Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 8, 2018
Stonington voters discuss police, salt shed but pass all articles
by Faith DeAmbrose
With 84 articles to negotiate, Stonington voters spent three and a half hours setting priorities for the coming year. They debated many of the articles, including the first one: to elect a moderator. With nominations for Skip Greenlaw and Rich Howe on the floor, voters ultimately chose Howe 40-17.
After a number of housekeeping articles, voters quickly passed an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana establishments in town with no comment, as well as a Comprehensive Plan with one comment.
As they moved down the warrant, voters created a Waterfront Reserve Account and funded it with $50,000 from surplus. They also appropriated $10,000 for a study that will explore high-speed internet options, including fiber optics, and appropriated $100,000 from surplus for a sidewalk project, which was the same project approved last year, but never funded. The money had been moved to surplus, and the article moved the funds back to the general fund for work this year.
Also from surplus, voters appropriated $200,000 for work at the transfer station, which, said town officials, will be paid back once the town receives roughly the same amount from its ownership stake at the Orrington based trash-to-energy facility, PERC, when its contract ends in April.
When all was said and done, voters authorized $1,652,139 in expenditures, an increase of about $50,000 from the previous year.
Sand salt shed
While voters initially balked at a $400,000 price tag for a sand/salt shed, they eventually came around to approve the article after discussion. The funds will be taken from the surplus account. Selectmen said the building will cut down on material waste, will satisfy a citation from the town’s insurance carrier which found the current salt building a hazard, and that the project will be put out to bid.
“We are in a good position with our general savings account,” said Selectman Evelyn Duncan, “and there is enough to do this project now.”
What do residents of Stonington get for $73,632 paid to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office? That was the question one resident asked as he attempted to reduce that sum from the floor. While the moderator overruled the proposed amendment “because the amount was within the body of the article,” articles with amounts in the body can be lowered from the floor, according to Maine Municipal Association. They, however, cannot be raised.
While the meeting accepted the moderator’s determination, Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane explained that for that sum, the town gets an officer three days a week and that cost also covers health insurance, retirement and a new cruiser every four years.
The sentiment quickly morphed into a chorus of residents who said that the streets of Stonington, especially in the downtown area were “much improved” and many said they were not in favor of cutting the service. The article passed easily by a majority show of hands.
After turning down last year’s request from the Island-wide Opiate-Free Island Partnership, voters, after much debate, and only by a nine-vote margin, passed a request for $20,000. The town of Deer Isle also approved the same amount.
Speaking to the audience, Charlie Osborn listed all the achievements made by the nonprofit group over the past year and answered many of the concerns voters had last year when denying the request.
For those who spoke against the measure, many believed the program should not be supported by taxpayer dollars, while others said that treatment for those addicted only works if the addict is ready to make a change.
In a three-way race for two three-year seats on the board of selectmen, newcomer Travis Fifield with 110 votes and incumbent Evelyn Duncan with 84 votes won the seats. Richard Larrabee Sr. was defeated by one vote, receiving 83 votes. Diana Turner, Ben Pitts and Ronald M. Eaton were elected to the Stonington Sanitary District, and the Island-wide CSD#13 school board will welcome back incumbent Stephen York and write-in candidate Liz Smith.