The legal agreement between Wiscasset and the Maine Department of Transportation, which has sparked the formation of a grass-roots group of taxpayers, will be the lone agenda item at the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen’s Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting.
The agreement, which will solidify Wiscasset’s commitment to the DOT downtown improvement project, appeared, for the second time, on the board’s meeting agenda Tuesday, Oct. 18.
The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen, however, postponed discussion of the cooperative agreement, a standard element of DOT projects in municipalities, until legal counsel could attend to guide selectmen through the agreement and answer questions from the public.
The agreement is the first rallying cry of the Wiscasset Taxpayers Alliance, a group that has formed out of concern about Wiscasset’s recent 14 percent tax hike, according to a press release from the group.
“Town leaders need to slow down, investigate financial costs to the community, and follow a process of full disclosure,” group spokesperson Bill Sutter said in the press release.
The alliance and an attorney for Ralph Doering, a landlord for several Main Street buildings, are also questioning the legal authority of the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen to sign the agreement.
According to a memo from attorney Robert S. Hark, the cooperative agreement may need to go before the town in a legally binding vote because it involves a financial obligation on the part of the town.
The Wiscasset Taxpayers Alliance also questioned the legal authority of selectmen. The financial burden to the town from the project could be substantial, the alliance said in a press release. The project has not gone before the budget committee, and no expenditure has been authorized by voters.
In a non-binding referendum at Wiscasset’s annual town meeting, voters overwhelmingly supported the DOT downtown improvement option that involves eliminating on-street parking on Main Street between Middle Street and Water Street.
The future maintenance costs of the DOT downtown improvement project has been one of several objections raised by opponents to the project, which include several downtown business owners.
Opponents to the project have said voters were uninformed about the potential costs the project could bring when they voted in June.
Chair Judy Colby asked for a moratorium on public comment about the DOT project at the Oct. 18 meeting. “We’ve had months of heated discussions. We need to take a break,” Colby said.
Selectmen agreed to make the DOT cooperative agreement the sole agenda item at the Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting to hear the advice of legal counsel and allow for extended public comment.
The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen will meet Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. The meeting may be held at the community center to accommodate a larger crowd, selectmen said.