Board of Selectmen Considers Budget, Reviews Warrant, Sets Special Meeting/Public Hearing for April 16

Deep into hour three of their April 8 meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed the FY19 NG Fire and Rescue budget to be given to the Budget Committee for its April 11 meeting, and shed light on possible changes ahead for the department.  The Fire and Rescue budgets, now combined in a single “Public Safety” account, #117, have remained uncertain as the board considered options—and costs—for providing 24/7 emergency response coverage.  The board had previously set a placeholder amount of $700,000 while it deliberated.  The new FY19 figure will be $643,112.  The Fire and Rescue budget this year was $380,000. 

At this meeting, discussion by the board and a request by NG Fire and Rescue Chief Toby Martin for protective firefighter turnout gear, reflected the board’s policy direction and the department’s plans: a “combination department” with plans to cross-train and outfit as many as fifteen new employees.  According to Chief Martin, the gear and staffing are the “bare minimum” needed for 24/7 coverage and compliance with OSHA and insurance requirements.  Fifteen new sets of turnout gear—boots, gloves, helmets… the works—will cost $39,450.

On the question of emergency coverage, Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said the working group “looked long and hard” at alternatives, including contracting with an outside agency.  She said the outside option would have cost some $60,000 more than the new plan, which will rely on per diems/no benefits to achieve 24/7 coverage.  Chief Martin acknowledged that the new arrangement may cost the department some personnel, as not all current members want to or can do per diem work.  The board will send its proposed Public Safety #117 budget amount of $643,112 to the budget committee.  The new turnout gear will be a separate warrant article, with funds to come from taxation. 

With Fire and Rescue plans and funding in mind, the board decided to hold a special meeting on Tuesday April 16 at 6 pm at the Amvets Hall.  The meeting will be “a three-fer,” as board member Linda Chase put it: an informational meeting about Fire and Rescue; a budget committee meeting; and a public hearing on a property tax assistance ordinance change.  Citizens will vote on the municipal budget and new ordinances at town meeting on May 6.

In other business, the board heard from Sabbathday Lake Association president Chris Ricardi and resident John Salisbury, requesting a moratorium on new docks and moorings to give the town time to craft ordinances addressing development pressures on the lake.  Ricardi reviewed in detail two problematic recent lakeshore zone projects that Maine DEP found to have violated environmental restrictions, despite the town’s involvement in a review process.  Ricardi also suggested that one of the projects, Sabbathday Shores, may have contravened existing ordinance view, use, and access protections.  The town has no mooring ordinance and only minimal guidance on docks, according to Salisbury.  Sabbathday Shores now plans to request approval of a dock, raising the prospect that its seven “back lots” will gain access to the lake and a multi-slip dock or multiple moorings for boats, Salisbury said.  In later, separate remarks, resident Steve Hathorne urged the board to “purchase a $30,000 lot” at Sabbathday Shores “to give us access to the beach.” 

Responding to the moratorium request, board chair Steve Libby said it is too late for the question to be considered at this year’s town meeting.  He pointed Ricardi and Salisbury toward the Land Management Planning Committee and to town planner Scott Hastings.  The Planning Board, Board of Selectmen, and other committees play a secondary role to LMPC, Libby said.

In other business, the board considered questions about the new fees adopted in March and now in effect for use of town facilities.  Groups—such as the Boy Scouts, apparently—who use the Community Building for meetings, for example, could not have anticipated the fees and thus didn’t budget for them.  The board also discussed the Candidate/Referendum Issues Committee, ultimately taking no action beyond requesting that staff seek clarification about forums and the town’s Community Access TV ordinance.

The board acknowledged and accepted with regret the resignation of Tim Joy, Emergency Management Director, and voted to send a letter of thanks to the several area fire and emergency departments who provided coverage during funeral services for former NG Fire Chief Gary Sacco.  Finally, the board set the week of May 14 as Spring Clean-up Week at the Transfer Station, when bulky waste will be accepted for no fee. 

Video of the full April 8 meeting can be viewed here.

                                                        — Reported by Joanne Cole and edited by NGX