Turner taxes may go up; speed limit lowered

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TURNER — Selectmen on Tuesday approved a tentative spending plan that would increase the property tax rate by 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The preliminary rate for fiscal year 2018 is $17.05 compared to $16.86 for 2017.

Town Manager Kurt Schaub said the amount of money returned to the towns from School Administrative District 52 for tax relief will play a part in the final numbers. Also at play is the Homestead Exemption tax cut, which is increasing from $12,750 to $17,000. As a result, Schaub said, property owners may pay fewer taxes even with the higher rate.

For example, a property that qualified for the exemption in 2016 and was valued at $150,000 paid about $2,314 in taxes under the $16.86 tax rate. That same property, if it qualified for the exemption in 2017, would owe about $2,274.

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In other business, the speed limit on Fern Street, which runs from Route 4 to Wilson Hill Road, will be reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph.

The Maine Department of Transportation based the change on an 85th percentile of the average speed drivers operate on the road, and on how many driveways there are. 

Also cited were “crash history, test runs, engineering judgment and municipal input,” according to the letter from the MDOT that Schaub shared with the board. The town will change the signs because the road is considered a “town way,” he said.

Residents came to the board earlier this year with concerns about pedestrian safety on the side street. A similar request submitted for a speed limit reduction on Fish Street is underway but not yet completed. Fish Street now has a default 45 mph limit because it is not posted. Resident Tom Pelletier asked the board in July to make the official speed limit 25 mph.

Also on Tuesday, selectmen went into executive session for 10 minutes and returned to inform resident Ed Enos to clear non-running vehicles and other items such as a bathtub and washing machine from his property because it is not a legal junkyard.

Selectman Angelo Terreri pointed out piles of building supplies in photos of the property reviewed by the board.

Enos responded angrily, “I believe we have a right to work on our cars.”

Terreri asked if the remains of a burned structure were still there. Enos said it was. At one point Enos got up to leave, saying, “I’ll go get myself a lawyer.”

Board Chairman Kurt Youland assured Enos they were not trying to pick on anybody but were just doing their job in enforcing the town codes and responding to complaints. After a 20-minute debate with the board, Enos agreed to try to haul some things away and move some vehicles out back. The board gave him 30 days to act.

Selectmen also voted to create a Highway Department assistant manager position designed to fill the gap in leadership when Manager Leland Searles is on vacation and to serve as planner and supervisor of daily functions of the department. Three yes votes secured the position. Selectman Kevin Nichols voted no, saying he felt it was not necessary. Terreri abstained.

The town will hold its annual turkey dinner/silent auction Nov. 11 at the Boofy Quimby Memorial Center.

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