NEW GLOUCESTER — Voters rejected ordinances for property tax relief and the Public Safety Department at a special town meeting Wednesday night.

The Property Tax Assistance Ordinance would have helped residents at least 70 years old who have household incomes of no more than $40,000 and have lived in town for at least 10 years.

It failed by a vote of 25-21.

“I want to support someone poor, but the ordinance doesn’t impact one’s net worth,” resident Carleton Wildox said. “If you can’t afford to live in your home, then live in a smaller place.”

Laura Jane Sturgis, 79, said she lies awake at night wondering how she will pay her taxes.

“I feel like I’m giving to my town and I just don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “I will be 80 in July and can’t get another job.”

Peter Bragdon opposed the ordinance, he said, because it lacked a pro-rated formula to qualify. “This needs to be written better than what it is,” he said.

Stephen Hathorne also opposed the measure, saying, “This should be even across the board. We all need help, not just the elderly.”

The ordinance was reviewed by the town attorney who had no issues with it, former Selectman Steve Libby said. “This came up because (we are facing) the biggest tax increase we’ve ever had in one year.
We need this.”

In a separate vote, a request for $50,000 to fund the tax-assistance program was rejected.

The Public Safety Ordinance failed to pass on a 17-17 vote. It outlined governance of the newly established Public Safety Department that combined the fire and rescue departments.

Roger Levasseur, the former deputy fire chief, said the two-page ordinance replaces one that is 15 pages.

“Read between the lines of the proposed ordinance and you will see the town manager has directly injected the town manager position directly into the control of the department where the membership used to have ownership that would no longer exist,” Levasseur said.

Without the ordinance, Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said, she will get advice from the town attorney.

Voters passed a zoning ordinance change for site plan review submissions and a six-month moratorium on large-scale solar energy developments.

Don Libby served as moderator.


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