Whether to use a portion of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to install an electronic sign at the town office, a hike in ambulance costs, and the possibility of increasing funding for the town’s fire department were main topics of discussion during Nobleboro’s annual town meeting at the Nobleboro Central School on March 19.
During the roughly two-hour meeting about 70 voters approved 35 articles, including the $1,203,519 municipal budget and $4,239,948.86 education budget. Despite increases in both budgets, Board of Selectmen Chair Richard Spear stated that he does not anticipate an increase in property taxes due to receiving increased funding in other areas, such as school funding from the state.
Residents took the selectmen’s recommendations to lower appropriations for outside agencies by a total of $5,039, approving a municipal budget totaling $1,203,519, an increase over last year by $69,280 or 6.12%.
The reduction in appropriations included eliminating a $500 funding request for Coastal Kids, limiting Spectrum Generations to $1,346 of a $2,285 request, and reducing funds that support the Skidompha Library from a requested $20,000 to $16,400.
After questions on how the town’s cost for the Central Lincoln County Ambulance was calculated, voters approved the requested funding to the CLC Ambulance of $74,238, a $45,583 or 159.08% increase. The cost is currently calculated using the town’s valuation and call volume. A decrease in revenues over several years, as well as the necessity for competitive wages and benefits for paramedics and emergency medical technicians, are driving factors in the increase.
“If you are paying attention to the cost of ambulance services in the area, we’re getting a pretty good deal, and I support it,” Selectman Richard Powell Jr. said.
In a later article, voters also agreed to allow the select board to negotiate and execute an interlocal agreement covering the future governance of CLC Ambulance. Nobleboro is one of the service’s six founding towns, along with Bremen, Damariscotta, Newcastle, Bristol, and South Bristol, and has a voice in how it is funded.
Entwined with the ambulance discussion was consideration of the amount of funding going to fire department operations, which was recommended to stay flat to last year at $147,515. Before approving the article, which also included the appropriation of $30,000 to fund the fire truck capital account, residents heard from the president of the Minnehata Fire Association, Captain Aaron Bradbury, and Senior Captain John Hedrick.
Citing aging equipment and outdated medical supplies, Bradbury advocated for finding a way to increase the fire department’s budget by $21,000.
“The proposed budget for the fire department at this time is good for covering our operating expenses, but it is not going to be enough to cover needs for replacing some of our equipment, in particular some EMS equipment,” he said.
“The fire department is actually at a critical point with our equipment…We’re kind of at a standstill as a department,” Hedrick added. “We’re barely even meeting our basic needs to serve the citizens.”
While the budget item could not be increased at the town meeting, Powell suggested that the fire department create a proposal that could be voted on at a special town meeting.
Voters also agreed to appropriate a total of $726,000 to reduce the 2022 tax rate. The appropriated funds include $320,000 from excise taxes, $370,000 from undesignated surplus, and $36,000 from local road assistance.
Voters agreed, with an amendment, to appropriate $174,684 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward a list of town projects. The proposed projects chosen by selectmen were based on input from town staff and residents, and included conference room and town office technology upgrades, conference room and town office renovations, broadband, COVID-19 essential workers pay for fire department and town office employees, installation of an electronic sign at the town office, and road building, maintenance and repairs.
The project that garnered the most discussion was the installation of an electronic sign, which Spear stated was estimated to cost $25,000. After much discussion where some residents stated that they would prefer to see those funds go to other initiatives such as broadband or the fire department, a motion was made to remove the electronic sign from the article. The motion passed, and then the article passed as amended.
Spear assured voters that there are ARPA funds that have not yet been designated, and residents would have more opportunities to have their suggestions heard.
The education budget totals $4,239,948.86, a $320,714.15 or 8.18% increase from last year.
The required local contribution of $2,354,360 is $187,903.33 or 8.67% higher than the previous year, but the additional local appropriation is significantly lower at $1,080,720.41, a decrease of $169,923.50 or 13.59%.
The decrease is driven by a $300,000 beginning fund balance and what the town’s selectmen called a higher-than-expected state subsidy of $504,868.45, up $324,038.32 or 179.19% from the prior year.
According to Town Clerk Susan Pinnetti-Isabel, 176 voters turned out at the polls on March 18 to vote for municipal officers.
Current Selectman Jon Chadwick, who ran unopposed, was re-elected for a second three-year term as selectman, assessor, overseer of the poor, and fish committee member.
Robert “Bobby” Whear, also unopposed, was re-elected for another two-year term on the board of trustees for the Great Salt Bay Sanitary District.
There were no candidates on the ballot for two three-year terms on the Nobleboro School Committee, with current chair Angela White and committee member Shawna Kurr originally not seeking reelection. White, however, agreed to serve another term and was re-elected with 24 write-in votes. Matt Benner was elected to the second position with 25 write-in votes.
During the town meeting, seven members of the Budget Committee were selected from the floor.
From the center: Peter Lawrence was re-elected for a three-year term and Dale Wright was re-elected for a three-year term. From the mills: Tim Andrews was re-elected for a three-year term, Brittany Carter was re-elected for a 3-year term, and William Bryant was re-elected for a one-year term. From the north: Robert Spear was re-elected for a three-year term, and Jake Oliver was elected for a three-year term.