SIDNEY — Voters in Sidney got a lot of work done at the annual Town Meeting Saturday, approving a block grant for the local music camp that could lead to an arts charter school some day.

Voters also debated paying for an unfinished veterans memorial, raising money for fire and rescue and closing off the former town landfill because of apparent vandalism there.

With state Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, moderating the meeting, Sidney residents took nearly three hours to approve and reject competing Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen recommendations for spending on the 41-article town warrant.

In the end, residents agreed to a budget of $1,481,927, or about $6,000 less than selectmen had recommended in the written articles. Last year’s budget came in at $1,419,470. The town’s tax rate is $10.85 for every $1,000 in property valuation.

The issue of allowing the town to apply for a federal Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $270,000 generated much of the discussion Saturday because the article simply said it was for economic development with no mention of where the grant money would go.

It turned out that the money would be for improvements to the New England Music Camp, doing business as the Snow Pond Center for the Arts.

Music camp director John Wiggin told residents that the funding was needed to help pay for winterization of the lodge, increased parking, storm water collection, community recreation and control of milfoil and watershed improvement. No local tax dollars would be used for the project, he said.

Wiggin said the camp will more than match the CDBG money with about $320,000 from other grants, gifts and foundations for a total of $590,000. The project could lead to as many as 16 new jobs. Voter support of the grant would show other contributors that Sidney residents are behind the idea and could lead to future funding, Wiggin said.

Wiggin said Snow Pond Community Music School opened last fall with an eye on possibly opening an art and music charter school in Sidney.

“That’s one of the things we are looking at — the feasibility of a charter school,” Wiggin said, noting that plans would not be in place until at least 2017.

He said the camp is concentrating on the new music school and after-school programs for local children all year round, not just in the summer, when the camp is open.

“There are a number of barriers or things that have to be in line,” he said. “The funding for charter schools is not sufficient to do an arts charter school. We would want to make sure we are working closely with the Messalonskee school district because anything that we do will have to enhance the education that is already here.

“We would need a separate board of directors and we would need to raise an additional amount of dollars.”

Sidney voters unanimously approved the town’s application for the block grant, which is through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the state.

In other voting from the floor of the Town Meeting, residents voted to spend $13,200 for general upkeep of the cemeteries in town. The problem is that nobody knows who owns the estimated 26 graveyards.

“The town isn’t sure if they are privately owned or publicly owned,” resident Mike Savage said. “I recommend a committee be formed to see what the town is legally responsible for.”

Voters agreed to spend $371,730 on summer roads, $279,790 on winter roads, $110,000 for a loader/backhoe and $354,767 to fund town government for the coming year. Residents also voted to spend up to $19,000 to repair damage to the cap and venting system at the closed town landfill on Tiffany Road as ordered by the state Department of Environmental Protection. They also agreed to pay up to $20,000 to install a perimeter fence around the old dump to prevent further damage.

Voters decided to take the Budget Committee’s recommendation not to raise any money to match funds already raised for the Veterans’ Memorial, a project started by the Sidney Historical Society. Selectmen had recommended that if the article pass, that the money be raised and not taken from surplus.

The vote was 21-19 not to raise the money — so close that a motion was approved to vote again.

The final vote to not raise the money was 33-22.

Opponents said it was not a community tax issue, but more of a private fundraising issue. Voters agreed.

They also voted not to fund Crisis and Counseling Centers and the LifeFlight Foundation.

About 60 Sidney residents attended the meeting. Selectman Laura Parker was re-elected and Tim Russell was elected to a first term on the board. Both were unopposed on the election ballot. James Isgro was also elected unopposed to a first term as a Regional School Unit 18 school board director.

This story has been corrected.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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