Selectmen finalize November warrant

Posted:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 8:00am

Wiscasset voters on Nov. 7 will be asked to use monies raised to hire a town planner to instead reduce property taxes. Other questions on the ballot include the purchase of an ambulance and repeal of the historic preservation ordinance.

Along with finalizing the warrant Tuesday night, the select board voted to apply all $619,000 remaining in the town’s fund balance to the tax commitment. The move avoids a special town meeting asking for capital reserve monies. The result is a one-half percent increase in 2017 property taxes. Selectmen will sign the tax commitment when they meet next Tuesday. Property taxes will be due Oct. 22

By unanimous vote, the board agreed to include an article petitioned by former selectman Bill Barnes to reconsider funding for town planning. If passed in November, it would “transfer the remaining balance of the Municipal Planning Account, as of November 30, 2017 into the Fund Balance (surplus) for the purpose of reducing the 2018 tax commitment.”

The petition comes two months after the Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce successfully petitioned for a special town meeting to reconsider funding for the planning department. By a show of hands, 56-29, voters passed a $66,764 planning budget. At the polls in June, voters rejected the same article for town planning, 464-256.

Acting against the wishes of the planning board and ordinance review committee, the select board went ahead and included an article to repeal the preservation ordinance. Voting yes eliminates a certificate of appropriateness requirement within the historical district. The certificate is needed before commercial or home remodeling can begin. The article’s passage would also do away with the five-member preservation commission. Voters passed the ordinance in 2015.

Commission member Susan Blagden asked selectmen to respect the wishes of the ORC and planning board and withdraw the article. With little discussion, the board voted 3-2 to include it. Vice Chair Ben Rines Jr. and Selectman Bob Blagden cast the dissenting votes. Both said they preferred ordinance revisions be considered at the June election.

Voters will be asked to approve taking $96,690 from capital reserve to purchase a 2013 Ford ambulance recommended by EMS Director Toby Martin. The purchase will have no impact on this year’s property taxes. Both the select board and budget committee recommend the purchase. The new vehicle would replace the older of the department’s two ambulances, a 2003 Ford with approximately 130,000 miles on it. Mechanical problems including an oil leak and electrical issues have idled the vehicle a number of times over the past nine months.

Voters will consider amending the shellfish conservation ordinance to give the select board authority to set fees for clamming licenses. In May, the select board proposed an across the board increase in licensing fees. Before doing so they need to have the shellfish ordinance amended. If the article passes, resident commercial clamming licenses would rise from $150 to $195 (12-license limit) and non-resident commercial licenses from $300 to $390 (two-license limit). Resident recreation clamming licenses would cost $20 instead of $15 (30-license limit), and non-resident recreation licenses would be $40 instead of $30 (three-license limit).

No changes are proposed in the number of licenses sold. Wiscasset’s last increase in the cost of clamming licenses was 17 years ago.

Town Clerk Linda Perry said absentee ballots would be available at the town office beginning Oct. 6.