Wiscasset selectmen mull capital reserve requests

Sat, 03/25/2023 - 8:45am

    Requests for the use of Wiscasset’s capital reserve funds include spending $800,000 to buy a new fire truck and setting aside $300,000 for a planned town-wide property revaluation. Selectmen reviewed the list when they met with the budget committee at the town office Wednesday evening, March 22.

    Town Manager Dennis Simmons noted a number of years ago the selectmen had adopted a policy of using no more than 4.5% of the town’s capital reserve. According to documentation on the town website, at the close of the market on Feb. 28 Wiscasset’s capital reserve, managed by HM Payson of Portland, stood at $11.54 million, showing a loss of $361,793 from the previous month. Recommended purchases using capital reserve monies must be approved by voters at the polls in June when they take up the 2023-2024 town and school budgets.

    High on Simmons’ list was setting aside $300,000 for a future town-wide property revaluation. “The town has not had one since 2007 and we are very, very far behind,” he said. The revaluation would include all properties, both residential and commercial. Simmons said he would like to begin putting money aside this year, not knowing how much it will cost to contract out the revaluation. “I think it will probably be two years before we can manage it,” he continued. Woolwich is also planning for a town-wide property revaluation.

    Wiscasset Fire Chief Rob Bickford is requesting $800,000 to buy a new combined rescue/mini-pumper truck to replace two current fire trucks, 25 and 30 years old. Along with being more versatile, the new truck would free up needed space in the fire house, Bickford said.

    Simmons noted he pared the fire department’s request down from $950,000 to $800,000. He said the town’s investment counselor recommended taking the needed monies from capital reserve, rather than borrowing for the fire truck’s purchase and paying a high interest rate. If the purchase is approved, it could be two years before the new truck is delivered.

    Public Works Director Ted Snowdon submitted three requests. He would like $160,000 to buy a new front-end loader, which would cost about $200,000 but Snowdon said he expects to get $40,000 for a trade-in of the current one. He wants another $465,000 for hot top paving of town roads, and $50,000 to hire a contractor to replace culverts on Foye and Brown roads.

    Duane Goud, parks and recreation director, asked for $40,000 from capital reserve to install an electronic sign at the community center entrance. The LED (light-emitting diode) sign would be similar to the one outside the town office. Goud wants another $5,000 to buy a new refrigerator for the senior center kitchen. Simmons said he did not support Goud’s other request of $88,000 to repave the community center parking lot.

    Simmons said he also turned down a request from Police Chief Larry Hesseltine for using capital reserve monies to buy a pickup truck for the police department. “I find it hard to justify,” he commented.

    Other requests included $183,200 from the broadband committee, and $20,000 from the town office to buy new computers, printers and software.

    The longest discussion of the two-hour meeting concerned a request from Maine Art Gallery on Warren Street in the former Wiscasset Academy building. The building is owned by the town and leased to the gallery. The gallery’s board of directors is requesting $28,800 in capital reserve funds to be matched with a like sum from anticipated grant monies for exterior maintenance. The gallery would like another $40,000 for reconditioning wood-framed windows the town installed in 1990. The total amount the gallery is requesting from capital reserve for 2023-24 is $68,800. Selectman William “Bill” Maloney spoke out against the request. He suggested the town consider selling the building and giving Maine Art Gallery first refusal.

    Selectmen’s Chair Sarah Whitfield said the select board would be voting Tuesday, March 28 on which capital expense items to include on the warrant. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.

    The budget committee members there were Robert Jones, Kim Dolce, Tom Joyce, Brian Adams and Don Davis; and Marty Fox was on Zoom for most of the meeting.