Damariscotta voters approved two bonds totaling more than $500,000 for public works projects and equipment during a special town meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16.
The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen had previously voted to approve a $413,500 five-year bond from Damariscotta Bank & Trust and a $120,000 five-year bond from the First National Bank, contingent on voter approval.
Approximately $350,000 of the $413,500 bond will be used to finance a public infrastructure project in the Elm Street area, including drainage improvements and a new sidewalk. The bond will also be used to purchase a tractor for $60,000.
The $120,000 bond will be split between two construction projects. Half of the bond amount will be set aside to match a potential future grant for the reconstruction of a large culvert on Egypt Road between Budweiser Lane and Cedar Lane.
The other $60,000 will be used toward the construction of public restrooms in the small parking area adjacent to Taco Alley in the municipal parking lot.
The bond amounts include $3,500 in bond counsel fees for the preparation and processing of the bonds.
The $413,500 bond with Damariscotta Bank & Trust has an interest rate of 1.74 percent, and would result in total interest payments of $20,390.15. The $120,000 bond with the First National Bank has a 2.3 percent interest rate, and would result in $6,942 in interest.
During the special town meeting, residents questioned the use of bonds to finance projects and purchases rather than building the expenses into the town budget.
“If it’s not an emergency problem, why not wait until June and build it into our budget so we don’t pay interest on it?” Jon Pinkham said.
“Grouping the bathrooms in with an emergency item is something I think should be looked at seriously,” Damariscotta Fire Chief John Roberts said. “There’s no reason that should be a bond question if we don’t have a plan to do it.”
Roberts said it would make more sense for the town to obtain grants before it borrows money to match the grants. Town Manager Matt Lutkus said many grant programs require municipalities to have matching funds in the bank before applying.
“It’s a chicken-and-the-egg thing, but we definitely need the chicken first,” Lutkus said.
The clear majority of the several dozen people present voted in favor of the bonds.
In addition, voters also considered and approved technical changes to the town’s floodplain management ordinance and shoreland zoning ordinance, as well as a chapter about accessory apartments within the town’s land use ordinance. The new regulations allow for the addition of one small apartment within existing single-family houses without increasing the lot size.