During a relatively fast-paced and brief annual town meeting, 23 residents voted a $17,499 increase to the municipal budget, for a total of $255,004, during their 4.5-hour town meeting on Monday, March 25.
Only a few of the warrant articles brought about discussion, including a warrant article requesting $30,000 for the Island Store Association to support the continued existence of the town store.
Last year, voters approved $25,000 for the store, to help purchase stock and to pay back a loan to the store’s fuel reserve fund. In a letter sent to residents prior to this year’s town meeting and made available at the meeting, store manager Tina Tully described how the funds were used last year.
“I believe the purpose of the store is not to make a profit. The necessity of operating the store on an annual breakeven basis assures that it can serve the island’s year round and summer populations for years to come,” said Tully in the letter. Tully continued by saying that to “prevent the store from falling on hard times and disrepair, the store needs the active trading support of [summer and year-round] residents as well as considerable, continuing financial subsidies from the Town of Isle au Haut.”
Residents did grant the requested $30,000 19-2, with an approved amendment by Steve Shaffer saying the $30,000 was contingent upon granting store co-op membership (and voting rights in store matters) to every voter and taxpayer on Isle au Haut, amending the store association’s bylaws as needed. Shaffer called the change part of the “natural give and take” if the town was to provide ongoing funding for the store.
Peggi Stevens spoke against the motion, saying that she wasn’t sure it was legal to require that, noting that a $10 fee is required to join the co-op. Shaffer’s amendment was changed to say that if that $10 fee needed to be paid for any registered voter or taxpayer who is not already a co-op member, that money could come out of the $30,000.
Kathie Fiveash spoke in favor of the motion, saying it would address some of the problems the store has faced in the past in terms of “lack of transparency and participation.”
The other warrant article that created some confusion and discussion was an article requesting $5,000 for the Colwell Ramp. The ramp is jointly maintained and funded by Isle au Haut and Stonington. Last year, half of the $6,000 voted for the maintenance and improvement of the area was “held back” while members of the Colwell Ramp Committee attempted to work out some issues with the town of Stonington about moorings and access to the ramp. Currently, there are several moorings in the way that make it difficult for large barges to access the ramp; there are a few small barges that can currently access it. The town did release those funds last year despite no resolution, as the selectmen had been under the impression that the town was obligated by its inter-local agreement with Stonington to pay the funds.
Bill Stevens, a member of the ramp committee, said the town is required to pay half of the upkeep costs, but is not required to put in funds for improvement projects. The warrant article was briefly tabled while Stevens retrieved a copy of the inter-local agreement to share with the residents at town meeting. In the end, voters approved holding back $3,000 of the $5,000 requested while discussions about the moorings continue, though that was amended to say the funds could be wholly dispersed if legal counsel advised it.
After a lunch which included seafood chowder made by Lisa Turner, the town approved a change in the Shoreland Zone language from a minimum building lot size of .25 to .7 of an acre by a vote of 8-2. This is the same as the state’s requirement. Last year, the townspeople tried to change the warrant article from one acre to .7 acre; however, it is not legal to change the warrant articles from the floor, so a vote was needed this year to address the failed vote last year.
The town voted $33,000 from the floor for maintenance and improvement of roads and bridges. Road commissioner Bill Stevens said the biggest project would be replacing the culvert at the bottom of Rich’s Cove Hill. Stevens said he hopes to widen the road if possible and replace the guardrail.
The town also expressed interest in the selectmen appointing a committee to consider purchasing an approximately nine-acre waterfront lot for potential development by the town into working waterfront or lots to encourage fishermen to move to the island.
Residents voted unanimously to continue funding the elementary school, which currently has four students. Superintendent Mark Jenkins introduced himself, thanked the town for its support of the schools and praised the staff of the school system. The town voted a $194,459 school budget for 2013-14, up $4,447 from the current year.
Ted Hoskins served as moderator. Sue MacDonald was reelected as town clerk, and Landon DeWitt, Dan MacDonald and John DeWitt were reelected as First, Second and Third Selectman, respectively.