The Somerville Select Board unanimously approved the annual town meeting warrant during its Wednesday, May 4 meeting. Somerville residents will vote on 23 warrant articles addressing measures in the budget, a change to the Somerville land ordinance, and approve the usage of American Relief Plan Act funds.
Polls will be open Tuesday, June 14 for residents to vote for second selectmen and road commissioner. Second Selectmen Don Chase and Road Commissioner Willard Pierpont are seeking reelection to their respective positions unopposed.
The remaining articles will be voted on during the annual town meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 18 at the elementary school gymnasium.
Taxes will not be raised as part of the approval for the budget; however, during the board’s meeting on April 20, Chair Chris Johnson said future tax increases are possible.
“I will warn there are $40,000 of ARPA funds here, and there won’t be in the next budget,” said Johnson. “So we really need to think how we are spending this money on capital road improvements. We may be looking at a tax increase in order to just maintain the roads where they are.”
Voters will also consider whether to allow the town to spend $157,219 for town office maintenance and construction, salaries, and stipends for town officers and contract services, including but not limited to legal fees, notary fees, sexton, and tax mapping. Of the total amount, $4,130 will be funded by the cemetery reserve account and $153,089 will be raised through property taxes.
Article 5 asks the town to approve the use of $40,000 in ARPA funds for road maintenance and repairs. Voters must approve of the use APRA funds separately.
Road maintenance and repairs are addressed in warrant article 4. If approved, it will allow the town to raise and appropriate $329,969 for repairing and maintaining the roads. Of the total amount, $254,921 will be raised from property taxes, $40,000 will come from ARPA funds, $24,048 will be received from the state’s Local Roads Assistance Program funds and $10,000 from capital road improvement account.
Voters will be asked to amend the Somerville land use ordinance to expand the development district north and south of Route 17 from 6,000 feet to 2.42 miles to the Jefferson town line.
Somerville Planning Board Chair Jim Grenier Sr. said the ordinance change will accommodate an amended town comprehensive plan done in June 2018.
“We determined in our comprehensive plan to expand our development district,” Grenier said.
After an executive session, the board gave town attorney Ted Small unanimous approval to send a corrected letter to Hagar Enterprises Inc. about Somerville Road. The town and the company are in disagreement regarding reimbursement for work Hagar conducted on the road.
The corrections include “other points and suggestions,” Johnson said, and the letter will be publicly available after Small presents it to the board and sends it.
The board read the first draft of the broadband construction and franchise agreements with Axiom Technologies. Johnson outlined the funding for the agreement, and standards of service Axiom will be required to meet.
The grant was awarded by National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency that operates under the U.S. Department of Commerce, to ConnectMaine, a Maine state authority with the mission to facilitate the universe availability of broadband to all Maine households.
“No one is going to be disadvantaged or prejudiced about being able to get the same classification of service as anybody else in town,” Johnson said. “It will also comply with open internet regulations so it’s not going to favor any particular provider of service over the internet over any other traffic. They won’t be blocking lawful content and won’t be throttling, so whatever the network is capable of providing … they won’t be artificially limiting what data people can have in a month. The speed you pay for should be the speed you get. They are not going to cut you off after you hit a certain gigabytes of download.”
No action was taken on the agreement to give the board time to review the agreement.
The board authorized Johnson to send letter of agencies to utilities for Axiom for pole attachment purposes. These poles must be able to accommodate other utilities companies and possible internet service providers.
Johnson announced he had provided the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins with everything required for the congressional-directed spending request for road improvements.
Johnson also initiated a request with U.S Senator Angus King’s office, but still needs to work with Somerville Treasurer Sandra Devaney on budget-requested items.
The next Somerville Select Board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18.