The Alna Board of Selectmen will not accept public comments on any item not on its agenda until after the annual town meeting March 23 and 24.
For the past several months, the issue of school choice has monopolized time at the meetings, the selectmen said. At their meeting Wednesday, Feb. 14, they decided to restrict comments going forward.
“Public comment is a courtesy,” First Selectman David Abbott said. “We don’t have to have it.”
Second Selectman Melissa Spinney read a statement on the matter. She said she has appreciated hearing various points of view as “food for thought,” but expressed disappointment in what she described as a decline in civility.
“Unfortunately, over the past few weeks the tone has moved toward harassment and sarcasm, in and out of the meetings,” she said. “The three of us have been accused publicly of lying, fear-mongering, causing community discord, as well as violating the law and the U.S. Constitution.”
Spinney spoke about weekly Freedom of Access Act requests for “mounds of irrelevant documents” and comparisons of the town to Mayberry and Barney Fife, of “The Andy Griffith Show,” on social media.
“That is unacceptable. Enough is enough,” she said. “We need to focus on the business of running this town. It is not all about school choice.”
As an alternative to public comment at board meetings, Spinney encouraged residents to attend a March 5 public hearing on the upcoming referendum regarding a change in the town’s current policy on school choice.
The current policy allows residents to send their children to private schools at the town’s expense. If the referendum passes, it would restrict school choice to public schools.
“The three of us are very different, but we all came to the same conclusions on the need to alter our current school choice policy,” she said. “We did so not because, as we have been told, (we) are ‘anti-family’ or because we ‘want to keep Alna a town of old people.’”
“We did so based on our collective experience serving this community and because it is what our review of the data told us was in the best interest of the entire community,” she said.
The public hearing will take place at the fire station at 6 p.m., Monday, March 5.
Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit Superintendent Howard Tuttle will be there to answer questions, Spinney said.
“School funding and choice is a very complex and confusing issue, and there is a lot of misinformation on the internet,” she said. “The most reputable sources are the RSU itself and the state Department of Education.”
In other business, Fire Chief Mike Trask appeared at the meeting to complain about the condition of the sand and salt shed, which has a hole in the roof. “You need to look at the building,” he said. “We don’t spend any money on maintenance.”
The selectmen agreed to visit the shed.
Preparations for annual town meeting continue. Abbott said he does not expect a big increase in the municipal budget.
Ralph Hilton suggested contacting RSU 12 Board of Directors Chair Jerry Nault about the education budget.
Former Second Selectman Jon Villeneuve submitted two petitions regarding alcohol sales. The selectmen accepted the petitions, which could go on the warrant for town meeting.
Wiscasset resident David Sutter appeared before the board to request a three-year extension of his current contract for alewife harvesting in Alna. He has two years left under the current contract. The selectmen approved the extension.
The selectmen did not make a decision on an offer from Lincoln County Television to record the town meeting for $300.