Vassalboro select board approves suggested marijuana business ordinance changes

by Mary Grow

VASSALBORO, ME — At their March 17 meeting, Vassalboro Select Board members recommended ways to spend part of the town’s $231,692.56 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and discussed amending the town’s Marijuana Business Ordinance, approved by voters in June 2021.

They had anticipated two marijuana ordinance issues, a virtual interview with Town Attorney Kristin Collins and an in-person discussion with resident Richard Ferris.

Collins suggested clarifications in the wording of the ordinance, but no substantive changes. By consensus, board members approved her suggestions.

Ferris did not attend the meeting. Town Manager Mary Sabins said he had planned to ask select board members to consider an amendment that would allow an additional marijuana growing facility in town, so that he could convert the Ferris’ Market building on Main Street, in North Vassalboro, to that use.

The current ordinance prohibits new operations, defining “new” as an operation not in existence or approved by the planning board when the ordinance became effective Feb. 18, 2021, retroactively after voter approval. It does not cover marijuana grown for personal use, or medical marijuana grown in an area less than 1,000 square feet.

All three select board members agreed that they are not willing to present Ferris’ proposed amendment to voters. Ferris’ alternative, Sabins said, is to obtain petition signatures from 209 registered Vassalboro voters to put the question on the town meeting warrant.

ARPA expenditures were the topic of a special meeting March 2 and brief discussions at other meetings. Sabins said the $231,692.56 has been available since October 2021; must be spent by 2024 for approved purposes only; and is a little more than half Vassalboro’s ARPA grant. She expects the remaining $229,637.26 by early fall 2022.

Board members recommended grants of $100,000 to the Vassalboro volunteer fire department to buy updated equipment, especially self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) masks, accompanying Scott air packs and air bottles; $41,000 for the First Responder Unit, for 12 new automated external defibrillators (AEDs), N95 masks and other personal safety equipment; and $75,000 for the Vassalboro Sanitary District, primarily to fix manhole covers in streets and roads.

Board members again talked about using ARPA funds to reward town employees and volunteers who worked through the pandemic. Sabins said the ARPA regulations would allow grants to employees, but not to volunteers like firefighters and first responders.

Board Chairman Robert Browne commented that “It feels kinda funny” to reward employees but not volunteers. No action was taken.

Resident Amy Davidoff urged board members to put some ARPA money toward broadband service in town, at least a survey to see whether most town residents currently have adequate service. She further recommended that everyone with a home computer conduct a speed test. Instructions are on line.

Select board members thought a needs assessment a useful idea, and considered establishing a broadband committee. Again, they postponed a decision.

In other business March 17, board member Chris French suggested they create another new committee, a Transfer Station Committee to monitor planned work at the facility, consider recycling and look into similar issues.

By unanimous votes, select board members:

  • Raised the mileage rate for town employees using personal vehicles on town business from 51 cents a mile to the federal rate, 58.5 cents a mile.
  • Approved Sabins’ request to close the town office at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, to give the bookkeeper time to close the books as the fiscal year ends.

The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, March 31. At this point it is scheduled for 6 p.m. with a budget committee meeting to follow; because schedules sometimes change during budget season, people planning to attend are advised to confirm the time on the town website,


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