Alna residents will decide whether to contract with Central Lincoln County Ambulance or Wiscasset Ambulance Service and vote on 47 other articles at the annual town referendum and meeting on March 25 and 26.
Alna residents will be able to vote on articles 1 and 2 on the annual town meeting warrant from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 25, at the Alna firehouse and on the rest of the articles at an open meeting at 10 a.m. on March 26, at the Alna firehouse.
Article 1 asks the town to elect a moderator for the town meeting; article 2 asks the town to elect a first selectman and a road commissioner.
Article 39 asks the town to raise and appropriate funds to contract an ambulance service.
The board of selectmen recommends the town either continue contracting with Central Lincoln County Ambulance for $36,371 or Wiscasset Ambulance Service for $17,881. Should the town vote to contract with the Wiscasset service, the total cost for the current fiscal year will be $25,534.42; this is because CLC Ambulance operates on a calendar year schedule and the town would be contracting with the Wiscasset service until April.
The request from CLC Ambulance Service for its coverage for the 2022 calendar year represents a 661.29% increase. In 2016, Alna paid $4,000 for CLC Ambulance services and for the last several years the town has paid $5,500 annually.
At the board of selectmen’s meeting on March 2, CLC Ambulance Chief Nick Bryant said that the increase, which the towns that CLC serves are seeing across the board, said that the majority of the increase is due to necessary increases in payroll. The service’s budget has risen from approximately $1.2 million to more than $1.6 million, with 91% of that increase being due to payroll.
“It’s the only way to pay EMTs and paramedics more, and as people are leaving the business, no one is coming into the business,” Bryant said. “It costs what it costs to pay people to do this job, and there’s only so many to do it.”
Representatives from Wiscasset and CLC ambulance services will be present at the town meeting.
Article 22 asks voters to raise and appropriate $83,815 for town salaries and stipends. There is no change to this item from the prior year, except that the proposed article includes equal pay for the three selectmen.
Rather than providing $6,785 stipend for the first selectmen and $2,105 stipends for the second and third selectmen, the article includes equal stipends of $3,665 for all three selectmen.
At the March 2 meeting, former selectman Chris Cooper said that he disapproves of the selectmen attempting to even out the compensation across their seats when the town already voted down a similar article in December.
“If you go to town meeting with … what appears to be a backdoor reworking of the referendum vote, I think you’re going to find out you’ve got a really ugly, contentious meeting over something that didn’t need to be,” Cooper said. “It just feels like you’re ripping the scab off the wound.”
At a special town meeting on Dec. 14, the town voted down an article that asked it to approve revisions to the town’s governing structure that would evenly distribute “authority and responsibility” and compensation among selectmen and establish staggered three-year terms.
First Selectman Ed Pentaleri said that he sees nothing “backdoor” about Article 22. He added that the addition of the even distribution of the selectmen’s stipends to the article was his own idea.
“I don’t think there’s anything magic about the fact that I sit in the first selectperson’s role,” Pentaleri said. “There shouldn’t be any problem with discussing this at our annual town meeting, and if you all feel strongly enough that the first selectperson should have three-and-a-half times the stipend of the second and third (selectmen), I’m certainly okay with that.”
Article 27 asks the town if it will raise and appropriate $104,240 for the Alna Volunteer Fire Department, an $18,748 or 21.93% increase over the prior year.
Article 28 asks the town if it will raise and appropriate $18,000 to fund the Length of Service Award Program for eligible fire department volunteers. Pentaleri said that the program serves as a kind of 401k for volunteer firefighters with the goal of attracting more young people to working with the fire department.
Articles 45 and 46 ask the town if it will adopt ordinances to recall elected municipal officials. The inclusion of the articles was catalyzed by resident Ralph Hilton, who submitted a citizens petition to bring a recall ordinance to the town for a vote.
Article 46 asks the town if it will adopt the original petition that Hilton submitted with his petition and Article 45 asks the town if it will approve the board of selectmen’s revised version of the ordinance.
Pentaleri said the selectmen’s ordinance includes some “friendly” revisions based on recall ordinances in other towns and that he believes that the town does need a recall ordinance. Legally, the town must include the original ordinance that was included with Hilton’s petition in addition to the revised ordinance.
Articles 47 and 48 ask the town if it will borrow and appropriate $525,000 to rebuild, reclaim, repave segments of Cross Road and shim and overlay the remainder of the road.
Pentaleri said the town has received one quote from a bank for a 10-year loan at an interest rate of 3.25%. This is not necessarily the bank that the board will elect to borrow from.
The town’s expenses for fiscal year 2022-2023 will total $1,463,575.49, should all articles pass and the town elects to continue contracting with Central Lincoln County Ambulance. However, the funds raised from property tax will total $823,485.
Pentaleri and Jeffrey Verney are running in uncontested races for first selectman and road commissioner, respectively.
The warrant for the town meeting, a sample ballot, and all associated documents, including ordinances, are available at alna.maine.gov.