KINGFIELD — Voters at Saturday’s annual town meeting elected five municipal officials and approved a lean budget.

The final proposed budget passed by voters of $815,592 is $23,518 less than last year’s total, according to Administrative Assistant Leanna Targett.

Elected Saturday were the following officials:

• Incumbent Selectman John Dill for a three-year term, defeating challenger Rick Rose, 68-4; 

• Selectman Wade Browne was unchallenged for another three-year term; 

• Incumbent Regional School Unit 58 school board members Kim Jordan and Julie Talmage were unchallenged for additional three-year terms; and

• Kim Robinson was elected to fill the seat on the school board vacated by Peter Manning for one year.

Voters spent much of the meeting discussing long-range plans, community leadership and proper use of tax-sheltered funds.

The town has access to tax-increment financing money through a state-approved agreement with Nestlé Waters’ Poland Spring Bottling plant. Over the past 10 years of the 30-year agreements, the town has used thousand of dollars for municipal projects related to economic growth and development. Each year, selectmen and the Budget Committee receive requests and make recommendations on permissable ways to spend the money.

Resident Lisa Standish suggested the funds should be seen as an investment in Kingfield’s long-term economic development, such as programs and resulting positive publicity which would bring tourists and new residents to the town, increasing the tax base.

Resident and business owner John Goldfrank suggested that the town give serious thought to spending over $4 million over the remaining 20 years of the TIF agreement. Leadership is an important component, he noted.

The 12-member Budget Committee included a letter in the warrant to explain important issues they faced this year.

“The appropriation of TIF funds seems to have given some people the idea that this is “free” money, or that it is never ending,” the committee stated.

The letter noted that if TIF money was used for highway equipment and Fire Department reserve funds at a 100 percent match, the voters were using their taxpayer dollars.

“Please realize that this decision was made with a lot of discussion and thought on our part,” committee members noted.

According to Selectmen Heather Moody, the number of groups requesting financial support them has grown from approximately $7,000 to over $63,000 in the past 10 years. The five selectmen and the 12-member Budget Committee explained they often were split on their final decisions, so voters shouldn’t assume that a no vote to recommend funding did not always mean the entire group opposed each request of proposal.

Among many of the day’s votes, citizens decided against allocating $220,000 from TIF funds to a Village Enhancement Capital Improvements account. The money would have been used to start work on a riverfront trail head on Mill Street.

Three of the five selectmen voted against the spending plan, and 11 of the 12 Budget Committee members were in favor of it. 

According to Selectman Wade Brown, the property could have a small park, picnic tables, access to the Carrabassett River, paved parking and improved lighting, and it would be plowed and maintained. The problem, he explained, was that the town had secure a legally binding easement from all six abutting property owners.

Five had agreed to the plan, but the sixth owner insisted on financial compensation before granting an easement.

“I don’t think the town should have to pay to have those areas down there,” Browne said. “I believe it’s a great idea. I feel like we’re being held hostage.”

John Goldfrank, former Village Enhancement Committee member and one of the six property owners, said this was an important opportunity to improve the downtown area and add parking.

Selectman Heather Moody noted that selectmen hadn’t voted against the plan itself, but they did not all agree that the one landowner should be compensated.

“We’re not going to pay you to improve your property,” she said.

One warrant article approved will upgrade three streetlight sections along Main Street:

• From the Western Maine Pharmacy to Rolling Fatties restaurant in the center of town, with an estimated cost of $237,538;

• From Rolling Fatties to Lord’s Bridge, with an estimated cost of $163,379; and

• From the bridge to Narrow Gauge Park, with an estimated cost of $283,523.

The total, including other costs for the project, comes to an estimated $800,000, which would come from tax-increment financing. The work will be done in coordination with the Maine Department of Transportation’s Route 27 reconstruction in 2019.

Voters at the Kingfield town meeting Saturday had many questions about the proposed spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Selectmen Chairman Wade Browne explained the decision to vote against allocating $220,000 from tax-increment financing funds for a Village Enhancement Capital Improvements account. The money would have been used to start work on a riverfront trail head on Mill Street. Three of the five selectmen had voted against the spending plan, as did 11 of the 12 Budget Committee members.


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