The big question for Westport Island voters this year at the polls will not be their election of town officers, or the budget because it is less this year than last. It will be the citizens’ petition referendum question to authorize the board of selectmen to put the Wright house and easement protected land on the market.
The referendum has three parts. It asks voters to authorize $5000 for the selectmen to establish an easement in accordance with the Land for Maine Future grant management plan for Wright Landing; to obtain an independent appraisal of land and house; and to authorize the selectmen to put the house and easement land on the market.
The town budget committee is supporting the referendum, many town residents strongly opposed the referendum during the public hearing on the questions, and some residents recently sent out a newsletter to all voters urging them to vote “No” on the question.
Many the residents consider the land at the Old Ferry Landing a historic site. Before a bridge was built, beginning in the late 1800s, the landing was the site where the old ferry would transport people to and from the island. It is also a place that has been an important water access for local commercial wormers and clammers, according to the citizens’ newsletter.
The issue facing the town in selling the property is that the state has put about $500,000 in the project, and the Land for Maine Future could require two-thirds of the appraised value at the time of the sale, according to the Westport Island Treasurer Susan Partelow.
The budget committee is supporting the sale of the house and easement property to eliminate the loan the town is paying annually to the bank and to put the house back on the tax rolls.
In 2004 the town borrowed $567,000 to purchase the property. The current interest rate on the loan is 1.27 percent. The town currently has $300,000 in equity in the house.
According to information in the newsletter, due to the terms in the Land for Maine Future Agreement, to pay off the loan and reimburse LFMF, the town would need a selling price of between $680,000 and $700,000.
The voters will go the polls on Friday to decide the referendum and to elect a first selectman, and a road commissioner, each for three-year terms, and two budget committee members.
George Richardson is running unopposed for the position of first selectman. Roxanne Andrews is seeking one of the open seats on the budget committee, and incumbent road commissioner Garry Cromwell is running for re-election.
On Saturday the townspeople will go their historic town hall for their open town meeting to vote on about 44 articles.
The voters will be asked to approve a municipal budget totaling $2.147 million with an overlay of $10,000. Last year’s budget was $2.170 million a decrease of $24,270.
According to the selectmen there will be $1.35 million added to the town’s valuation this year. Last years mil rate was 7.60 percent, and that is expected to go down for the next year.
The selectmen and the budget committee agree on most of the money articles with the exception of two. The selectmen are recommending a 1.75 percent increase in town officers’ salaries bringing the proposed salaries total to $69,865. The budget committee is recommending the salaries stay the same as last year, $68,759.
The selectmen and budget committee disagree on the amount of interest to be paid on delinquent taxes. The selectmen recommend a rate of 5.5 percent. The budget committee recommends a rate of 7 percent.
The polls will open at 10 a.m. Friday morning at the Westport Island town hall, and the town meeting will begin a 9 a.m. Saturday at the same location.