Residents of Belgrade will consider whether to move the local food pantry and whether to build a new Town Office in the town’s reclaimed gravel pit off Route 27 at Town Meeting on Saturday.

Residents will vote on a number of issues at the polls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday — including a new ordinance to regulate mass gatherings — and then gather at 1 p.m. Saturday to handle the remainder of the articles up for a vote during the Town Meeting.

The elections and the meeting will be held at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons.

One of the Saturday warrant articles calls for construction of a new Town Office. The town has had an engineering study done, and the Department of Transportation has approved a driveway from Route 27. Voters also will be asked to approve a land swap with an adjacent landowner to widen the driveway and allow for a straight entrance.

Town officials have indicated they want to use all local contractors for the work, as was done with the Belgrade Lakes Fire Station.

Another article seeks $50,000 to add to the reserve account to support the project. After last year’s Town Meeting, that account held more than $180,000.

MASS GATHERING

Among the Friday ballot items, voters will be asked if they want to adopt a Mass Gathering Ordinance which regulates large crowds on private property in town. The ordinance is in response to a three-day music festival that brings Philadelphia bands and music fans to the town. Phone messages left on a Philadelphia phone for Matt Manser, who is listed as the festival organizer, and other members of the family were not returned.

West Road resident Neil Groder said he objects to the ordinance on several grounds.

“It was never discussed,” Groder said on Monday. “Nobody even knows what this means.”

Groder said he learned about it when he read a copy of the proposed ordinance that was posted at the town’s post office.

He said he was unaware of a Feb. 17 public hearing on all the referendum questions, which included the mass gathering proposal. Town records show there were no questions about the proposal at the meeting.

Groder said he would have preferred to have it discussed during the Town Meeting rather than see it on the ballot. He said he was concerned that it could prevent him from hosting a wedding for his daughter, for instance.

Peter Rushton, chairman of the Belgrade Planning Board, said the board worked on the ordinance at a series of meetings over two to three months. Among the model ordinances considered by the board were those on the books in Readfield and Norridgewock.

“We tried to do the best we could with the information we were given and the time frame,” Rushton said.

Originally the proposed ordinance governed gatherings of 500 people or more. However, that was later reduced to 300 at a selectboard meeting.

“Originally we had the number high enough so that if you did have a wedding, it wouldn’t trigger it,” Rushton said.

He said there were no free speech concerns raised.

The ACLU of Maine has weighed in on several proposed mass outdoor gathering ordinances, including challenging one of Augusta’s in 2004 on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals eventually dismissed the challenge to that ordinance but upheld one relating to the city’s parade ordinance.

“Ordinances requiring citizens to get special permission before speaking, marching or gathering often raise constitutional red flags,” said Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine via email on Monday. “It is not up to the government to tell citizens when and where they can exercise their rights.”

The proposed ordinance, which would take effect immediately if approved at the polls, regulates gatherings of 300 people or more for an hour or more, but provides exceptions for municipal and school events. It prohibits mass gatherings between midnight and 8 a.m.

It would apply to “festivals, concerts, exhibitions, social gatherings, meetings, and entertainment” and requires an application fee of $200, a performance bond, detailed plans, abutter notification, proof of insurance and a host of other things.

Seven copies of the application are to be submitted at least 90 days prior to the event, a public hearing follows, and the selectboard votes on whether to approve it.

The full ordinance is posted on the town’s website at www.townofbelgrade.com.

FOOD PANTRY

Also on the Friday ballott is a question about moving the Belgrade/Rome Special Needs Food Pantry from the basement of the Town Office to the North Belgrade Community Center. The article would allow the pantry to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide a wheelchair accessible bathroom.

An estimate of renovation costs is $5,000 — which selectmen say would be covered by the reserve fund — and the work would be done by the town’s facility maintenance worker.

Another question asks voters if they want to spend almost $134,000 to support recreational programs at the Center for All Seasons and more than $35,000 for the operational budget. Just more than $55,000 is being sought for the town library budget.

Most of the articles on the ballot carry the recommendation of both the selectboard and Budget Committee. However, the selectboard voted 4-1 and the Budget Committee 3-2 to support spending $4,500 to support the Belgrade Lakes Region Business Group’s July Fourth fireworks show.

In 2014, all the items on the ballot were adopted.

CANDIDATES RUNNING

On that same ballot, Belgrade residents will choose from among three people for two three-year positions on the Belgrade Select Board. Running are incumbent Bruce Plourd; Howard Holinger, chairman of the Budget Committee; and Gary Mahler, a member of the Board of Appeals and Budget Committee. Maurice Childs is running unopposed for reelection as road commissioner.

Plourd, 47, is seeking his third term on the selectboard. He is a captain with the Belgrade Fire Department and works for Kevin Hawes Construction as equipment operator and truck driver.

“I like serving the town and have been serving the town since ’86 on the fire department,” Plourd said. “I’m also interested in where my taxes go and want to try to save as much money for the taxpayers as possible.”

Plourd indicated that the biggest issues facing the town are the amount of the school budget and the need for a new Town Office, which the town is addressing.

“I hope I get re-elected and get to see that project through,” Plourd said.

Mahler, 72, said he’s running because of his interest in getting a long-range plan for road maintenance.

“We have 41 to 43 miles of road in Belgrade,” he said. “Right now we’re fixing a mile a year, which means we’ll never catch up.”

He also wants more answers on the school budget which accounts for about two-thirds of property taxes.

Mahler, retired from the U.S. Navy and from federal service as director of the training at the AEGIS Training and Readiness Center in Dahlgren, Va., is chairman of the Maine State Museum Commission.

Howard Holinger, 68, retired two years ago after a career as a technical educator and still does custom sawing on the side. Holinger has served on the budget committee for three years.

“My primary emphasis is to provide the services the town needs and try to be as responsible as possible with tax dollars, to be a good steward of the resources the town has and use them as wisely as we can,” Holinger said.

Holinger said the proposed municipal budget is about $152,000 less than the current year’s.

“That reflects a reasonable salary increase and an allotment for needed services,” he said.

He also promotes going out to bid more often for various services and supports the new town office project.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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