Wiscasset cancels July 4 festivities, sets September town meeting

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 7:15am

The Wiscasset Select Board rescheduled the annual town meeting and election for Tuesday, Sept. 8, canceled the Fourth of July parade and fireworks, and approved a proposed ambulance contract with Dresden. The board convened by teleconference for two hours Tuesday afternoon, May 19.

In a 3-2 decision, with Jeff Slack and Kim Andersson dissenting, the board delayed the town election and voting on the 2020-2021 budget until September. Andersson suggested having voting coincide with the State Primary on Tuesday, July 14. Andersson said this gave the board ample time to finalize its budget and for people to file nomination papers for town offices. Slack agreed saying he was for holding the town meeting “sooner rather than later,” warning the COVID-19 pandemic could be worse in the fall.

Town Clerk Linda Perry couldn’t say for certain if enough time remained to get ballots printed for the July 14 election. There was also the issue of nomination papers and when they would be due.

There was no mention of the 2020-2021 school budget, or printing of the annual town report.

Chairman Judy Colby and Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage cautioned against moving too fast. Colby said she would be open to holding the town meeting in mid-August.

“The whole world has changed since the pandemic. We need to look at our budget from top to bottom,” commented Selectman Ben Rines Jr.

Although the board canceled the town’s Fourth of July activities, a fireworks display will be held after social distancing measures are lifted.

The board approved a proposed agreement drafted by EMS director Dennis Simmons for continuing Wiscasset ambulance services with Dresden. A copy of the one-page agreement was included in the board’s supporting documents for its meeting.

The one-year contract would begin July 1 and run through June 30, 2021. Dresden would pay the town $25,053. It states: “This is a one-time fee payable within 30 days of receipt of the town’s invoice and constitutes the entire cost of the contract for one year.”

Should Wiscasset be unable to respond to a Dresden call, either Woolwich EMS or Central Lincoln County (CLC) Ambulance would respond at no cost due to mutual aid agreements with those agencies. If Woolwich or CLC ambulances are unavailable and a third outside agency is called, “Wiscasset shall not be responsible for mutual aid fees,” according to the contract.

Dresden can’t contract with another public or private ambulance service. The contract allows either party to terminate the agreement “for any reason by giving 90 days advance notice in writing to the Wiscasset Town Manager and Dresden Town Administrator.”

In monthly reports, Simmons stated the department responded to 43 calls in April; 21 in Wiscasset, 19 in Dresden and three to Westport Island. The department got a $6,400 “automatic grant” from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department as a result of the pandemic. Future funding is available but will require the town to apply. Police Chief Lawrence Hesseltine noted the department responded to 473 calls in April including 10 motor vehicle accidents. Arrests or summons were issued for aggravated assault, criminal trespass, refusing to submit to arrest, assault on a police officer and aggravated drug trafficking.

Fire Chief Rob Bickford wrote the fire department had responded to 13 calls including a mutual aid call to Dresden to assist with a woods fire.

Absentee ballots for the July 14 State Primary will be available June 12 and can be obtained from the town clerk by calling the town office at 882-8200, or online by logging on the Maine Secretary of State’s office. The polls will be open at the Wiscasset Community Center gymnasium from 8 to 8. Due to the pandemic, absentee voting is encouraged. More  information is available on the town’s website.

This past month, Wiscasset’s capital reserve funds and endowments managed by HM Payson of Portland recovered some of their lost value resulting from the pandemic. At the April 30 close of the stock market, the town’s endowment fund totaled $3.5 million, a gain of $331,733 from the previous month. For the same period, the capital reserve account stood at $11.26 million, a gain of $1,078,802.

The board voted to extend Ed Kavanagh’s term as a trustee of Wiscasset Water District until the next town election. Hagar Enterpises, Inc. of Damariscotta won a contract for repairs at Wiscasset Municipal Airport. Hagar submitted the lower of two bids, at $172,457.

At 5:45 p.m. the board entered executive session to discuss a personnel matter. Colby said she would notify the press if any action was taken.