Mexico’s finances in the black

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MEXICO – Just over three years ago, the town’s finances were in a dire state, with little undesignated funding and a deficit in reserve accounts.

During Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager John Madigan said the numbers have been turned around, and the town now has nearly a $500,000 surplus, just the right amount a community of Mexico’s size should have, according to state recommendations.

“The town is where it’s supposed to be,” Madigan said Thursday.

The financial report was presented as part of the town’s annual audit procedure.

Madigan said the reserve accounts are at suitable levels, and the surplus assures that the town will have cash flow until property tax payments start coming in.

The increase in the town’s value, and more money coming in from state revenue-sharing and excise taxes than anticipated, helped bring the town to the proper financial status. Madigan has been working to bring the figures up each year since he began as town manager three years ago.

The final auditor’s report, by Keel Hood of Fairfield, is expected to be presented to selectmen in about a month.

The town also now has a full, five-person Police Department with the unanimous hiring of Chuck Beale and Dean Benson.

Both men have served as reserve officers for the department, as well as for the police force in neighboring Rumford or Dixfield. Benson had been a full-time Mexico officer for a short time last year, but was unable to attend the Maine police academy within the prescribed time period.

This time, Benson, a veteran of Desert Storm in 1991, will attend the 16-week course beginning in January, and Beale, in August of next year. They replace Mike Richard and Jeff Stoddard.

In other matters Wednesday, the board:

• approved taking nearly $49,000 from reserve funds to pave, patch or rebuild Fifth and Gleason streets, and several others.

• agreed to requests proposals for the engineering and design of Swett Avenue.

• directed the Public Works Department to remove a worn “Welcome to Mexico” sign on Route 17; money may be raised next year to replace it.

• continued discussions in closed session with the operators of Generations Health and Fitness Center for a new lease at the Mexico recreation building.

• approved taking $500 from the town’s economic development budget to give to Maine and Company, an organization that is trying to identify companies, particularly those from Canada, that would consider moving or expanding to Maine.

• set two public hearings, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 22. One will give landowners in the Poplar Hill Road and Coburn Avenue areas a chance to comment on the possibility of gating portions of roads during mud season. The other will take comment on the possibility of changing the traffic flow on Hill Street. A petition signed by nearly 40 residents was presented at the selectmen’s meeting asking that Hill Street become two-way. The board changed it to one-way, going downhill, a few months ago.

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