The Edgecomb Select Board made plans for requesting repairs to Route 27, heard updates on broadband, and discussed a potential $40,000 expense from a recent fire on town-owned property at its Tuesday, May 30 meeting.
A recess was also held for a special town meeting authorizing the Edgecomb School Committee to expend from two reserve accounts should the need arise.
The board made plans for its approach in contacting the Maine Department of Transportation to request repairs on Route 27.
The Boothbay Select Board and state Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, both sent letters to the department commissioners strongly requesting repairs to the road this year.
The department has said that, due to budget and staffing issues, work on the road could take several years.
Board Chair Mike Smith suggested the Edgecomb board’s letter accept that the department is behind schedule and request that work be scheduled when it can be done fully.
“If they’re showing up every 15 years, let’s get them to do it right,” he said.
Board members Michael Maxim and Lynn Norgang said they agreed with this approach but wanted to make a point of safety concerns on the road right now. The board expects to have the letter signed and sent by its next meeting in June.
Smith said a home on the Old County Road which burned down two weeks ago was on property owned by the town. The property was foreclosed on in 2009, and the resident had continued to live there since.
He said that Edgecomb does not bear liability for the fire itself, but will take on liability 60 days after the resident’s living arrangement ends.
According to Smith, the town will likely be responsible for about $10,000 of cleanup costs to prepare the property for sale. Combined with 14 years of accumulated back taxes, he estimated Edgecomb will need to recoup roughly $40,000 from the property.
“The town will most likely walk out with the bill,” he said. “This is not a situation the town wants to find itself in again.”
Board members and town administrators discussed the possibility of a change in state law that would not allow the town to keep proceeds from the sale of tax-acquired properties, meaning it would absorb this cost.
He said a meeting is scheduled with the former occupant this week, which will provide more information.
Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Mary Ellen Barnes and broadband consultant Evan Goodkowsky presented an update on broadband internet connection options for the town.
At its last meeting, the board set aside $25,000 of the town’s remaining $133,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding for broadband infrastructure, with plans to offer underserved residents in grants of $2,000 to support routing fiber to their homes.
Smith said that, rather than waiting on grants or companies with changing plans and uncertain commitments to the town, creating the infrastructure would create an opportunity for future providers to tie in.
Goodkowsky presented information on existing providers in town, suggested Edgecomb revisit its 41-year-old franchise agreement, and said more information will be available in the next week about eligibility for Connect the Ready grants for expanding broadband from the Maine Connectivity Authority.
Town Clerk Claudia Coffin reported the town will have $16,000 to carry it through the end of the fiscal year in June, half in carryover and half in a reimbursement. Smith said this was a result of the town operating without its audit due to staff shortages faced by its auditor.
The select board recessed for a special town meeting voting to authorize the Edgecomb School Committee to expend from its capital improvement and student expense reserves. The committee cannot spend these funds without voter approval; both articles, recommended by the school committee and select board, passed unanimously without discussion.
School committee Chair Heather Sinclair said the capital reserve expenditure authorization would be used to pay for unexpected expenses, including failures of the school’s well, walk-in cooler, and walk-in freezer.
The student expense reserve would be used to cover costs for contracted special education services which the school is legally required to provide by the state.
Sinclair said that expanded needs for existing students in town will require $50,000 in contracted services and the hiring of a new educational technician for a similar figure, leading to an expected increase of $100,000. She said the school may not need that full figure from the reserve if other items come in under budget, but the approval would make it a possibility if required.
Approval of this article was contingent on future approval from the select board for specific expenditures from the fund should the school committee need to use it.
In other business, Smith said adjusters from the Maine Municipal Association will visit the town hall and town property on Wednesday, May 31 as part of a regular process. He said the town also still has openings for an appeals board member and an alternate for the planning board.
Phil Haas, who was appointed last year as an alternate member of the planning board, would in fact need to be elected at a future town meeting and cannot hold the full position now, Smith said.
The board also agreed to have a future discussion on updating town ordinances for complaints about properties with accumulated garbage or other items.
Smith was also unanimously reelected to the position of board chair.
The Edgecomb Select Board will next meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13 in the town hall.