Wiscasset selectmen

Public feedback impacts vote plans, airport issue

Wed, 08/18/2021 - 8:45am

    Wiscasset will not vote Aug. 31. Selectmen Aug. 17 were to finalize a special town meeting warrant, but decided otherwise. Town Manager Dennis Simmons got public complaints it was a special interest town meeting to try again on losing items, such as the school resource officer (SRO), and to pass other items not considered in the annual town vote in June.  

    Participants in the board meeting Wiscasset Newspaper viewed on YouTube said open town meetings like the one eyed for this month let people talk through issues, but do not get the turnout ballot votes do. So whether the board holds a special town meeting or waits for a ballot vote in November, someone will be mad, Simmons said. Chair Sarah Whitfield said ballot votes don’t get enough turnout either, but they get more than meetings do. The town holds public hearings ahead of ballot votes, she added.

    Simmons said any item that raises tax money in November, such as for the SRO, would mean another round of tax bills.  

    He said the SRO issue might be resolved for this year without a second vote: He said Sgt. Perry Hatch, the SRO, can do the new patrol job voters passed, and still be at school sometimes. “He may not be there every day, he not may not be there a whole lot of hours (but) I think we can probably accomplish what we want to ... without antagonizing the voters.”

    Police Chief Larry Hesseltine concurred on not asking voters again this year for the SRO. He has never seen community and board support for the department as high as it is now, he said. “So I don’t want to rock that boat. I don’t want to upset voters.” But Hesseltine cautioned against expecting to see Hatch in school much because, he said, that is not why the new job was created. A year without an SRO may help show the need for one, he said.

    With fellow members’ OK, Selectman Terry Heller stepped to the podium as a citizen. Heller helped organize Schoonerfest, which had sought to be on the special town meeting warrant. She said concern over turnout and some people’s “griping” about special interests should not nix the meeting. “The town meeting is for everybody. And I hope the whole town hears that ...,” Heller said. “More people should be attending our town meetings.”

    Also Aug. 17, selectmen awarded lone bidder EnviroVantage of Epping, New Hampshire the cleanup and decommissioning of the former Mason Station ash ponds for $358,712; accepted with regret harbor master Ray Soule’s resignation and thanked Hesseltine, a past Vinalhaven harbor master, for taking over the duties; approved business permits for The Route 1 Diner, 762 Bath Road, and C & S Trucking, 41 Shady Lane; put Judith Colby and Stephen Wallace on the budget committee; Patricia Cloutier on the ad hoc, schools study committee as a Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce member and Sharon Jacques on the panel as a parent; and made Kim Andersson the board’s liaison to the panel. She and Simmons will interview Colby, Steve Smith, Duane Goud and Katharine Martin-Savage for the three at large seats.

    Selectman Dusty Jones reported getting “a lot of really awesome answers” to his recent question, why was the town not looking at closing Wiscasset Municipal Airport. “I’m glad I asked it,” he said. In the meeting and a phone interview afterward, Jones said he wants to gather information to share, like some numbers on the business the airport brings to town.