Vassalboro select board looks at issues that could turn into 2022-23 budget requests

by Mary Grow

At their Nov. 18 meeting, Vassalboro select board members agreed on a variety of issues that are likely to turn into 2022-23 budget requests and recommendations.

Town Manager Mary Sabins had organized and categorized the goals they discussed at an October special meeting (see The Town Line, Nov. 4, p. 9). Board members set as priorities:

  • Reinvigorating the town recreation program, perhaps by asking voters to approve adding a town office staff member whose responsibilities would include acting as recreation director.
  • Recreating a version of the capital improvement plan developed in the past, to provide a tentative schedule of upcoming major expenditures. (Fire Chief Walker Thompson assured Board Chairman Robert Browne he does not foresee an immediate need for a new fire truck.)
  • Improving town planning – they even mentioned “the z word,” zoning, which was not popular with Vassalboro residents – so they won’t need to rely on one-at-a-time ordinances to prevent unwelcome effects of development.

A specific development topic was the proliferation of solar arrays in town, currently reviewed by the planning board under the town’s Site Review Ordinance. Select Board members Chris French and Barbara Redmond thought an ordinance specific to solar projects would be valuable. Sabins suggested reviving Vassalboro’s Solar Committee.

Sabins presented again her request that board members approve a wage study to see how town employees’ pay compares to other towns’ pay scales. The $3,800 cost is included in the current year’s administration budget, she said. Board members approved.

Resident Thomas Richards urged select board members to do something about the Cushnoc Road bridge, which is state-owned, weight-limited to 20 tons and, Road Foreman Eugene Field said, likely to be increasingly restricted and ultimately closed.

Richards said it is already closed to most fire trucks and all but the smallest town plow truck, requiring detours. “What’s a person’s life worth?” when emergency vehicles are delayed, Richards demanded.

And, he asked, “How is Bill Green [of WH Green & Sons, Inc., a construction company at 180 Cushnoc Road, south of the bridge] gonna get his cranes out?” The turn north on Riverside Drive (Route 202) from the south end of Cushnoc Road is awkward for a large vehicle.

The town could take over the bridge and replace it, people suggested. Field and board members estimated a new bridge would cost at least a million dollars, more money than Browne is willing to consider borrowing.

Members of the Vassalboro Conservation Commission presented a plan for creating a new park on town-owned land along Route 32 and Outlet Stream, north of East Vassalboro village. Holly Weidner explained that in the first two years, they hope to provide a small parking area, a path to the stream, picnic tables and a seasonal porta potty.

The project would include landscaping and plantings. Commission members envision mowing the area twice a year and putting up signs.

Select board members expressed approval and said they will include a funding request for the park – they estimated $2,000 – in their suggested 2022-23 budget.

Former board member John Melrose sent an email from the Trails Committee asking if the current board members wanted the committee to develop draft rules for use of the Town Forest and Red Brook trails. They said yes.

Melrose also asked for $250 to make Vassalboro a municipal member of the Kennebec Land Trust. The answer was again yes.

In other business, select board members:

  • Appointed Marianne Stevens, currently the alternate member of the planning board, as a full member to succeed Sally Butler, who resigned; and appointed Paul Mitnik as planning board alternate, effective in January when he plans to hand over codes enforcement duties to Ryan Page.
  • Gave preliminary approval to Sabins’ proposed budget preparation time-line in advance of the 2022 annual town meeting, which is currently scheduled for Monday evening, June 6, 2022, with municipal elections Tuesday, June 14.
  • Scheduled their next meeting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9.
  • Scheduled their second December meeting for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 22, so that the town office can close at 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 23, instead of the usual 6:30 p.m. Thursday closing. Over Browne’s mild objection, they did not extend staff members’ hours on Dec. 22 to make up for shorter Thursday hours.

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