NORWAY — Voters at a special town meeting Tuesday night will be asked to put another $35,000 into the general assistance budget for 2011-12. The money would  come from the surplus account.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the municipal office on Danforth Street.

“We’re spending more than we originally thought,” Town Manager David Holt said Friday of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Last week at the annual town meeting, voters approved $110,000 for general assistance for 2011-12. Some said it was too much.

Holt told them the increasing general assistance budget is a “tough thing,” but state law obligates the town to provide general assistance funds.

He said Norway has a larger general assistance budget than surrounding towns because more people in need tend to generate to Norway due to its low-income housing.

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Last year, voters spent more than 30 minutes debating the increase in the general assistance budget from $44,592 in 2009-2010 to $85,000 in the 2010-2011.

Voters will also be asked Tuesday to accept the 2011 update to the Norway Comprehensive Plan, which is required to apply for a state grant to restore the first floor of the Opera House. The plan provides a framework for the growth and future of Norway.

Although officials had hoped the plan would be approved during the annual town meeting, the timing did not work out for a public hearing and posting requirements, Holt said.

Earlier this month, Holt told the Board of Selectmen that the town will apply for more than $400,000 to help restore the Opera House storefronts. If successful, the Norway Opera House Corp. will raise the required $400,000 match.

A public hearing will be held on the amended plan before the special town meeting. The action must be taken or the application for the highly competitive Communities for Maine’s Future Bond funds will not be processed.

Voters accepted the Norway Downtown Plan last week. It also had to be submitted to be eligible for the grant.

If the funding is eventually approved, Holt has said the tentative plan would be to sell the Opera House to the Norway Opera House Corp. for $1 and use the grant money to fix up the storefronts by the next summer. Work that must be completed includes plumbing, electrical, mold removal, new doors and bathrooms, sprinklers and other items. The corporation could then rent the storefronts if they chose to.

The town took the three-story brick building by eminent domain due to its unsafe condition and has since shored it up. A hearing to determine what the town should pay Bitim Enterprises of Londonderry, N.H., for the Main Street property is expected to be held next month in Oxford County Superior Court.

ldixon@sunjournal.com


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