Woolwich eyes April for annual town meeting

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 2:30pm

    Woolwich’s annual town meeting has been tentatively set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 26. Before finalizing the date, the select board needs to confirm Woolwich Central School’s gymnasium is available. The board will begin work on the 2023-24 budget Feb. 1.

    “It’s that time of year again and we need to get to work on this,” said Chairman David King Sr. when the board met Jan. 18 in the conference room at the town office. It was the board’s first Wednesday meeting after switching from Monday.

    Prior to taking up their regular business, selectmen met with Simon Thorne from Consolidated Communications. Thorne explained the process of applying for matching grant monies for broadband construction from Maine Connectivity Authority. The recommended town’s share would be roughly $222,150, which could be reduced by using remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The decision will be left to voters at town meeting.

    If funding is secured, Thorne estimated construction of the broadband network could begin in 2024 and take about three to six months; 1,481 eligible locations in town were identified, the intent being to provide the service to every household.

    “I definitely think it’s worth looking into,” vice chair Jason Shaw told Wiscasset Newspaper following the meeting. “There are still some roads in town where residents are relying on DSL (dial-up internet service) which is much slower. I’d expect we’ll have the expertise we need at town meeting to answer whatever questions people have concerning broadband.”

    In an email to the newspaper, Selectman Tommy Davis offered more details, explaining the broadband grant the town was recently awarded. He wrote, “the ‘Get Ready’ grant awarded by the Maine Connectivity Authority has two benefits for the town: The first is to provide us with legal and technical expertise to assist in our efforts to get a broadband project going in the town; the second benefit is up to $10,000 in funds to do public outreach to our residents about broadband in Woolwich.

    “Those efforts might include, for example, email and mail campaigns, websites, and webinars. The Communications Committee will decide exactly what we will be doing in that regard.”

    Davis reported the newly formed Solar Ordinance Committee will meet every other Wednesday evening, alternating with the regular select board meetings.

    The board is looking for resident volunteers interested in serving on a Public Safety Advisory Committee. Davis noted both the emergency medical services director and fire chief have emphasized the benefits of forming such a committee that would have five members. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the town office during business hours. 

    Woolwich ambulance calls continue to rise. EMS Director Brian Carlton said the town’s 24/7 service responded to 306 calls during the previous calendar year, up from 260 calls the year before. Ambulance transfers have risen as well, added Carlton. 

    Fire Chief Shaun Merrill received the board’s approval to get bid prices for replacing the three bay doors on the firehouse. Selectmen approved his request to buy a new suit of turnout gear from monies left in his departmental budget and three new air packs using ARPA funds. 

    On the recommendation of Town Administrator Kim Dalton, the board approved spending $10,408 in ARPA funds to upgrade the computer server and cyber security at the town office. Burgess Technology Services of Bath was hired to do the upgrade.