MECHANIC FALLS — Town councilors Monday said they will set the tax rate after a $1,000 overlay is figured for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

It is expected to be slightly below the current rate of $21.40 per $1,000 of property valuation.

The council, with Councilor Wayne Hackett leading the effort, had sought to present residents with more than a token reduction in property taxes, but in the end was only able to come in with a reduced tax rate by cutting the amount being allocated as overlay, money to cover potential tax abatements or defaults.

The council approved setting aside $1,000 as an overlay. A year ago that amount stood at $10,000.

The council noted that, while the tax rate will be lowered by a few pennies, most property owners will experience relief on taxes on their primary residences thanks to an increase in the state-sponsored Homestead Exemption.

The council also met with representatives from the town’s Historical Society to discuss the future of the Historical Society’s headquarters, the former First Congregational Church at 64 Elm St.

The building has been owned by the town for about six years, with the society given use of it for meetings and storage of artifacts.

Councilor Nick Konstantoulakis said it appeared there is a problem with the oil tank and preliminary indications are that it could cost about $2,000 to fix it.

But that problem was seen as minor in comparison to the lengthy list of defects that came out in the ensuing discussion of the 160-year-old building.

Society spokesperson Eriks Petersons told the council that, with a little over $1,600 in its bank account, the very future of the building is in question.

“We’ve done what we could as we went along,” Nancy Petersons said. “It’s a trust townspeople have given to us to maintain their history. I’d hate to have it go.”

Town Manager Koriene Low announced that, following a visit from the town’s insurers, insurance adjusters have lowered the amount of coverage on the building to $60,000 and increased the deductible.

Eriks Petersons asked whether the town would pay for an engineering study to determine what it would cost for basic repairs and whether the council would agree to have townspeople vote on supporting efforts to save the building.

“It’s one of the oldest buildings in the county,” Petersons said. “It’s important for us as a community to save it.”

Councilor Hackett questioned how great support for such a project would be, given current dissatisfaction with the tax rate.

“Younger people in the community don’t have the passion for (preserving old structures) that you do,” Hackett said.

The council took no action on obtaining an engineer’s report but told Petersons to get an estimate of what it would take to fix the oil tank.

In other business, the council appointed Paula Bolduc to the Library Association and Matt Gary to the Recreation Committee. It also accepted the resignation of Gary from the Historical Society and accepted the resignation of Fred Huntress as town forester.


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