CHELSEA — When voters turn out for Chelsea’s Town Meeting on June 16, they’ll see a budget that’s up 4 percent over the current year’s spending plan, but it will be a budget that is largely unchanged.

Town Manager Scott Tilton said the $1.21 million spending plan reflects some adjustments — small increases to employee benefits, larger increases for winter and summer road maintenance, and decreases for legal services, board expenses and code enforcement. The total is likely to be offset with an appropriation from tax revenue from sources other than property tax of a little more than $420,000.

The current tax rate in Chelsea is $18 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Tilton said it’s expected to go up, but the final calculation will have to wait until the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 budget has been approved.

“Financially, this is the best shape we’ve been in in 20 years,” Rick Danforth, vice chairman of the Chelsea Board of Selectmen, said. “We have a (tax increment financing) plan, we have an economic development committee, and now we’re dealing with land-use ordinances. We can’t have uncontrolled growth.”

The main difference between the proposed budget and the current one is that voters will be asked to approve $7,800 to pay for the cost of having a part-time constable.

Danforth identified several areas of public safety concern, including illegal activity that’s believed to be taking place at Butternut Park, which is on the east bank of the Kennebec River directly across from downtown Hallowell.

Town officials say they’ve spoken with residents in that area and have seen evidence of drug use and drug dealing in the park. They have also noted the arrests and investigations that are taking place in Chelsea.

If voters approve the funding, Tilton said the town would contract with its neighbor Randolph to secure the services of its constable for four hours a week to conduct business and residence checks and enforce town speed limits as well as patrol the park.

Mike Pushard has been working on restoring the constable’s position since he was elected to his first term as selectman. He’s competing for his second three-year term this year.

“We used to have constables years ago,” he said. “I was stopped by the constable when I was younger. He passed away and we haven’t had one since.”

The Maine State Police and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office split patrol duties for Chelsea every two weeks. But because they patrol across the county, response times to the southern end of Kennebec County could be slow, Pushard said.

“A constable is not likely to resolve all the town’s problems with crime,” Danforth said. “But it will send a message and make a small statement.”

Chelsea’s Town Meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Chelsea Elementary School.

Chelsea elects its municipal officials by secret ballot, and voting will take place two days before that on June 14 in conjunction with the state’s primary election. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Chelsea Elementary School.

In all, 20 positions will appear on the ballot, and Pushard is the only candidate to put his name in.

Chelsea is seeking to fill these positions:

• Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 board, one three-year-term seat;

• Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 board, one two-year-term seat;

• Chelsea Planning Board, two three-year-term seats;

• Chelsea Planning Board, two two-year-term seats;

• Chelsea Planning Board, two one-year-term seats;

• Board of Appeals, two three-year-term seats;

• Board of Appeals, one two-year-term seat;

• Board of Appeals, one one-year-term seat;

• Budget Committee, one three-year-term seat;

• Budget Committee, one one-year-term seat;

• Board of Assessment Review, two three-year-term seats;

• Board of Assessment Review, two two-year-term seats;

• Board of Assessment Review, one one-year-term seat.

“It’s disappointing that more people don’t get involved,” Pushard said, noting that Chelsea is not alone in low turnouts at the polls or at Town Meeting. “It would be nice to have some new blood, new faces, new voices and opinions. People don’t get involved unless there’s some conflict.”

Pushard, 52, has lived in Chelsea all his life and he said he loves his town.

“I look out for the best interests of my town,” he said. “At budget time, there are things you make decisions on that aren’t popular, but you weren’t put into office to be popular. You are elected to make decisions.”

He said he’s seeking another term because he thinks having a businessman on the board of selectmen is important to give a business perspective and have a diversity of opinion. He owns Pushard’s Power Sports and Pushard Trucking.

“You almost have to be unemployed or retired to take this job. People don’t understand how much time it takes for our regular duties,” he said.

Both Pushard and Danforth said controversy drives interest in town affairs.

While people are busy and have little time, Danforth said, “We need people to hold our feet to the fire.”

It’s possible that Chelsea residents could put together a write-in campaign before the election. Danforth said when the town charter was revised several years ago, it outlined several requirements for people pursuing that option. They have to declare their intention at the town office, and they need to win at least 25 write-in votes to be elected to the seat.

If those terms are unfilled on June 30, he said, the board of selectmen will appoint people to fill those vacancies.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.