Edgecomb residents support special town meeting for new fire truck

Selectmen will set date during May 21 board meeting
Posted:  Monday, May 21, 2018 - 4:30pm

Edgecomb will continue its conversation on purchasing a new fire truck. At town meeting May 19, residents urged selectmen to seek voter authorization at a special town meeting.

In April, selectmen indicated the warrant would include an article seeking approval for purchasing a $247,600 Ford Fast Attack vehicle. But  when selectmen began finalizing the town warrant on April 2, they realized voters couldn’t consider purchasing a new truck this May. Selectmen missed a deadline for including required financial information on the warrant.

So instead, selectmen placed a discussion item on the town warrant to seek resident feedback about scheduling a special town meeting on the purchase. During the 46-minute discussion, residents overwhelming voiced approval for holding a June special town meeting. Selectmen will set a date tonight, May 21, during their board meeting.

The new truck would replace two aging vehicles: a 1981 rescue vehicle and a 1984 pumper. Former Fire Chief Tom Towbridge explained the new truck is perfect for the department’s needs. “It’s small enough to navigate long, narrow driveways our older ones can’t,” he said. “Not only does it meet our needs and replaces two vehicles, it also costs a lot less than replacing our larger engines. We’ve done a lot of research, and we believe this is the right vehicle for the town.”

Towbridge estimated a new pumper truck would cost $750,000.

Several residents spoke in favor of purchasing a new truck based on the current fleet’s age and lack of reliability. Under the quickest set of circumstances, it will still likely take more than a year before a new one arrives. Fire Chief Roy Potter reported, once ordered, it would take 290 days for the manufacturer to deliver a new truck. Potter is concerned selectmen’s plans to use tax increment financing for the purchase will only further delay the process. 

In 2010, Edgecomb voters approved a TIF district which financed construction of the new fire station. In recent years, selectmen have unsuccessfully inquired about using TIF funds for purchasing municipal equipment. But selectmen think they have found a way to TIF funds to purchase a significant portion of a new fire truck.

Since April, selectmen have sought legal advice on expanding municipal use of  TIF district funds. For this, the town, first needs to amend the TIF agreement to allow for equipment purchases and, second, seek state approval. Selectman Mike Smith estimated TIF funds could pay as much as 70 percent of the new truck’s purchase. But he cautioned, it would be a lengthy process.

Smith explained a June special town meeting could authorize selectmen to seek funding for a new truck through either through a loan or grant. This would require another special town meeting for residents to authorize a  loan, and later, would require residents to approve funds at the May 2019 town meeting. Based on this timeline, Town Treasurer Claudia Coffin reported an annual truck payment wouldn’t be required until 2020.

Potter described the proposed financing as being overly complicated and time-consuming. “Hold on, let me get this straight. Today, we are talking about having a meeting to allow the town to seek financing, and come back to another meeting for approval. This is why we wanted this on the warrant this year so the town could vote on it now. As it is now, our trucks are old, and this is making our job more difficult,” Potter said.

Fort Road resident Dawn Murray agreed. Murray encouraged residents not to wait for TIF funding approval, and purchase the new truck now. “I have two young children and don’t want a situation where they are endangered because a truck stalls out on Route 1,” she said.

Selectman Ted Hugger responded that the TIF funds are already collected and using them would minimize the impact on taxpayers. “All we are looking to do is use funds that are already there. We just need some time to ask permission to use them,” he said.

Residents approved all 52 town meeting warrant articles with little to no opposition. The proposed combined municipal and school budget was $4,190,266. The proposed budget recommended a $243,246, or 6.7 percent, spending increase, but only asked taxpayers for a $107,097, or 3.1 percent, increase in the town assessment. Proposed education spending accounts for 68.47 percent of the combined budget.

The largest proposed municipal purchase was a new, $88,500 school bus. Residents were asked to authorize it under the municipal road budget. The school committee recommended purchase over a five-year term with a 3.5 percent interest rate. With interest, the bus would cost $96,599.

Residents also appropriated funds for the Joint Economic Development Committee’s wayfinding project. The JEDC hired Gamble Design of Portsmouth, New Hampshire for advice on wayfinding signs for the region. The committee wants a variety of signs to attract more motorists to the peninsula. Large signs promoting the Boothbay region would appear on Route 27 and smaller ones about various local attractions would be located in individual towns.

Residents also approved an amendment to the land use ordinance. According to planning board members, the changes conform to new state regulations.

In municipal elections May 18, the one contested race resulted in Rebecca Graham receiving the most votes for a planning board seat. Graham received 35 votes, incumbent Pat Jeremiah received 31, and each won a three-year term. The third candidate was Chairman Jack French who lost his re-election bid. He received 20 votes.

In other municipal elections, five incumbents won re-election. Selectman Mike Smith received 46 of 48 votes and won a second term.  School Committee Chairman Tom Abello received all 48 votes. Both positions are three-year terms. Town Clerk and Treasurer Claudia Coffin received 48 votes for both positions.  Tax Collector Deb Boucher received 45 votes. Road Commissioner Scott Griffin received 47 votes. All four positions are one-year terms.