VASSALBORO: Major decisions postponed during budget talks

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro select board members held their second budget discussion on Feb. 10, taking another two and a half hours to review expenditure requests for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2022.

Major decisions were postponed for more consideration, and the decisions select board members did make are subjected to reconsideration as the budget develops. A still-pending decision that will affect several budget lines is what percentage pay raise to recommend voters give town employees.

Late in 2021 board members authorized Town Manager Mary Sabins to contract for a regional salary survey. Until they have the results, which Sabins expects soon, they are waiting to see what 2022-23 pay level seems appropriate.

The Feb. 10 special meeting began with a presentation by Holly Weidner, chairman of the Vassalboro Conservation Commission (VCC), with comments by Scott Pierz, executive director of the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA). The first draft of the 2022-23 budget has a request for $11,500 for the CRLA.

In past years, voters approved $7,500, until at the 2021 town meeting they added $398 (from another organization they decided not to fund) for a total of $7,898 for the current fiscal year.

Weidner explained that for $7,500, Vassalboro had a share of the CRLA’s Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program: inspectors checked boats to make sure no fragments of invasive weeds were being imported. Inspectors were stationed at all three Vassalboro landings, protecting China Lake, Webber Pond and Three Mile Pond, she said.

If Vassalboro increased its appropriation, Weidner expected the VCC would work with CRLA and lake associations to add four more water quality protection projects on Webber and Three Mile ponds: Best Management Practices advice to landowners; a survey of gravel roads to see where road run-off impacts water quality; a demonstration project for the state-wide LakeSmart program; and monitoring and when necessary clearing Seaward Mills Stream to ensure alewife passage into Three Mile Pond.

Weidner’s letter to select board members estimated the four projects would cost a total of $3,000. She requested another $1,000 as Vassalboro’s share of the additional administrative costs.

When they reached the “Requests” section of the draft budget, selectmen recommended $9,000 for the CRLA.

They also endorsed Sabins’ recommendation to ask voters for $1,500 for the Vassalboro snowmobile club despite lack of a written request.

Other decisions made at the Feb. 10 meeting included:

  • Raising the proposed budget for legal costs from the current year’s $10,000 to $15,000.
  • Making Ryan Page’s codes enforcement position full-time, at a total cost to be determined when salaries are set.
  • Recommending $2,000 for supplies and equipment for the police department, less than Police Chief Mark Brown requested. Sabins said the draft budget does not include Brown’s request to make his position full-time; select board members did not object to the omission.

Numerous other budget items were discussed without decisions. As of Feb. 10, select board members were leaning toward two new proposals: per-hour stipends, instead of mileage reimbursement, for members of Vassalboro First Responders (treating them the same as volunteer firefighters); and an undetermined amount to begin development of a new park on town-acquired land between Route 32 and Outlet Stream, north of East Vassalboro.

Sabins said a state grant might be available for the park; but, she said, the one she investigated requires any park it funds to remain a park forever, and she would prefer not to limit future officials and voters.

Selectmen and audience members suggested different names for the park to honor the town manager, whose idea it is to use the streamside lot for fishing and other recreation.

Continued budget discussion is on the agenda for the regular Vassalboro select board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the town office.

The selectmen’s budget recommendations will go to the budget committee, which will begin meeting March 3. Disagreements between the two boards are often resolved before the warrant (list of articles) for the annual town meeting is approved; if not, town meeting voters make the final decisions.

Vassalboro’s 2022 town meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 6. Local elections will be held Tuesday, June 14.

Other Feb. 17 agenda items include an update from codes officer Page on the former church on Priest Hill Road, in North Vassalboro, deemed a dangerous building and scheduled for demolition if owner Chad Caron does not correct the situation; and discussion of the 10-Year China Lake Watershed-Based Management Plan with China Lake Association President Stephen Greene.

For background on the Priest Hill Road building, see The Town Line, Jan. 13, p. 2. For background on the China Lake management plan, see the issues of Dec. 9, 2021, p. 1, and Dec. 23, 2021, p. 2.


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