Gray. The change will occur no later than January 15, officials said.

Kennebunk: Superior Court Justice G. Arthur Brennan has ruled in favor of the town in a lawsuit brought by two citizens over a citizens’ petition calling for secret ballot voting on town meeting articles. The town’s attorney had advised the selectmen to reject the petition because he felt it would have been a “revision” to the town charter, which requires formation of a charter commission. Justice Brennan said the selectmen “did not clearly err” when they decided that the changes envisioned by the petition would have required a revision to the town charter and therefore upheld the selectmen’s decision not to forward the proposed referendum to voters. Brennan also noted that the petition called for much more than just changing the way residents voted on the town budget.

Kingfield: In one of the biggest economic boons in the town’s history, the planning board in October approved Poland Spring Water Co.’s application to build a new bottling plant estimated to cost $60 million to $80 million. Company officials said they would hire as many as 135 full-time employees for the plant, which they hope to break ground for this fall and open in early 2008. The company is still in the permitting process with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but expected the necessary approvals in time for a late-2006 groundbreaking.

Lewiston: While its Sister City, Auburn, was getting a national award for its efforts to reduce storm water overflows, Lewiston officials were dealing with a citizen petition calling for elimination of the city’s new storm water utility fee, which is intended to finance storm water separation efforts rather than relying on the property tax. Opponents of the fee said the public was not given adequate chance to speak out against the proposal and that residents should have been allowed to vote on the new fee. They have until January 12 to collect 1,000 valid signatures to force a vote on the new fee on the November 2007 ballot.

Lincoln: Sometimes a tax rate cut just isn’t enough. That was the sentiment of some town property owners, who lamented that the mill rate following a townwide revaluation only dropped from 22.66 to 18.24. They say they want the mill rate dropped enough so that it totally offsets the increase in their (residential) property values. But Town Manager Glenn Aho noted the town had lost $2 million in taxes on business equipment from the closed paper mill, which prevented the tax rate from being lowered further.

Litchfield: Selectmen have voted to post the names of residents who fail to pay their ambulance bills on the bulletin board at the town office. The board made the decision in mid-October after realizing that the $17,000 in unpaid bills exceeded what the town pays Gardiner Ambulance for the service.

Orrington: The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has advised town officials to maintain the water levels at Meadow Dam in order to protect waterfowl and wading birds in the area. The dam is presently leaking and the town is working in concert with other parties on a plan to replace the structure, which the town acquired through tax liens when the Eastern Fine Paper Co. closed in 2004. The Meadow Dam wetland area also is seen as valuable habitat for aquatic fur bearers, ospreys and bald eagles.

Rockport: The towns of Rockport and Camden have received a $17,500 grant from the state to study the feasibility of combining their police departments. The grant was among 14 awarded statewide, totaling $500,000, to help finance studies on municipal consolidation, and economic and industrial park development.

Strong: This small rural town in western Maine will receive $285,000 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security toward the purchase of a tanker pumper. The town must chip in $15,000 toward the cost.

Turner: Selectman Charlie Mock has dropped his call for a boycott of the town’s Citgo gas stations after some residents and business owners said such a boycott would only hurt local business owners and taxpayers. Mock made the motion in response to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s sharp verbal attack on President Bush during a September United Nations speech. Citgo is a subsidiary of Chavez’s state-owned oil company.

Waldoboro: Town officials in Waldoboro and Friendship expect ambulance response time to improve under a new interlocal agreement that merges the two towns’ services. An ambulance from Friendship, for example, could respond quicker to the southern area of Waldoboro than its own service. The merger also will give both communities more personnel to draw from during emergencies.