POLAND – Moderator Leo Ferland Jr. opened Saturday’s annual town meeting by announcing that the town attorney and the Maine Municipal Association agreed the meeting could take place even though officials had failed to include an audit in the town’s annual report.

Selectmen Glenn Peterson and Wendy Sanborn, who had challenged the legality of holding the meeting absent the audit report and had threatened not to join their board on stage at town meeting, bowed to the practicality of legal opinion.

The two had sought the audit primarily so citizens could be informed on the current financial state of the town’s tax-increment financing account, but agreed that townspeople could make up their minds without that information.

“Let’s get it on,” Peterson said.

Assured that the town’s Poland Spring Bottling Co. TIF district account was in healthy condition, voters approved a capital-improvement project to build a public water main extension to Poland from Auburn via Lewiston Junction and Empire roads to serve the Poland Spring Bottling plant.

The project is anticipated to cost about $1.9 million and will be paid for through a 15-year bond, which will add about $1 million in interest, bringing the total cost to $2.9 million. The project will be paid by the proceeds from the town’s Poland Spring TIF account.

Voters also tapped the account for $30,000 to finance the continued development of an economic development strategy for the town.

The TIF account is funded directly by taxes paid by Poland Spring Bottling Co. and accrues at the rate of about $1 million per year.

Village district

Townspeople also approved establishing a “village district” tax-increment financing plan to develop the downtown.

According to Steve Levesque of Community Dynamics, an economic development consulting firm, Poland’s downtown TIF district is the first in the state for a prospective downtown.

Usually, towns apply for TIF districts to rehabilitate aging and decrepit downtowns. In this case, residents approved a plan to try to establish a village area along the Route 26 corridor from Route 11 to the town garage and School Union 29 office.

Voters rejected a request to rezone a 153-acre parcel on the Auburn town line next to Port of Auburn property near the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

Economic Development Committee Chairman Chuck Finger pushed the project as an opportunity to develop land in Poland for other than residential uses. Torrey Road residents argued that a portion of that property already was zoned for industrial purposes and the remainder should be preserved as a buffer between development and residences.

Spending plan

Voters followed the Budget Committee’s recommendations for the municipal side of the budget and approved cutting $50,000 from selectmen’s requests.

The board’s request for $35,000 to hire an assistant to the town manager was rejected, as was a request for $15,000 to repair the library roof.

Voters approved a total municipal budget of $3.75 million and accepted the School Committee’s request for $13 million to run local schools for the ensuing year.

The estimated effect on the tax rate is an increase from $19.60 per $1,000 of property value to $20.98.

About 150 people attended the meeting, which lasted about eight hours.

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