WILTON — Wilton residents will gather at Kineowatha Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 14 to vote on the town warrant at the annual town meeting. The warrant includes 64 articles, a majority of which regard the town budget and actions on spending.

Ron Aseltine was elected as the moderator for the meeting on Tuesday, June 8, at the beginning of the annual proceedings.

On the warrant, articles three through six regard amendments to pre-existing ordinances. Articles three, four and five would amend the town’s zoning ordinance to add a definition for “marinas,” change the zoning statutes “regarding piers, docks and wharfs to be consistent with the state’s minimum shoreland zoning guidelines,” and rewrite the guidelines on signs. Article 6 is a rewrite of the town’s “Adult Use and Medical Marijuana Ordinance,” which would, among other things, eliminate the limit on how many marijuana businesses can be in Wilton. 

The Planning Board held a public hearing on May 27 for the public to comment on the amendments, which this publication reported on. The amendments would impact the plans for a proposed marina business on Wilson Lake, which has produced a lot of public interest and municipal action in the last few months.

One article would authorize the Select Board to write to Wilton’s elected officials in the Maine state and federal governments and “convey…that the Town hereby calls upon its elected representatives to enact carbon-pricing legislation to protect Maine from the costs and environmental risks of continued climate inaction.” The letter would also ask elected officials to implement Cash-Back Carbon Pricing.”

If approved, the Select Board would be required to send a letter to elected officials within 30 days of the vote. Other municipalities in the state have included a version of this article on their warrants.

Articles nine through 35 regard funding of the 2021-22 $3.8 million town budget, which was finalized in April. According to the 2020 town report, the Select Board has recommended a $3,790,594 budget and the Finance Committee has recommended a $3,789,594 budget. They differ by $1,000 on funding for nonprofit Greater Franklin Development Council.

The budget would fund the various cost centers and departments in town, including general government administration, planning and code enforcement activities, assessing activities, the contingent and legal accounts, the Recreation Program, and the Wilton Free Public Library. 

A majority of these cost centers remain fairly steady. Certain cost centers within the budget see a steeper increase in funding that accounts for about a $400,000 increase from last year’s budget. However, the town is taking funds from the Unassigned Balance Fund to offset costs from the Wilson Lake retaining wall and park project and the capital road paving program.

Taking into account projected revenues, the 2020 town report states that ” the [Select Board and Finance Committee] recommended budgets are $88,968 and $87,968 respectively, over the previous year’s budget.”

“The main increases to this year’s budget consisted of funding due to increases in the Town’s liability and worker’s compensation insurance, as well as an increase in the capital road paving program, to increase paving of more of the town’s roads this year,” the town report states.

The Capital Paving budget is $591,000, a $271,000 increase. The town paving plans include Munson Road, Munson Road Extension, Adams, Thomas, Birch, Lothrop, Gilbert Street South, Sanford McCrillis, Farmer, Pratt, Morrison Hill and a portion of Blue Spruce Road. The Unassigned Balance Fund (surplus) will cover $265,000 of that funding, leaving the town to raise funds for $6,000 more than the previous year.

The General Government and Administration budget would see a $13,975 increase to account for employee compensation, health insurance taxes and to prepare for a new server at the town office.

The Police Department would see a $14,994 increase in its funding to go toward upgrading the police department’s body cameras, upgrading radios in vehicles and replacing cages that do not fit in the new cruisers. The Fire Department’s funding would increase by $4,000 for employee compensation and funding of services from the East Dixfield Fire Department.

The Highway Department would see a nearly $20,000 increase in its funding, recommended 3-2 by the Select Board and 6-2 on the Finance Committee partly due to equipment purchases and employee compensations, according to the town report.

Articles 38 through 47 appropriate funds toward the nonprofits local to the region, including New Beginnings, Safe Voices, the Wilton Area Food Pantry, Kennebec Behavioral Health, and the Greater Franklin Development Council.  

Nonprofits met with the Wilton budget committee in early April to ask they incorporate funding in this year’s budget to help with the support they provide to Wilton residents.  

Municipal governments such as Wilton began contributing funds to local nonprofits after Franklin County Commissioners cut a majority of the county’s funding to nonprofits under “program grants.” The Sun Journal reports that Franklin County cut its nonprofit funding by 75% from 2014 to 2019. 

Some nonprofits asked for funding for the first time, including Community Concepts which provides services to the Wilton area such as fuel assistance, transportation and prevention of child abuse and neglect through home visits. 

Others asked for what they received last year, such as New Beginnings, a youth homeless outreach organization, which requested the same $500 as the previous two years. Safe Voices, a domestic violence resource center, and Senior’s Plus, a service for elders and individuals with disabilities both requested the same $3,000 as the previous two years. 

This area of the warrant would also allocate $3,000 to the Wilton Blueberry Festival, which is reportedly happening this year, but not in its usual form.

Articles 48 through 52 propose taking money from areas such as the Unassigned Fund Balance and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to help fund the repayment of loans and projects. One of those projects is the Wilson Lake wall and park reconstruction, toward which the town would appropriate $100,000 from the Unassigned Balance Fund. 

Article 51 would also authorize the Select Board to apply for federal funding for the reconstruction on the Wilson Lake retaining wall and pedestrian area. 

This year’s town meeting will take place outside in Kineowatha Park. The location was set before Maine’s mask and physical distancing mandates changed in late May.

Town Clerk Diane Dunham said that the fire department will provide lighting at Kineowatha Park so that the town meeting can still be executed in one go after dark.

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