VASSALBORO: Proposed marijuana ordinance presented in final form

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen, assisted by Town Attorney Kristin Collins, of Augusta-based Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, put the proposed new marijuana ordinance in final form at their Feb. 18 meeting.

The ordinance will be submitted to Vassalboro voters for approval or rejection at the June 7-8 annual town meeting. If voters accept it, the effective date will be Feb. 18, 2021.

The ordinance has two main purposes. It prohibits all future marijuana businesses in Vassalboro, with the exception of licensed caregivers and their cultivation facilities of up to 1,000 square feet. And it regulates businesses existing or having received permits as of Feb. 18, including requiring that the owners apply for a town license.

The bulk of the ordinance deals with requirements for obtaining the local license. There will be license fees; selectmen postponed setting them. At an earlier meeting, Collins told them other Maine towns charge from $500 to $5,000.

Also joining the virtual selectmen’s meeting, by telephone, was engineer Al Hodsdon of A. E. Hodsdon, in Waterville, who has proposed a redesign for the transfer station. Hodsdon said pandemic-induced price increases and materials shortages might delay new equipment.

But, he said, he should be ready to seek bids for the redesign, which includes a second driveway and relocated equipment to make operations safer, in a few weeks. He estimates bids are likely to be in the $300,000 range, and asked board members if they were comfortable with that figure.

Selectmen promptly began proposing a phased-in plan that would spread the work and the cost over several years. Hodsdon countered that if they wanted to borrow the full amount, “You’ll never get money cheaper than it is right now.”

Neither selectmen nor Transfer Station Manager George Hamar had had time to review Hodsdon’s plan thoroughly, so action was postponed. Board members unanimously asked Hodsdon, with Hamar’s advice, to consider priorities and phasing, and asked Town Manager Mary Sabins to schedule follow-up discussion.

After two workshop meetings to consider the 2021-22 municipal budget, selectmen think they have it close to ready for budget committee review. They asked Sabins to prepare a fifth draft before their next meeting.

At this stage, without complete final figures, selectmen think their recommendations will not increase local property taxes significantly. To reach that point, they recommend eliminating items they know will disappoint others, like postponing repaving the fire station and town office dooryards.

The school budget, which is a major part of annual expenditures from taxation, is not yet finished. Sabins said school and town audits for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2020, have been delayed by the pandemic. Until the audits are complete, neither she nor school officials know exactly how much was in unassigned fund balances (surplus) when the current fiscal year started.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik joined the virtual meeting to ask what selectmen want to do about abandoned buildings in town. He received a complaint about an empty mobile home that is attracting rats and feral cats, he said, and Vassalboro has other empty, deteriorating buildings.

After consideration of alternatives, selectmen asked Mitnik to get in touch with the owners of the complained-of property and see if they are willing to repair or remove the mobile home. If the owners cannot or will not cooperate, Mitnik is to report back to the selectmen.

Selectmen agreed unanimously to a proposed contract with Calderwood Engineering, of Richmond, to supervise work on the Gray Road culvert replacement.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 4. The starting time is half an hour earlier than usual to allow for a meeting with the budget committee beginning at 7 p.m. The meeting might be in person if budget committee members are agreeable and if Sabins can arrange to use the gymnasium at Vassalboro Community School.


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