READFIELD — This year’s Town Meeting warrant features bonds for major capital improvement projects and measures that could affect the way town government operates.

There is also a three-way race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. The ballot vote is scheduled for Tuesday; the floor vote, 6 p.m. Thursday.

Voters will decide whether to allow the town to issue $480,000 in bonds to build an addition for the fire station and $700,000 in bonds for road reconstruction. The board has endorsed both articles.

A larger fire station project received approval at Town Meeting in 2011, but it was conditional on the assistance of the Maine National Guard, which could not commit to the project. Fire Chief Lee Mank is proposing a smaller, less costly addition this year.

The 3,612-square-foot addition to the 1978 fire station would include a storage room, a meeting room, a kitchen and sleeping quarters for emergencies that require personnel to stay at the station for long periods.

When the whole Fire Department assembles for meetings or training, the members move a truck out of the station and set up in an apparatus bay that can accommodate 30 people. The department has almost 40 firefighters, however, Mank said.

Readfield’s Budget Committee has recommended against approval of the project out of concern about the increase it would cause in the town’s debt load.

Town Manager Stefan Pakulski said $700,000 should pay for completing the town’s road reconstruction program — by rebuilding Adell Road, Lakeview Drive, Thundercastle Road and Wings Mill Road — finishing work on roads that already have been rebuilt and doing maintenance paving.

Pakulski said that although it’s a tough year financially because of a sharp increase in the Regional School Unit 38 budget and a potential decrease in the town’s income from state revenue sharing, it makes sense to move ahead with reconstruction because interest rates and paving costs are low.

“If you make the upfront investment in infrastructure, it’s going to save you money in the long run,” he said. “It may be difficult to look at that now and to say, ‘Gee, it’s a big cost for us to bear,’ but all the analysis shows that the town tends to benefit from that a lot.”

Issuing bonds for the fire station addition, the road reconstruction projects or both would increase the debt service line in the 2013-14 municipal budget. With those debt payments included, the municipal budget as recommended by the selectmen is $3.6 million, which is $90,768, or 2.6 percent, higher than this year’s.

Town officials won’t know how that would affect the property tax rate until the state budget is passed and selectmen decide how much they want to raise as an overlay for unanticipated expenses. The selectmen have recommended against drawing from the town surplus to reduce the tax rate because the fund is about $300,000 lower than the $1.1 million they want to maintain, Pakulski said.

If the RSU 38 budget is approved Tuesday as proposed, Pakulski said, the total tax increase could be about $2 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Also at issue at Town Meeting are two measures dealing with the operation of Readfield’s government.

On Tuesday, voters will decide whether to establish a commission to write a town charter, which a municipality’s equivalent of a constitution. A group of residents petitioned to set up the commission because they want residents to have more input into the powers and procedures in town government.

If the commission is established, voters later will elect commissioners, who will have a year to produce a charter that will go back to the ballot.

On Thursday, voters at Town Meeting will decide whether to adopt an ordinance defining conflict of interest, setting procedures for dealing with a conflict of interest and instituting a procedure for recalling elected officials.

Race for selectman

Two three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen are at stake Tuesday. The candidates for the seats are Allen Curtis, Val Pomerleau and Raymond Renner.

Curtis, 66, is a technology consultant working with schools. He said he has extensive experience leading teams in organizations including the military and the Boy Scouts.

He said he decided to run when the board decided last fall not to broadcast the public comment portion of their meetings on local-access cable television. He worked on a committee with selectmen to review the policy, and the board has since restored to the old policy of allowing the public to comment earlier in a meeting and broadcasting the comments.

“In that whole process, I firmly believed that the people of Readfield are not listened to by the selectboard,” Curtis said. “I don’t think they come out and give their opinions because they’re not addressed and accepted.”

Curtis said he wouldn’t bring with him any firm ideas about how things should be done, because he wants to gather public input and let that be his guide. He said his technology skills would allow him to use online communication and social media to connect with Readfield residents better.

Pomerleau, 54, said she first started to believe the selectmen were unresponsive two years ago when she and other residents tried to obtain information about whether it was financially beneficial for Readfield to have its own public works department.

Pomerleau said she was embarrassed by the behavior of both selectmen and residents during the months-long controversy about the department, which was abolished in 2011. As a selectwoman, she said, she would approach the public with empathy and patience.

“I just think we need to be able to deal with them without it becoming personal,” she said. “I think you can head off the frustration and you can say, ‘I understand what you’re saying. Now word it in a way I can actually do something about, rather than picking apart someone’s character.'”

Pomerleau works at the Maine Municipal Association, where she maintains the database of municipalities. She said she wants to tap the talents of residents by recruiting more volunteers for boards and commissions. She said the selectmen may be able to take on responsibilities to ease the burdens on town staff.

Renner, 65, said he decided to run because he thinks town government needs to be more frugal and more responsive to residents.

He said the selectmen should review the municipal item line by line, giving scrutiny even to small items such as how many hours to keep streetlights on. He’s also concerned about RSU 38’s spending and said he would try to influence the school budget to the extent that he can.

Renner spent 36 years in the military and recently retired from the Federal Aviation Administration. He said he has managed as many as 49 people and would bring experience dealing with contractors to the board.

The two candidates who are elected will succeed Kathryn Mills Woodsum and Andrews Tolman, who have decided not to seek re-election.

Susan McMillan — 621-5643
[email protected]

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