Wiscasset selectmen

Voters to consider funds for Schoonerfest, cruiser, SRO

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 8:45am

Plans call for Wiscasset voters to have a second chance this summer to fund a police cruiser and school resource officer, and a first chance to help fund Schoonerfest.

Selectmen decided unanimously July 20 to put the SRO and cruiser requests to voters at a special town meeting, still to be set.

At the polls in June, voters rejected the SRO’s funding; the newly proposed lower funding of about $48,000 would be combined with $10,000 from the school department, Town Manager Dennis Simmons said.

The department contributed $10,000 in its budget toward the SRO, Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood has said.

In the July 20 meeting Wiscasset Newspaper viewed on Wiscasset’s Youtube channel, Simmons said the only reason he has heard for voters’ June defeat of a cruiser request was that the town approved one last year. Simmons said he is trying to get the fleet on a replacement schedule so a new cruiser would not be needed each year. Police Chief Larry Hesseltine said a 2016 cruiser with 190,000 miles on it has been down for weeks, and a 2015 one with about 120,000 miles on it “may or may not be experiencing transmission issues, depending on what day you drive it.”

Expecting officers to go out without what they need would be irresponsible, Selectman Pam Dunning said. They should not have to worry the car is going to lose second gear, she said. 

The requested spending remains at $55,000, Simmons said.

Selectmen agreed to put Schoonerfest’s $5,000 request to voters. Selectmen’s Chair Sarah Whitfield, of Wiscasset Creative Alliance, and Selectman Terry Heller, of the Schoonerfest committee, did not vote July 6 on a Schoonerfest warrant article due to those ties; the vote needed three yeses and got two. July 20, Selectman Kim Andersson told Heller and Whitfield they have no conflict of interest, since they would not gain financially. “In a town this size, we all wear many hats,” she added.

This time, Heller voted, joining Andersson and Dusty Jones as the yes votes. Dunning dissented and Whitfield abstained again.

Dunning said she wants Schoonerfest to succeed, but Wiscasset Speedway paid for town services for a festival years ago and the town paid nothing toward that event, and she cannot support spending tax money on this one. “You don’t know how hard I’ve fought ... with myself over it. But I just can’t get over that hump. I’m sorry.” Schoonerfest’s Peter Wells responded, Schoonerfest is not for profit, and he does not expect it to request town funds next year.

Resident Steve Christiansen said, Schoonerfest said over a year ago it would not seek town aid, and the board’s July 6 vote for a warrant article lost. He asked Schoonerfest and the board, “Stay true to your word.”

“I agree, Steve. But I also feel like this thing has gained a lot of momentum, and I’m willing to put it in front of the taxpayers” to decide, Andersson said. 

By town procedure, to receive funds, Schoonerfest needed to asked sooner, Jones said. Asked by phone July 21 why he voted yes, he said he stood by his point and would like to work on procedures, but he could see people are fairly divided on Schoonerfest’s request, so he supported letting the voters decide.

The board put off until its next meeting any action on the cemetery committee’s proposal for Ancient Cemetery to get a dark aluminum fence with an open spindle, and granite steps, pillars and benches and a gateless archway.

The board approved moving In a Silent Way’s liquor license from 65 Main St. to 51B Water St.; approved a business license for Sheepsott Fine Art and Antiques, 11 Summer St.; and named school committee members Michelle Blagdon and Jason Putnam to the committee studying the schools’ future; Ronald Leeman to the waterfront committee, Mark Light and Terri Wells, cemetery committee; and Kim Dolce, Thomas Joyce, Anna Ridle and Katharine Martin-Savage, budget committee.