Wiscasset Town Planner Ben Averill’s last day will be Friday, June 30, because voters rejected the planning department’s budget June 13. Now, however, business leaders are circulating a petition to hold a special town meeting where voters could reconsider the matter.
The Wiscasset Planning Board, at its meeting Monday, June 26, expressed disappointment in the vote. “We have the deepest appreciation for (Averill’s) service,” board member Karl Olson said.
Averill said it has been a pleasure to work with the board and wished the members well.
“It is a mistake to take the planner away. We need his professional guidance,” Deb Pooler said. “I have been on the planning board without a planner and it isn’t good.”
Chair Ray Soule said the vote to reject the planning budget was because people are tired of their taxes going up every year, and decided one way to save money was to do away with the planner.
“There are other ways to save money,” Pooler said. “Money is being spent in the wrong places in Wiscasset. It isn’t fair to take the planner away and tell us now we have to do the work. We are all volunteers. This is a way to drive volunteers away.”
The Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce is leading the petition drive.
Sherri Dunbar, a real estate agent in Wiscasset and active member of the chamber, said there are several people collecting signatures for the petition and she hopes to turn it in soon.
The petition has the support of newly elected Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage.
“I was upset when the planning office budget failed,” Martin-Savage said in an email. “Several people have told me that they found the wording a bit confusing in that they did not understand that it included the planner’s position as well as the planning office funding.”
“The planning board and the town planner work hand in hand with a lot of projects, ordinances, etc.; he is responsible for Wiscasset becoming a ‘business-friendly’ town; and I am sure there are a lot of other things he accomplished,” she said. “Economic development is a must for Wiscasset and the town planner is vital in making that a reality.”
The petition asks the selectmen to present a warrant article that, if approved, would reinstate the planning department budget. The petition needs 179 signatures of registered Wiscasset voters to force a vote.
The June 13 vote against the budget was 466-256.