Voters to decide money matters at town meeting

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NEW GLOUCESTER — The annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Memorial School on Route 231.

Voters will be asked to approve 33 warrant articles to fund the municipality for 2010-11 and to approve several zoning ordinances changes.

Voters also will be asked to take action on two citizen-initiated petitions dealing with the town’s cable TV station and franchise fees paid to the town by Time Warner Cable Co.

The proposed municipal budget for 2010-11 is $2.85 million, offset by revenues of roughly $2 million. Funds come from capital reserve accounts, undesignated fund balances and other revenue sources.

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The budget is slightly lower than the 2009-2010 level of spending.

At public meetings, voters have taken issue at Article 2 which combines funding for seven funding accounts: Board of Selectmen, administration, town meetings/elections, tax assessment, code enforcement, legal and unanticipated expenses.

Selectmen are seeking to save money by eliminating the full-time assessor post and funding the account at $45,000 to outsource assessing.

The town’s 3,140 real estate accounts and 307 personal property accounts would be handled instead by hiring an assessing firm to provide one day per week service at the town hall, and to be available via telephone for the remainder of the workweek.

Certified assessor’s agent Nancy Pinette, a full-time employee of seven years, faces losing her job, if voters approve the change. At her current salary of $57,662, benefits for FICA and health care at $11,947, the total is $69,609, plus training to maintain her certificate.

Voters cannot increase the amount in an article because the fund is part of the warrant language.

And, selectmen agreed to hire an assistant town planner in Article 10 at a total cost of $87,650, which includes the full-time planner. The assistant town planner post became vacated in February and Planning Board business, which the assistant planner conducts, has been light. Several meetings have been canceled during the past year.

Four zoning articles are up for approval:

Article 26 asks voters to amend the town’s zoning ordinance dealing with well and septic setbacks. The town ordinance is more restrictive than the state plumbing code for setbacks between replacement septic systems and drinking water wells.

Article 27 asks voters to amend the transfer of development rights in the town’s zoning ordinance. The change separates and clearly details the application process, submission requirements and approval criteria. Landowners to date have never exercised the transfer of development rights.

A Wind Energy Conversion Ordinance seeks adoption in Article 28. And, to comply with the mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act, Article 29 seeks approval to amend the town’s 198-page zoning ordinance and zoning map to meet requirements.

Articles 30 through 33 deals with the town’s cable TV station, Channel 3. The first petition asks that all franchise fees allocated by the town’s cable TV provider be dedicated to the operating budget of Channel 3.

Article 31 asks for franchise fees not expended to be placed in a capital reserve account for cable TV. Article 32 seeks to approve designating the town’s cable system as a public access station. And, an updated cable TV Ordinance seeks voter approval in Article 33.

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