Planning Board members speak about need for planner
Members of the Wiscasset Planning Board appeared at the Sept. 18 selectmen’s meeting to discuss problems they said they are having due to the lack of planning personnel. Ray Soule, chair of the board said he didn’t believe a full-time planner was absolutely necessary, but that the planning board had voted to petition the selectmen to replace the planner.
Selectman Kim Andersson, who had attended the September planning board meeting, said other board members felt very strongly a planner was needed.
Soule said the people had voted out the position, and that “at some point, we have to listen to the people.”
Deb Pooler, another planning board member, said that the position is extremely important, and that bringing business to town is an important function of the planner. She cited several businesses that did not settle in Wiscasset after they received incorrect information from the planning board and the town, incorrect applications, and a lack of support as they tried to move through the process. She argued that the planning board is composed of volunteers and, try as they might, they didn’t have the time to devote to businesses like the town planner did.
Soule countered that some of her examples didn’t proceed for other reasons – real estate deals fell through or cleanup would be too expensive, for example. Town Manager Marian Anderson said one of the examples, the proposed day care at the former NAPA store, only recently received its pass from the fire marshal.
Al Cohen said that as a member of the planning board and as a local business owner, he knew firsthand the planner was essential. He said having one person as a point person for new or expanding businesses was important. Since the planner left, he’s had difficulty getting proper forms and information from the town.
Because the planner budget is not in the town budget, little can be done this year. Other departments also relied on the planner for paperwork and support, including the Historic Preservation Commission and the Waterfront Committee. During a review of changes to the historic preservation ordinance hammered out in the Ordinance Review Committee, John Reinhardt also remarked that their job would be much easier with a planner, though he hastened to say he was not petitioning for the position’s return.
A discussion of the possible change to the ambulance service, which is on the November ballot, began with a motion by Chair Judy Colby to take the measure off the ballot. “I make the motion to continue with our own ambulance service and direct the town manager to create a job description for a director,” she said.
Colby said people had voted twice to keep the ambulance service, and the savings between what the net costs to the town would be and what Central Lincoln County Ambulance was offering were marginal. Andersson, who had seconded the motion, echoed Soule’s comment that “We need to listen to the people.” Andersson said the people had spoken and approved the budget. She said she was under the impression there would be a public presentation to show the differences between the town’s service and CLC’s service. She offered to make such a presentation.
Colby said her concerns are more than financial; there is a declining morale issue among the ambulance staff due to the uncertainty. The draft contract provided by CLC states all members of the service would be “eligible to apply for a job with CLC.”
The board voted 4-1 to continue with the vote, Colby dissenting. Andersson and a member of the community will create and present information about the ambulance service before the November vote. Because time was short, selectmen voted to word the question, “Shall the town discontinue the Wiscasset Ambulance Service Department, and contract with Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service?”
Al Cohen’s renewal for his fireworks storage facility and store was postponed while he waited for some information from the state.
The selectmen set a date of Oct. 16 to address overdrafts of $123,833. That will give the board a chance to meet with the Budget Committee Oct. 10. Of that sum, $95,700 was in legal fees. Another $20,000 was the increase in the water rate, and $5,000 was an increase in unemployment insurance.
Selectman Bob Blagden clarified his comments about the schools. He said he had meant to convey that the percentage of town funds, not the amount of town funds, given to the schools was the highest in the state.
Police Sgt. Craig Worster appeared on behalf of Chief Larry Hesseltine, who is holding the raffle of a Harley motorcycle to benefit Special Olympics. The drawing is Oct. 12, and provides about $20,000 to the organization.
Kate Marone of Healthy Lincoln County discussed a survey of youth in Lincoln County who answered questions about substance use. She discussed predictive factors and protective factors she said seem to be correlated with whether or not young people abuse substances such as alcohol or marijuana.