BINGHAM — Voters at the Town Meeting Monday night unanimously approved an ordinance that stipulates where registered sex offenders can live in town.
The 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.
“This is a proposed ordinance that meets state standards,” Bingham First Selectman Steven Steward ssaid. “This has been approved by the attorneys — the state says 750 feet.”
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.
Several of the 30 or so residents who attended the Town Meeting objected to the grandfathered aspect of the ordinance, which they said protected offenders from the law, but left area residents unprotected from the offenders.
Steward said the town had to go by state statute — like it or not.
There are three registered sex offenders living in Bingham and 21 registered offenders living within a 15 mile radius of the town, according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
Anson Town Meeting voters overwhelmingly approved a similar ordinance Saturday. Selectmen in Wilton, in Franklin County, rejected a similar proposal in 2012, saying that research showed offenders who commit new 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 last week 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 last week. “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.”
Going into Monday night’s Town Meeting, Steward said the overall budget from taxation for the coming year — not including schools and the county tax — was approved at $640,843. Last year’s budget was approved by voters at $650,335, a difference of $9,492.
The spending line for general government was approved Monday night, up slightly from last year’s figure of $138,036 to this year’s $138,761 with no discussion.
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 2014 budget, with a total public safety budget of $174,155, down from $191,993 in 2013. The town’s debt service on the sewer bond is $2,000 less this year.
The Public Works budget for the coming year was approved at $138,800, up from last year’s figure of $128,800.
Steward said the town didn’t need to raise money for the bicentennial this year and no one in town government took any raises this year. The town also 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,” Steward said. “We never have anybody drawing unemployment, so it just kind of sits there.”