WINSLOW — Town councilors faced a variety of significant issues during their Monday meeting, some of them contentious.
In addition to approving a second reading of next year’s $20 million budget and raising the sewer rate for the first time since 2009, the council hosted an open discussion on the future of the Winslow Municipal Track; debated options for a proposed expansion of the police station; and approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Track reconstruction considered
The Winslow Municipal Track, a 25-year-old recreational asset, has degraded significantly and needs a $150,000 facelift before it can host competitive events, Winslow Athletic Director Carrie Larrabee said.
The rubber surface has worn away, allowing the asphalt underneath to deteriorate. The track is pocked from frost heaves and has six-inch holes in some places, she said.
The track has been closed to competitive events for two seasons, but is still safe for walkers, or runners who stay within the inside lanes, for now.
“I think if we go much longer then we’d be looking at closing it completely,” Larrabee said.
A grant application for $75,000 toward the project was denied, so the town will need to provide the total amount, Larrabee said. She added that the project has received $14,000 from donors to date.
Resident Jack Nivison said he was one of about a dozen people on the original Winslow Recreational Planning Committee, which brought several town recreation projects to life, including the track.
The track, which was opened in 1986, requires resurfacing every 10 years. It was resurfaced in 1996, but never since, Nivison said.
“This is a community track, and so — including myself — we’re all at fault for not paying closer attention to the condition of the track,” he said.
Former councilor Bruce Stafford, who was also on the original Winslow Recreational Planning Committee, said it’s frustrating for taxpayers to see any assets deteriorate from lack of maintenance.
“I’m not sure how the resurfacing budgeting process was lost, but I would hope that the council would see this as our responsibility to the community,” he said. “I would hope the council can find a way to take care of this project and get this done.”
Councilor Gerald Saint Aumand said the council would discuss the track at a later date.
A second reading of a proposed building additions to the police station prompted councilors to reopen debate, but first Saint Aumand offered the issue for public discussion.
There are three options for expansion. The first option called for a single-story addition for about $624,000. The second option, for $645,000, called for the same single-story addition, plus excavation to lower the elevation of the building site, which would allow for a second-story expansion at a later date. The third option, $728,000, called for a two-story addition, but only the first-floor would be finished and furnished. The second floor would stay unfinished and dormant until money is available to complete it.
At the last meeting, councilors opted 4-3 for the first option, with councilors Manson, Nadeau and Saint Aumand opposed
During open discussion, Nivison said he served on a capital plan committee whose duties included touring town buildings to rate them by greatest need of renovations. He said police station was in the poorest shape.
“I really felt embarrassed for myself, for the town … that our public safety people have been living in a bunker,” Nivison said. “Of the three options, I would urge the council to go with the third option.”
Councilor Kenneth Fletcher said the council unanimously agrees that improvements are needed, but he argued that the third option — building an unfinished second floor — leaves the town vulnerable to more spending in the future.
“If you’re going to build, you’re going to finish it,” he said. “I look at it as a total cost.”
Paul Manson argued that the town is growing, and worries what future councils would think of their decision to limit options for future growth at the site.
“They’ll sit back five, 10, 15 years from now and say … ‘What were those people thinking?'”
Ultimately, the first option was approved, 4-3, along the same lines.
A resolution to amend the Constitution
Councilors approved, 5-2, a non-binding resolution to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not persons.
The resolution, which was sponsored by councilor Cathy Nadeau, is in response to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — a 2010 Supreme Court decision that grants corporations so-called personhood, and distinguished campaign contributions by corporations as protected free speech. Communities around the nation are also considering the resolution.
Nadeau said federal and state governments should have the right to reasonably limit the power of money to influence elections, and the court’s decision is contrary to the Maine Clean Elections law, which was enacted by a citizen’s referendum.
Fletcher said any constitutional amendment to regulate corporations should also apply to special-interest groups and political action committees. Nadeau agreed and amended her resolution to incorporate Fletcher’s suggestion.
Nadeau said the nonbinding resolution will be forwarded to state legislators.
Ben McCanna — 861-9239