Newry researching funding to continue free shuttle service to Bethel

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NEWRY — Selectmen were asked Tuesday to help figure out how to fund the free Mountain Explorer shuttle bus program between Bethel and Newry.

Pat Roma from the Mountain Explorer Committee spoke about funding for the program that takes people to work, to Sunday River Ski Resort to ski or snowboard and to dinner at various restaurants, Administrator Loretta Powers said Wednesday morning.

In the past, Newry would get what town officials call “pass-through” funding from the Maine Department of Transportation’s Urban and Rural Initiative Program. A town official would write a check from money received from the program for the shuttle bus service, she said.

But the MDOT changed program to the Local Road Assistance Program and doesn’t know how much money it has available for Newry, Powers said, so she will research it.

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In other business, the Planning Board wants to revise an ordinance to reduce the board’s size, among other things, and asked selectmen to review the revisions.

The revision seeks to change:

* The number of members from seven with one alternate to five with two alternates;

* The quorum requirement from five to three; and

* The determination of a majority to be a majority of the board (three).

Additionally, the revisions seek to make clear that the reduction in numbers will occur through attrition. It will also add a section defining what constitutes a vacancy and remove a section defining Comprehensive Planning as a responsibility of the Planning Board.

In a Dec. 4 email to Powers, Roma explained the board’s rationale behind the desired changes, saying that the board often doesn’t have enough members present to meet quorum requirements. Research shows that it is common to have fewer members and that all Planning Board members concur with the proposed changes.

Powers said Wednesday that a public hearing is required to change a town ordinance.

Selectmen also asked Powers to look into what insurance covers for use of the Bear River Grange Hall. She said someone wants to rent the hall for classes, but the board doesn’t know if that would be covered.

Additionally, Selectman Brooks Morton has asked that Newry change its town report format, Powers said. He brought a Waterford town report before the board and liked how it presents information, she said.

Powers said they made changes last year to Newry’s town report.

Newry won’t be building a sand and salt shed anytime soon. Powers said she took a call from a Maine Department of Environmental Protection official, who told her the state would reimburse Newry at 31 percent if it constructed the building, but selectmen weren’t interested.

Powers said her brother, Brad Wight, resigned effective Jan. 1 as Newry’s sexton, so the town will have to advertise to fill that opening.

Newry selectmen will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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