WEST GARDINER — Residents agreed Saturday to spend $2,500 to establish the town’s first-ever website.
Residents at the West Gardiner Town Meeting also voted to ban recreational marijuana-related businesses, spend up to $430,000 to build a new town garage and, following prolonged debate, spend about $35,000 so residents can continue to use the Gardiner Public Library and $16,000 to continue the town’s support of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner.
While there is a West Gardiner public group page on Facebook, it was not established, nor is it controlled, by the town; so Saturday’s vote to use $2,500 from excise tax proceeds to pay Randolph resident Peter Coughlan to establish and maintain a website for the town will give West Gardiner its first official internet page.
Coughlan, in response to a question from a resident about what would be on the site, said the site would be “anything you want it to be. If you feel something should be on the website, and be more accessible, that’s what this is all about. My goal is to keep people informed about what is going on.”
Coughlan already oversees websites for the towns of Pittston, Farmingdale and Randolph, where he also puts out a printed town newsletter. He said he’ll update West Gardiner’s site two or three times a week to keep it fresh, and he plans to put election results up. What is on the site beyond that will be up to town officials.
One thing that won’t be on the site is a comment section, such as there are on social media sites.
“It is not going to have a comment section,” said Greg Couture, chairman of the selectmen, when asked to explain how the page would be different from a Facebook page. “It’s informational only, for the residents of West Gardiner. No bickering.”
Couture said the town would continue to send out information, such as a newsletter, to residents by regular mail.
One resident asked if it would be possible to limit the site to West Gardiner residents or property owners. Couture said it would not, and the page will be accessible by anyone.
Voters overwhelmingly approved proposals that, together, are intended to pay for the construction of a new town garage, next to the sand shed.
Couture said officials anticipate the new garage will cost less than $400,000.
Residents gave their permission to borrow $300,000 to be paid back over 15 years, with the total cost, with interest, being $377,500.
They also authorized the use of $130,000 in money set aside previously for the garage project.
Couture said officials haven’t yet determined what, exactly, will be done with the current 55-year-old town garage, but said it might be re-purposed to hold a fuel tank with a concrete basin around it to prevent spills, and the town might put sand and salt for use by residents in one bay of the current garage.
Debate was contentious on funding for two services provided in the neighboring city of Gardiner — the Gardiner Public Library and, especially, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner.
Both entities were criticized by residents for not having clear funding formulas to determine what West Gardiner and other local member municipalities are charged.
Anne Davis, the library director, said this year the library’s trustees voted simply to add 1 percent to what each member municipality is charged. She said library officials plan to meet with municipal officials this year to work on a new funding formula for sharing some of the costs of running the library in the future.
Ingrid Stanchfield, director of the Boys and Girls Club, which she said served at least 360 West Gardiner children last year, said if the club had a funding formula that distributed costs proportionally based on the number of children from each town participating, West Gardiner’s costs probably would double. She said the club hasn’t asked for an increase in funding for eight or nine years.
A motion to reduce funding for the club from about $16,000 to $10,000 was rejected, and the full requested amount was approved.
Residents, after asking several questions, approved an ordinance banning recreational marijuana business, such as retail stores or social clubs.
Recreational use of marijuana by adults was legalized by Maine voters in a statewide referendum last November. State legislators have since enacted a ban on marijuana-related businesses until February 2018 to give the state time to set standards for the new-to-Maine industry.
Couture said the town ban would give West Gardiner time to see what the state adopts for standards. He said if residents wish, they could amend the ordinance, as soon as next year’s Town Meeting, to allow some types of marijuana-related businesses. He said the town ban would provide time to see what the state standards will be and to adopt local rules before any such businesses are allowed to open in town.
The two-hour afternoon meeting was preceded by secret-ballot voting in the morning.
Residents, at the polls, voted to remove a ban on the sale of liquor in town, voting 242-77 in favor of a question asking whether the town should allow liquor sales by agency liquor stores on days other than Sundays, and 213-104 in favor of another question asking whether liquor sales should permitted on Sundays.
Mert Hickey, a selectman for the last 30 years, was re-elected, with 206 votes to challenger Christopher McLaughlin’s 111. In uncontested races, former legislator Earle McCormick was elected to the Regional School Unit 11 school board, with 286 votes; and Angela Phillis was elected as excise tax collector and town clerk, with 303 votes.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647