Vassalboro select board sets tax rate at 14.4 mil

by Mary Grow

At their Aug. 11 meeting, Vassalboro select board members set the 2022-23 tax rate at 14.4 mils, or $14.40 for each $1,000 of property valuation, a decrease of eight cents per $1,000 over the 2021-22 rate.

Assessor Ellery Bane offered board members several choices of rate. They considered two possible reductions or leaving the rate at last year’s $14.48 per $1,000, but dismissed any tax rate increase.

Their choice determined how much money they will have in the overlay account, set aside to cover tax abatements granted during the year. Town Manager Mary Sabins said Vassalboro seldom spends as much as $10,000 from that account; any of the proposed rates would have covered it.

Board member Rick Denico pointed out that few taxpayers would even notice a change of a few cents per $1,000 in their bills. He first proposed holding the current rate, but joined the other two board members in approving the slightly lower rate.

Board members appointed two new members of the Trails Committee, Sharon and Stephen Farrington, as recommended by committee chairman John Melrose.

The rest of the hour-and-a-half meeting was spent discussing the transfer station, the proposed solar ordinance, the town website and traffic at the East Vassalboro boat landing. No final decisions were made.

Transfer Station Manager George Hamar, who was not available to attend the meeting, wants a cover over the new trash compactor and two other minor modifications. After a brief discussion of cover options, board members put off further consideration until Hamar can join them.

Board members are considering developing an ordinance that would govern future commercial solar developments in town, because voters in a June 14 straw poll approved the idea by a vote of 239 to 58. Chairman Barbara Redmond and member Chris French have been working on a draft, with assistance from codes officer Ryan Page.

Planning board member Douglas Phillips suggested from the audience that commercial solar standards be added to the existing site review requirements, instead of writing a separate ordinance. He and Redmond agreed the planning board should be involved, and Redmond intends to get in touch with planning board chairman Virginia Brackett.

With agreement that a new ordinance or ordinance amendments cannot be ready for a Nov. 8 local vote, select board members voted unanimously to ask Sabins, in cooperation with the planning board and the town attorney, to draft an ordinance that would impose a moratorium on commercial solar development. They hope a moratorium ordinance can be ready to present to voters Nov. 8.

French would like to see a more comprehensive town presence on line – an expanded website, meetings available for on-line viewing and other changes he sees as promoting residents’ knowledge of and involvement in town government. He proposed seeking cost estimates for an update.

Audience member Dallas Smedberg asked whether people would be confused when they watched select board meetings without background on the issues discussed. Suggested solutions included reading select board minutes on the current website; or, Melissa Olson said, coming to meetings, where questions can be asked and answered.

Sabins told Holly Weidner minutes cannot be posted until more than two weeks after the meeting they document, because they are not official until select board members approve them at the following meeting.

Tom Richards described a chaotic traffic back-up at the East Vassalboro boat landing recently as people tried to park too many vehicles and trailers in the limited parking space at the landing and adjacent historical society grounds. Weidner, who lives nearby, said there are about a dozen parking spaces.

Richards is concerned about the potential for accidents when traffic is backed up and drivers are maneuvering trailers.

When boats arrive early in the morning for the bass tournaments China Lake hosts several times a summer, Weidner said, tournament organizers are there and keep parking orderly and traffic uninterrupted. However, after the bass fishermen fill the lot and local people start arriving, there is apt to be congestion.

Select board members have scheduled their annual goal-setting session for 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6. This informal discussion of pending issues is open to the public, but not to public comment; the agenda is likely to cover some of the matters left unresolved Aug. 11.

The next regular Vassalboro select board meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, and Thursday, Sept. 29.

Codes officer to step down

Vassalboro Codes Enforcement Officer Ryan Page has emailed planning board members that Friday, Aug. 26, will be his last day in the position. After that date, codes enforcement issues and questions should go to Town Manager Mary Sabins.


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