Wiscasset selectmen

Cruiser, cemetery archway make November ballot

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 8:45am

Nov. 2 at the polls at Wiscasset Community Center, voters will revisit their June rejection of a police cruiser buy and consider an archway and entrance for Ancient Cemetery. Selectmen Aug. 31 nodded those questions and others.

The board proposes tapping cemetery lot sales for up to $50,000 for the metal archway and stone entrance; and authorizing selectmen to negotiate and agree to two deals, each for up to 20 years: a lease of the former Wiscasset Academy building on Warren Street to Maine Art Gallery, and a net energy billing credit agreement, with no contractor named in the ballot question.

Selectmen said they are still learning about net billing. Former selectman Ed Polewarczyk said he had to object to the ballot question. He told the board, “You’re asking unlimited power, unlimited authority, without the taxpayers being aware of what they’re being committed to.”

Selectmen’s Chair Sarah Whitfield said the ballot question felt “a little premature.” Selectman Kim Andersson said it would avoid a special town meeting, and she trusts that Town Manager Dennis Simmons is “not getting into something we can’t get out of.” One of the town’s Bernstein Shur lawyers, Shana Mueller, said wording Selectman Terry Heller proposed would let the board decide not to make a deal. 

Simmons said binding the town to a 20-year contract for the net billing takes voter approval, and the state may limit the number of deals. “So if we drag our feet on this too long, we’ll (miss) the boat and ... savings that are potentially out there” with a deal, Simmons said. Negotiations will be public and the public can weigh in, he said.

Also making the November town ballot were the proposed solar ordinance and related rule changes, and proposed, Department of Environmental Protection recommended zoning changes involving timber harvesting. Selectman Dusty Jones suggested, for the proposed cruiser buy with up to $55,000 from capital reserve, the question note the cruiser would replace a car, not add one. Simmons said he will make a fact sheet on each ballot item.

Absentee ballots will be available Oct. 4, Town Clerk Linda Perry told Wiscasset Newspaper in an email response.

Also Aug. 31, the board put Heller, Judith Colby, Duane Goud and Katharine Martin-Savage on the ad hoc, school study committee; and authorized Simmons, Harbor Master Larry Hesseltine and Fire Chief Rob Bickford to buy a boat for the harbor master’s and fire department’s use; $20,000 is budgeted. Hesseltine said each time they have found a boat to request buying, it has been sold in the time it takes to get selectmen’s OK.

The men proposed a $17,500, used 1998 fiberglass Mako Aug. 31. Hearing Simmons describe it, residents said the town would need a stabler boat.

Selectmen in the town office’s meeting room wore face masks. Jones and Selectman Pam Dunning took part over Zoom, where Wiscasset Newspaper covered the meeting.