Waldoboro will vote by secret ballot on 46 warrant articles in the annual town meeting by referendum on Tuesday, June 8.
Articles 45 and 46 on the ballot will determine whether voters favor the conversion of the vacant A.D. Gray School into affordable senior housing or the demolition of the school and creation of a park in its place.
If voters approve Article 45, the town will move forward with Volunteers of America’s plan to repurpose the building for up to 36 units of affordable senior housing. Volunteers of America is a national nonprofit experienced in developing and managing affordable housing.
If Article 46, added to the ballot by citizen’s petition, passes, the town will move forward with the creation of a park. An explanatory note follows the article on the ballot, saying the park will be created without taxpayer dollars and detailing several potential uses for the park.
Residents have questioned whether the property could accommodate both plans, and it is feasible that both articles could pass. The selectmen have said they will address that possibility if it comes to pass.
Surran Pyne, spokesperson for the A.D. Gray Park Coalition, said the creation of a “beautiful” park would be “a positive change for everyone.”
“This will be an attraction for young people, children and their parents, and elders. A park is a way of taking care of everyone; it is not just a place to linger, but also for community events, gardens, outdoor recreation, and concerts,” Pyne said. “The A.D. Gray Community Park is a step to unite and build Waldoboro.”
Selectman Bob Butler supports Article 45. He said in an email that the Volunteers of America would repurpose “a structure with sound bones” and provide “opportunities for Waldoboro seniors to transition into secure, affordable, well-managed housing as they age.”
Butler said the project would also generate a revenue stream in the form of payments in lieu of taxes to the town. He called the plan “entirely compatible with the park concept” and said the town can have both, “provided the school is not torn down.”
The municipal budget totals $5,218,636, an increase of $795,546 or 17.99% over the previous year’s budget and an increase of $259,218 or 5.23% over the pre-pandemic budget of 2019-20.
The budget increase is offset by a projected increase in revenue. Article 30 asks the town to appropriate $2,958,286 from the Estimated Revenues Account be used to reduce the 2022 tax rate. This represents an increase of $798,856 or 370.82%.
Intergovernmental revenues, which include state-municipal revenue-sharing and federal COVID-19 relief funds, are estimated at $658,838, an increase of $428,100 or 185.54%. “Other revenues” are estimated at $310,753, an increase of $256,770 or 476.65%. Local taxes and fees for services saw smaller increases.
The budget allows for the restoration of some services that the town curtailed in response to the pandemic.
Town Manager Julie Keizer said that the budget will fully fund staffing for the police department and the public works department, and will help staff the third shift for Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services. In addition, the budget increases the hours for six full-time hourly positions at the town office from 32 to 36. Pre-pandemic, they were 40-hour positions.
The budget for the recreation department, cut by nearly 70% last year, will increase to $83,337, up $55,808 or 202.72%.
Keizer said the new budget does not restore a full-time position of receptionist and assistant to the finance director that was eliminated in the 2020-21 budget.
Community service agencies are also positively impacted, with the Waldoboro Public Library receiving the largest bump. The budget committee restored the town’s contribution to the library to the pre-pandemic level of $75,000, an increase of $12,500 or 20% over last year.
The town is taking the opportunity to build its reserve funds across the board, with increases to capital reserves for fire, police, public works, public buildings, transportation, unemployment, and solid waste management. Article 29 asks for the sum of $510,968 to be transferred to reserves for capital improvements, an increase of $340,467 or 199.69%.
Only three articles reflect decreases from last year. In Article 20, general assistance saw a minimal decrease to $22,118, down $486 or 2.15%. In Article 13, the shellfish committee’s budget, which is funded by clamming license fees, is $28,945, down $2,066 or 6.66%. And in Article 17, the budget of $3,113 for streetlights is down $17,000 or 84.52% due to the town’s conversion to LED lights.
Voters will elect two selectmen and two members for the RSU 40 school board. See “Five up for two seats as Waldoboro selectmen” and “Waldoboro to decide contested race for school board” in this edition.
There are no candidates on the ballot for three three-year terms on the budget committee. Incumbents Craig Lewis, William Pratt, and Arvin Roen are not seeking reelection.
The town will ask the people who receive the most write-in votes to serve on the committee, according to Town Manager Julie Keizer. If there are not enough write-in votes or if those individuals decline, the selectmen will appoint the positions.
Incumbent Gordon Webster is running for one of two three-year terms on the utility district board of trustees. There is no candidate on the ballot for the other seat, currently vacant after board member Jeff McNelly resigned.
How to vote
The polls will be open for in-person voting at the town office, 1600 Atlantic Highway, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 8. Residents can register to vote up to and on June 8.
Absentee ballots can be requested by calling the town clerk’s office at 832-5369. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by phone is 5 p.m., Thursday, June 3. Absentee ballots can be requested in person at the town clerk’s office up to 8 p.m. on the day of the election.