Wiscasset voters will lay to rest the issue that has divided the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen and Wiscasset School Committee at the annual town meeting by referendum Tuesday, June 13. Voters will decide whether to authorize the Wiscasset School Department to enter into a $1.75 million energy conservation performance contract with Siemens Inc., to be funded through either a lease-purchase agreement or a bond.
The warrant article about the energy project is the last on a 69-article town meeting warrant, which also includes: a new disorderly housing ordinance, a citizen’s petition asking voters to reject changes made to the Maine Department of Transportation’s downtown traffic project, the sale of property to Central Maine Power Co. for the development of a new substation, the establishment of a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments, funding for a $5.52 million municipal budget, and $390,000 in capital improvement requests.
The energy conservation performance contract was twice authorized by the school committee, but the selectmen objected to approval of the project without a townwide vote.
After several months of controversy and conflict, the project was included on the warrant. The project would fund energy-efficient upgrades to Wiscasset School Department buildings through either a lease-purchase agreement or general issue bond.
The payments on the lease-purchase agreement or bond will be largely funded through utility savings resulting from the improvements. In initial financial projections based on a lease-purchase agreement, the project will result in a net increase of $69,500 to the school department’s budget.
On a separate ballot, voters will be asked if they approve the school department’s $9.45 million budget for 2017-2018, with the estimated first-year payment for the energy project included. The budget is an increase of $458,270 or 5.09 percent.
Due to an increase in projected revenue, the local share of the school department budget will remain flat in the coming fiscal year.
One year after approving the DOT’s Option 2 for the downtown traffic project, voters will again be asked to weigh in on the project. Warrant article 66, which was placed on the town meeting warrant through a citizen’s petition, asks if voters disapprove of and reject the changes made to the traffic project since the June 2015 vote.
Project opponents have said a yes vote will signify a rejection of the project. During a public hearing about the warrant in May, the article was the only one to generate any discussion. DOT attorney Jim Billings attended the public hearing to object to the characterization of the project and point out misleading statements in the language of the warrant article.
The warrant article is not binding, and the DOT is under no obligation to consider the results, Billings said. Wiscasset Taxpayer Alliance spokesperson Bill Sutter said the intent of the warrant article is to determine if public sentiment about the project has changed since the results of last year’s non-binding referendum vote.
Wiscasset voters will also decide whether to enact a disorderly house ordinance, which will enable the town to take action against residences that repeatedly generate complaints to the police department. The ordinance will give the board of selectmen authority to designate a house “disorderly” after a public hearing.
Once a house is designated disorderly, the town will have the ability to enter into a consent agreement with the household to correct the issues, and levy a civil fine if the consent agreement is violated. The public hearing will be initiated based on the number of police calls to a household in a 30-day period.
Voters will also consider instituting a moratorium on recreational marijuana manufacturing and retail establishments, which would prevent applications for a marijuana-related business in Wiscasset for six months to a year.
The warrant also asks for authorization to sell CMP a 29.45-acre parcel on Old Ferry Road for $30,000. Almost a year ago, the board of selectmen granted CMP an option to buy the property, as the utility explored the possibility of establishing a new substation there.
Wiscasset voters will also decide the municipal budget for 2017-2018. While not unanimously, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen approved presenting voters a $5,282,853 municipal budget, which does not include capital improvement requests.
The budget, when combined with the annual payment on the $2 million bond used to fund the withdrawal from RSU 12 and other debt service, is $5,528,087, an increase of $86,497 or 1.58 percent from the current year.
The town is projecting non-property tax revenue of $2,990,889 to reduce the amount of the municipal budget to be raised through taxes.
For the fourth year in a row, the Wiscasset Police Department’s school resource officer position will stand alone before voters. Voters have narrowly approved the position each year since it has been introduced.
Voters will again decide whether to increase funding for the Wiscasset Ambulance Service for additional staff. The proposed ambulance service budget of $544,250 is a $66,000 or 13.08 percent increase from the voter-approved 2016-2017 budget of $478,250. The ambulance service is projecting $315,000 in non-tax revenue to offset the amount to be raised through taxes.
The proposed $66,764 budget for the planning department almost did not make it on the warrant, with the board of selectmen initially voting down the budget. Selectmen later reversed the decision in a 3-2 vote. The budget committee voted against the planning department’s budget 6-2.
Voters will also decide whether to raise funds for repairs to the Scout hall, the town clock, the red brick schoolhouse, and the powderhouse, which will be presented as separate warrant articles. The total cost of the repairs will be $6,700, if approved.
New carpeting for the community center, ventilation units for the ambulance and fire departments, a generator for the wastewater treatment plant, and funds for paving are among the capital improvement requests voters will consider. Capital improvement requests are funded from the town’s reserve and investment accounts.
The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 13 at the Wiscasset Community Center.