Vassalboro’s annual town meeting will be held Monday, June 7, and Tuesday, June 8. The town meeting warrant and related information are posted in the center column of the town website, www.vassalboro.net.
The open meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Vassalboro Community School gymnasium. After voters complete Art. 37 (the final item in the 2021-22 school budget), the moderator will recess the meeting until 8 a.m. Tuesday, when polls open at the town office for written-ballot voting on Articles 38 through 41. Polls close at 8 p.m.
For the open meeting, Town Manager Mary Sabins intends to divide the gymnasium by a solid curtain to conform to Covid-19 gathering limits. Rules for masking, social distancing and similar protective measures will be established as recommended by state authorities at the time.
For Tuesday’s written-ballot voting, Town Clerk Cathy Coyne recommends voters request and return absentee ballots, to minimize lines at the polls. The deadline for obtaining an absentee ballot is Thursday, June 3 (five days before the election); ballots must be returned before polls close at 8 p.m. June 8. Requests can be made in person, by telephone or by email.
The questions to be decided at the polls June 8 are as follows:
- Approval or rejection of the new “Town of Vassalboro Marijuana Business Ordinance,” which prohibits new marijuana businesses in town and regulates recreational and medical marijuana facilities and businesses that existed before the ordinance’s Feb. 18, 2021, effective date;
- Approval or rejection of the 2021-22 school budget approved the previous evening (the “school budget validation referendum”);
- Continuation of the school budget validation referendum for three more years, or discontinuance; and
- Local elections for three-year terms on the selectboard and school board. The only candidates on the ballot are Christopher French, to succeed John Melrose on the selectboard, and Jolene Clark Gamage, for re-election to the school board. As of May 24, neither Coyne nor Sabins was aware of any write-in candidate for either board.
The marijuana ordinance is on the website, well down in the center column.
The articles to be voted the evening of June 7 begin, as usual, with election of a moderator. Voters will next elect five budget committee members for two years; those whose terms expire in 2021 are Donald Breton, William Browne, Christopher French, Phillip Landry and Peggy Schaffer.
Art. 5 combines 14 spending categories that make up town services, including administration, public works, road paving, solid waste disposal, police and fire and others, for a total of more than $2.2 million.
Art. 6 asks voters to spend $293,500 for four purposes: $187,000 for the new culvert on Gray Road; $85,000 to add to the transfer station reserve account; $17,500 for a new furnace in the North Vassalboro fire station; and $4,000 toward restoring the Civil War statute in Memorial Park in East Vassalboro.
In Art. 10, selectmen ask permission to spend up to $230,000 for a new public works truck, with plow and sander. They plan to pay for it with $122,000 from the public works truck reserve and $108,000 from 2021-22 local taxes. They also want permission to sell a similarly-equipped 2009 truck.
Art. 11 asks approval to use up to $156,000 from the transfer station reserve fund to “provide up to two operational trash compactors” – there is now only one – and make other improvements. The reserve account will have approximately $156,000 in it only if voters approve Art. 6 adding $85,000, Sabins said. If Art. 6, or that part of it, is not approved, the transfer station appropriation in Art. 11 will need to be reduced.
Many municipal articles are familiar, like authorizing selectmen to apply for and accept grants (Art. 9) and to continue the annual alewife harvest (Art. 16); funding the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program (Art. 17); and allowing selectmen to “dispose of” tax-acquired real estate (Art. 8) and town-owned property valued at $10,000 or less (Art. 18).
Art. 13 specifically requests approval to accept American Rescue Plan money from the federal and state governments.
In Art. 19, the selectmen request their annual $15,000 contingency fund to be taken from the town’s surplus account if needed “in the event of an emergency and to avoid overdrafts.” Article 20 has a list of 10 private agencies to which voters are asked to contribute.
The school budget is set forth in Articles 23 through 37. The total requested expenditure in Art. 36 is $8,313,609.72. It includes the state-required town contribution of $2,573,425 (Art. 34) and another $1,227,703.79 in additional local funds (Art. 35). The remainder is covered in Art. 37, which asks voters to authorize the school board to spend money received from “federal or state grants or programs or other sources.”
Vassalboro selectmen recommend that voters approve all articles. The budget committee recommends approval of all proposed expenditures. As of mid-May, Town Manager Sabins was projecting a property tax increase of barely over one percent if voters approved all expenditures.
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