BINGHAM — Residents at the Town Meeting Monday night will get a chance to weigh in on a proposed ordinance regulating where registered sex offenders can live in Bingham. Voters also will be asked to vote on a municipal budget for the coming year that is about $10,000 lower than last year’s spending package.
Polls for the election of town officers will be open at the Quimby Middle gymnasium from 12:45 to 6:30 p.m. Monday. There are no contested races.
The annual business meeting is set for 7:30 p.m., also in the gymnasium.
The proposed registered sex offender ordinance is based on a state model and is designed to ensure that convicted sex offenders not reside within 750 feet of either of Bingham’s two schools, the recreation field behind the Quimby school, the Old Free Meeting House, the summer hut village for children on Murray Street and Chicken Hill, near the old Quimby veneer mill, according to the ordinance.
The target of the ordinance are offenders convicted of class A, B or C sex offenses against children under 14. Under the ordinance, a property owner also would not be allowed to rent or lease a residence to a convicted offender within the restricted area.
Registered offenders who have maintained a residence within the setback zone before a vote approving the ordinance would not be in violation by continuing to live there, nor would a property owner who rents to a registered offender.
There are three registered sex offenders living in Bingham and 21 offenders living within a 15 mile radius of the town, according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
The town of Anson is considering a similar ordinance at the Town Meeting on Saturday. Selectmen in the town of Wilton, in Franklin County, rejected a similar proposal in 2012, saying that research showed offenders that commit new sex offenses usually victimize people they know, not random children at the park or a school playground. Wilton selectmen suggested such an ordinance might give people a false sense of security.
Eric Conrad, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, said there are dozens of communities in Maine that have laws on the books restricting where a registered sex offender can live.
“A lot of communities have taken those measures — they’re pretty reasonable,” Conrad said. “But legally, you cannot somehow try to restrict them right out of your community. You can’t write a sex offender ordinance in a way that the guy has to move to the neighboring town … but you can take reasonable steps to keep them a certain distance from schools, ballfields, day cares and things like that.”
Bingham First Selectman Steven Steward said the overall budget from taxation for the coming year — not including schools and the county tax — is proposed at $640,843. Last year’s budget was approved by voters at $650,335, a difference of $9,492.
The town tax rate currently is $20.20 for every $1,000 in property valuation.
Payments for fire protection and to the local ambulance service are down in the proposed budget and debt service on the sewer bond is $2,000 less this year, according to the town warrant.
“We didn’t need to raise money for the bicentennial this year and there were little cuts here and there,” Steward said. “Nobody took any raises this year, so there were no increases there. We didn’t have to contribute this year to unemployment insurance — MMA sent us a notice saying that we didn’t have to contribute this year because we’ve reached the max. We never have anybody drawing unemployment, so it just kind of sits there.”