By Charlotte Boynton
Westport Island Deputy Fire Chief Jason Abbott (left) accepts a Maine flag from Sen. Christopher Johnson in honor of Westport firefighters during annual town meeting Saturday, June 27. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
Westport Island First Selectman George Richardson chats with outgoing Administrative Assistant and Treasurer Susan Partelow during a break in the annual town meeting Saturday, June 27. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
Westport Island voters gathered at the historic town hall Saturday, June 27 to continue their annual town meeting. On Friday, the voters re-elected Second Selectman Gerald Bodmer over write-in candidate Reggie Lee. Sandra Crehore was re-elected to the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit Board of Directors; 145 of 595 registered voters turned out.
The town meeting on Saturday, with about 45 voters, approved a new Commercial Fishing Maritime Activity district requested by Theodore and Deborah Christie for two lots of their property and a new website for the town’s digital tax maps and geographic information systems database, and directed the selectmen to bring a proposal for a sand-and-salt storage facility to next year’s annual town meeting.
This past March, the town’s mapping committee met with the selectmen and requested that CAI Technologies host the town’s digital tax maps. Westport Island’s digital tax mapping project began in 2007 with DeLorme software, which has not hosted the site since 2011. The mapping committee asked the selectmen to place the question on the warrant for the town meeting.
Richardson told the voters the mapping committee has saved the town about $24,000 over the years. The members of the mapping committee are Dennis Dunbar and William Hopkins.
Most of the warrant articles were approved with little to no discussion, with the exception of a question to set aside $25,000 for a sand-and-salt shed, which was approved, and a question to have the town discontinue funding charitable and service organizations through municipal budget appropriations. The latter question was the only article on the warrant to fail and it failed overwhelmingly.
Several people spoke in opposition to the article. Mary Ellen Barnes asked the voters to reject the article. William Hopkins asked why it was even on the warrant, because the voters had turned the article down last year.
Paul Bonyun told the voters he would not have been there if it were not for LifeFlight, one of the organizations requesting funding from the town. Bonyun was badly injured in 2003 when a tree fell on him. A LifeFlight helicopter flew him off the island to a hospital.
Westport Island Deputy Fire Chief Jason Abbott also spoke against the article, pointing out that he is aware firsthand of what these organizations do, and they are needed in the community.
Jerry Partelow was one of the two residents that spoke in favor of the motion. “Open your hearts and your wallets, but don’t ask every taxpayer to foot the bill,” Partelow said.
Ruth Nelson said she was in support of the minority on the article. She pointed out that many on the island are generous to some of the organizations, and the donations should not come from taxes.
First Selectman George Richardson told the voters that many towns have discontinued making charitable donations through their taxes, and the purpose of the question being on the warrant was to give residents their choice.
The choice of the overwhelming majority of those present at the meeting was to continue the town’s donations to the service organizations. The voters approved the funding of the following services: Spectrum Generations, $701; Midcoast Maine Community Action, $420; Healthy Kids, $1,500; LifeFlight Foundation, $150; and Coastal Trans Inc., $400.
There was a separate article on the warrant to raise and appropriate $5,206 for the Wiscasset Public Library. Ruth Nelson asked why the library’s request was not included with the other service and charitable groups.
Richardson brought laughter from the taxpayers when he answered, “Because that is the way we have always done it.” The article passed.
The question asking for $25,000 be put aside for a sand-and-salt shed met some opposition from Hopkins, who expressed concern that salt was not good for the trees and the watershed. When salt is used on the roads, salt is not effective at certain temperatures.
One Westport Island resident asked what the road commissioner thought about a town-owned salt shed.
Garry Cromwell told the taxpayers the building would not just store salt, it would also store sand, which is needed. “The shed would be a great thing to have at some point,” Cromwell said.
Another resident asked why it was being brought up again at this time.
Richardson said the final payment on the tax commitment loan taken out in 2009, when the town changed from a calendar year to a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, will be paid off this year. The $25,000 will be put aside for the town to come back at the next town meeting with a proposal for a sand-and-salt shed.
Richardson moved to amend the article to appropriate and raise funds for the Wiscasset Transfer Station from $72,068 to $72,764, explaining to the voters that when the warrant was completed the town did not have the contract for the transfer station, and the town recently received the contract.
The voters approved a municipal budget of just over $2 million, slightly less than last year’s budget. Although the town’s school assessment is down over $100,000, the mil rate for the 2015-2016 tax year is still unknown, according to the selectmen, since the town is completing a revaluation, which will affect the mil rate.
After the conclusion of the town meeting, Richardson introduced the town’s newest employee, Martha Hayward. Hayward will replace Susan Partelow, the town treasurer and administrative assistant, who will resign later this year to move, along with her husband, Jerry, to Ecuador.
Richardson also expressed the town’s appreciation for Partelow’s service to the town over the years.
Westport Island Town Clerk Gaye Wagner, also co-chairman of the history committee, told the voters the history committee is committed to organizing the history room at the town hall before the next town meeting.
She opened the door to the history room for the voters to see the condition of the room as it is now, with a commitment that it would look different at the next town meeting.
Town meeting Moderator Dan Bradford opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by a presentation of the Maine flag to Abbott by Sen. Christopher Johnson. The flag once flew over the State House and was presented to the fire department for members’ service, according to Johnson.