Newcastle voters approved a $2 million line of credit for a full rebuild of Academy Hill Road during annual town meeting in the Lincoln Academy Alumni Dining Commons on Monday, June 17.
Roughly 70 voters approved all 25 articles with some discussion, including several articles that make up the 2019-2020 municipal budget. The budget totals $2,047,289.60, up $578,317.31 or 39.4% over the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
At last year’s town meeting, voters approved a $1 million line of credit for repairs to Academy Hill Road and North Newcastle Road.
However, as Selectman Ben Frey explained at this year’s town meeting, the selectmen did not borrow the $1 million when engineering work indicated a cost of around $2 million to completely repair just Academy Hill Road.
Frey said Road Commissioner Seth Hagar has met with residents of Academy Hill Road and given them an opportunity to voice all their questions and concerns about the project.
Frey was asked what the $2 million line of credit would do to the tax rate.
“Our goal in developing this budget is to not raise the mil rate this year. I cannot guarantee what will happen next year,” Frey said.
Article 8, the public services section of the budget, passed as written, but faced some opposition over the $8,791 or 48.13% jump in funding for Skidompha Library to $27,612.
Kevin Vernon made a motion to amend the article, reducing the funding to last year’s amount of $18,641, but voters rejected the amendment.
Skidompha Library Board of Directors member Rem Briggs spoke for nearly 10 minutes on the value of the nationally recognized library to the communities it serves, listing all of the accomplishments and services Skidompha has provided over the years.
Article 10 dealt with the public works budget. The line item for the road commissioner is $0.
“Seth is not taking a salary for this position. We have worked out a deal. He is part-owner of Hagar Enterprises. So we worked out a deal that, pretty much, Hagar gets a lot of the small work,” Brian Foote, chair of the board of selectmen. said.
Asked if the arrangement is a conflict of interest, town attorney Peter Drum responded that it is a common practice for small towns in Maine.
When asked what amount constitutes a large enough project to go to bid, Foote responded that anything over $100,000 would go out to bid.
Department budgets approved include the following: public works, $581,086, up $80,872.35 or 16.2%; administration and operations, $504,094.04, up $72,234.62 or 16.7%; public safety, $213,493.17, up $11,293.95 or 5.6%; reserves, $554,750, up $398,900 or 255.95%; public services, $166,782.39, up $15,016.39 or 9.9%; and debt service, $27,084, no change.
The majority of the increase in the reserves budget comes from money going to roads capital projects. This line grew to $530,000, up $402,400 or 315.36%.
These funds will go toward jump-starting Hagar’s long-term roads improvement plan.
Foote announced at the beginning of the meeting that the 2019 town report was dedicated to Allan Ray.
Ray serves as a trustee of the Great Salt Bay Sanitary District, is a long-standing member of the Newcastle Veterans Memorial Park Committee and cuts the grass at the park, volunteered for Lifeline of Lincoln County for 18 years, and is a past president of the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce.
“Your entire career here in Newcastle and Lincoln County has been great and I really thank you for it, Allan,” Foote said at the meeting.
Foote also made the public aware of vacant positions on the board of appeals, design review committee, finance committee, planning board, and veterans memorial park committee.
The town asks anyone who would like to volunteer for a position to contact Town Administrator Jon Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or Deputy Town Clerk Shelly Clifford at email@example.com.