Alna plans new taxes for Midcoast Conservancy

Selectmen sign ConnectME request
Posted:  Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 8:45am

Alna Third Selectman Doug Baston said May 3, he was tired of waiting for Midcoast Conservancy to decide on the board’s request for an annual contribution in lieu of taxes. The board decided unanimously to start billing the Wiscasset-based nonprofit for taxes on properties it has been paying none on.

For some of its properties in town, the conservancy already pays taxes; it paid Alna $2,888 in taxes and interest in 2016, according to a receipt the conservancy sent the Wiscasset Newspaper in February. In pursuing a contribution either for the remaining properties or one sum for all of them, selectmen made two arguments: Other nonprofits give towns contributions, including a yearly one the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum gives Alna; and the conservancy, like other property owners, gets town services, so it should help fund them.

When the board approached the conservancy last year, selectmen discussed basing the contribution on the cheaper, tree growth rate. But with no yes or no answer from the conservancy after emails, a February meeting, and recent news of an option the conservancy got on Haggett Garage in Wiscasset, the board decided May 3 to bill the conservancy beginning with the next tax commitment around September – and not at the tree growth rate, the full one. The conservancy did not apply for the tree growth rate or for tax exemption on those properties, board members said.

Citing Haggett Garage, Baston said maybe the conservancy was not giving Alna a contribution so the money could go toward the mortgage instead. The conservancy didn’t get the property. The Maine Department of Transportation, which plans to turn it into a parking lot, filed for eminent domain and settled with Coastal Enterprises Inc. for $408,000, according to CEI and the state.

When Alna bills the conservancy, using the tree growth rate it didn’t apply for would be discriminatory to other taxpayers, First Selectman David Abbott said.

Attempts to reach the conservancy’s executive director Jody Jones for comment were not immediately successful. She has said the nonprofit gives as well as receives public services, and could work with Alna to improve public access to the Sheepscot River.

Also May 3, selectmen signed the town’s $80,951 grant request to the ConnectME Authority to help get the Head Tide and Puddle Dock villages broadband access. According to the application, the $184,483 project would expand access about 5.5 miles, reaching the Route 194 Whitefield and Newcastle town lines and Dock and Head Tide roads, for a total of 73 potential subscribers. Charter Communications would cover the other $103,532, the application states. The idea sprang from the town’s franchise fee talks with Charter.

In 2o12, Alna won a $122,000 ConnectME grant to help get high-speed internet access t0 81 homes on West Alna, Cross and Lothrop roads.

Selectmen rejected the lone mowing bid in front of them, a three-year one from the town’s current firm, Achorn & Sons. It offered to mow for $4,500 this year, $4,600 in 2018 and $4,700 in 2019. The town paid the firm $2,700 for 2016. Selectmen questioned the jump. No one from the firm was at the meeting. The Wiscasset Newspaper’s phone message was not immediately returned. Selectmen were also unsure if they were looking at all the bids the town got. Town Clerk Lisa Arsenault was not there. Board members had expected one or two others, including one from a Bath contractor who was interested.

The board planned to find out more, possibly put the job back out to bid and, in the meantime, hire a laborer for $15 an hour. The board meets next at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11 at the town office.