The public water supply, the replacement of the roof on the Coopers Mills firehouse, and culvert repairs are some of the major issues residents will vote on at Whitefield’s annual town meeting.
The meeting will take place at 10 a.m., Saturday, March 16 at Whitefield Elementary School.
Voters will also consider the municipal budget. This year’s budget is $1,372,950, an increase of $160,318 or 13.22 percent over last year’s. However, with the use of carry-forward and other revenue, the net increase is 3.01 percent, which will cause less of a tax impact.
Three articles on the warrant address the public water supply.
Article 32 will decide whether voters want the town to provide a public water supply.
Article 33 asks voters what sum the town should raise and appropriate for a treatment system for the public water supply. The Whitefield Board of Selectmen and the Whitefield Budget Committee recommend $0. However, the voters can amend the article to raise funds, Selectman Charlene Donahue said.
Article 19 asks what sum the town will raise and appropriate for maintenance of the public water supply. The selectmen and budget committee recommend $1,000.
For the last few months, residents have been able to get water from a freeze-free faucet installed on the southwest corner of the fire station in summer 2018. The water comes from a well behind the town office.
The water is currently potable, Donahue said. However, this might change after the spring thaws, board Chair Tony Marple said.
Since summer 2018, the potability of the water has changed a few times.
Early tests showed the water was clean, but a mid-November test revealed the presence of coliform bacteria. The well was shocked in mid-December, according to a timeline of issues with the public water supply compiled by Donahue.
The school’s well shares the same aquifer as the well for the public water supply, and it has chronic contamination and a chlorine treatment system.
A water treatment system would cost close to $10,000, Donahue said.
“We don’t know how many people are using the water and therefore whether or not it’s worth that investment,” Marple said in an email.
Residents will also vote on whether to spend $12,600 on the replacement of the roof on the Coopers Mills firehouse, as part of a cost-sharing arrangement with the Coopers Mills Fire Association. The roof has leaking issues due to improper installation.
The board of selectmen recommends this amount 4-1, the budget committee 6-0.
At a meeting on Aug. 28, 2018, the board chose a $17,000 bid from Mitchell’s Roofing and Sheet Metal, of Freedom, for a new “standing seam” metal roof secured with concealed fasteners to prevent leaking. The roof would have a warranty.
As part of the cost-sharing arrangement, the town of Whitefield would pay $12,600 and the Coopers Mills Volunteer Fire Department would pay $4,400.
Article 30 would raise $50,000 for a culvert project on Senott Road. The project was deferred this year after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised some concerns about the town’s plans.
The selectmen recommend the amount 4-1, the budget committee 6-0.
The board will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan for implementation in 2020 or thereafter.
For the second straight year, voters will consider raising $50,000 toward the repair or replacement of Leonard’s Bridge, a large culvert on South Hunts Meadow Road. The town plans to set aside $50,000 again in 2020.
The selectmen recommend this amount 4-1, the budget committee 6-0.
“It will be very expensive to repair or replace, but there is no firm plan or cost estimate,” Marple said.
Article 29 concerns whether to set aside $8,910 for the eventual purchase of the solar panels that power town buildings. The town has the option to buy the panels in 2022 for $26,725.
The selectmen recommend this amount 3-2, the budget committee 6-0.
The town currently leases the panels as part of an agreement with The Power Co. The solar panels first went online in late December of 2016.
This year’s budget for town office compensation and benefits is up from last year. The budget for this is $173,564, an increase of $16,554 or 10.54 percent. The selectmen recommend this amount 5-0, the budget committee 6-0.
The town office is going from two full-time and two part-time employees to three full-time and one part-time, Administrative Assistant Darlene Beaulieu said. An employee is considered full time if he or she works 32 or more hours.
Beaulieu said the selectmen want the staff to do more in-house instead of contracting work out.
In addition, the increase comes from the town changing its office hours and agreeing to take new registrations until closing.
Article 22, to raise and appropriate $432,381 for town roads, is an increase of $35,006 or 8.81 percent. However, there is $110,000 in carry-forward from the 2018-2019 roads budget. The selectmen recommend this amount 4-1, the budget committee 6-0.
Two ordinances will be voted on: a food sovereignty ordinance and a planning board ordinance.
Food sovereignty, a growing trend since the passage of a state law in 2017, allows towns in Maine to regulate direct exchanges between local food producers and consumers, without the need for state licensing. This excludes meat, which continues to fall under federal and state regulations.
Whitefield Planning Board Chair Jim Torbert said the board is trying to re-establish the planning board ordinance because, when it was first established in the early 1970s, it was poorly documented.
The ordinance addresses the length of terms for board members, the organization and rules of the board, and the duties and powers of board members.