New Gloucester voters approve spending for 2018-19

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NEW GLOUCESTER – Voters at Monday night’s annual town meeting approved all articles, including $142,560 for portable air packs for the Fire Department and $150,000 for a dump/plow truck.

Other expenditures authorized were $30,000 for a second exit for the library, $35,000 for bridge and dam engineering at Stevens Brook, and $37,500 for improvements to the Rowe Station Road tennis courts.

Voters rejected an amendment to the Management of Tax-Liened Property Ordinance, 26-47, which would have eliminated a payment plan for delinquent taxpayers.

Amy Arata spoke opposed the amendment, saying, “People impacted who own their property free and clear, it may be the only thing they have. Err on the side of compassion.”

The Fire Department plan to pay firefighters more than $15 per call and per training session is still waiting approval by selectmen, Deputy Fire Chief Roger Levasseur.

“We are going backward,” he said. “We’re having a hard time keeping people and we need to get back on track.”

Retired state police Trooper Richard Maguire said, “I think of (firefighters) when they go out of their houses and they serve people. I have worked with them. They’re always there, always serving to help. Think of that and give these people what they respectfully deserve.”

In another article, voters approved giving snowmobile registration money from the state to the Royal River Snowmobile Club.

Two selectmen balked at spending $1,275 to help pay for an annual water test by the Sabbathday Lake Association.

Selectman Joe Davis said it was a handout.

Selectman Stephen Hathorne recommended it not pass.

Chris Ricardi, head of the Sabbathday Lake Association, said the annual testing costs $3,500.

“We are a community and we do things we do for each other,” resident Steve Chandler said to applause.

The money was unanimously approved.

Penny Hilton’s offered a motion to cut $16,200 from the administrative account to eliminate stipends for selectmen stipends and some money for legal expenses. She said selectmen voted last month to overturn a Term Limit Ordinance passed by voters last year that restricted selectmen to three consecutive terms.

On April 16, board Chairwoman Linda Chase, whose third consecutive term is up in June, asked Town Manager Carrie Castonguay to investigate whether she (Chase) could legally run for office again.

Castonguay checked with a Maine Municipal Association attorney who adivsed that voters can’t set term limits for selectmen because it can only be done by town charter. New Gloucester does not have a charter.

After the legal opinion, the issue was added to the April 16 board meeting agenda.

“This is the last straw,” Hilton said, “to give them (selectmen) half of legal funds and a public rebuke to take away the stipend.”

“There was a conflict of interest,” Levasseur said. Chase should have been affected. I think the ordinance is still in effect.”

Selectman Stephen Hathorne, who worked on the petition, said, “Selectmen do not have the power to remove an ordinance. The people in this room are the ones. I think they should be ashamed of themselves for abuse of power.”

The 2018-19 municipal budget, based on the annual town meeting warrant, was $4.4 million, an increase of $534,109 from this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

 Don Libby moderated the meeting.

New Gloucester town meeting moderator Donald Libby speaks at Monday night’s annual town meeting. (Ellie Fellers photo)

 New Gloucester Deputy Fire Chief Roger Levasseur speaks at Monday night’s annual town meeting. (Ellie Fellers photo)

New Gloucester Selectman Steve Libby attends Monday night’s annual town meeting. (Ellie Fellers photo)

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