NORRIDGEWOCK — Voters on Monday will be asked to decide on a proposed ordinance banning retail marijuana establishments in town during a referendum, then weigh in on the remaining warrant items during Town Meeting.

Voting in the referendum and town elections is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. in the Mill Stream School Gymnasium at 26 Mercer Road. Polls will remain open until 7 p.m. for a secret ballot involving the establishment of an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana establishments in town, as well as an election to fill local offices. Once polls close for the secret ballot, residents will be asked to assemble in the gymnasium to vote on the remaining warrant items at 7:30 p.m. that day.

The Board of Selectmen recommended, 3-2, approval of a proposal to ban retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs in Norridgewock, and the Budget Committee voted 4-2 to make no recommendation on it.

Town Manager Richard LaBelle said it was important to note in voting on the marijuana ordinance that a “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the ordinance, thus in favor of the ban. A “no” vote was in opposition to the ordinance and the ban. In November, most voters in Norridgewock opposed Question 1, which passed statewide, legalizing recreational marijuana use in Maine.

Residents will vote on a handful of contested races via secret ballot. Six people are running for five one-year seats on the Board of Selectmen, including all five incumbents: Chairman Ronald Frederick, Vice Chairman James Lyman, and members Charlotte Curtis, Matthew Everett and Sara Wilder. There is one challenger, Joshua Chartland, who is the vice chairman on the Board of Sewer Commissioners. Four people are running for three one-year seats on the Board of Tax Assessors: Frederick, Lyman, Curtis and Wilder. For a single one-year term for the Library Board of Trustees, there are two people running: Rebecca Ketchum and Hanna Luce.

All other races for elective positions are either uncontested or don’t have enough candidates running to fill all the seats. For example, four seats are available on the Budget Committee, but only Wilder is listed on the ballot as running. And two five-year terms on the sewer commission and a five-year term on the library board have no candidates listed on the ballot.

Of all the financial aspects of the warrant, there are only two instances in which the Budget Committee’s proposal differs from that of the Board of Selectmen.

On Article 17, which is a vote to appropriate money for the Planning Board, the selectmen recommended $1,290, while the Budget Committee recommended $870. Because the selectmen’s recommendation was larger, that was the number brought forth on the warrant to voters. That is because money articles can be decreased but not increased during Town Meeting, so the town lists the high recommendation. LaBelle said the difference in funding here has to do with a monthly $35 stipend for the secretary. He said his budget request included this, as did the selectmen’s, but the Budget Committee’s recommendation did not include the stipend.

Additionally, Article 19, which would appropriate money for the Summer Crew Department, differed by $5,000. The selectmen recommended $48,365, while the Budget Committee recommended $43,365. Again, because the selectmen called for a higher total, that’s the figure that will be presented to voters Monday night.

All told, the selectmen proposed a spending total of $5,420 more than the Budget Committee. LaBelle said the difference in spending proposals for Article 19 was largely related to the minimum wage increase. Summer crew employees, namely seasonal cemetery crews and town property management workers, were paid less than the current minimum wage under the previous budget.

LaBelle said his budget request was for the same number of staff members with an increased wage, which the selectmen also proposed. He said the Budget Committee recommended their wages remain the same.

Another article in the warrant asks whether to allow the selectmen to dispose of the former fire station property at 70 Main St. The town moved the fire station to a new location in January 2016, and the previous building has remained vacant ever since. LaBelle said the town has been “heating it minimally” in that time. The vote would allow the selectmen to dispose of the property as they see fit, potentially selling it. He said the disposal of the building could be a tie-in to its tax increment financing district in an effort to invest in the downtown area.

“We want to make sure we’re exhausting all our options in realizing the potential of this building,” he said.

He said the building is being assessed by Waterville engineering firm A.E. Hodson. He said two real estate agents have made their own assessments of the property, but they differed so greatly it was difficult to know the actual value of the property. The low estimate was $36,000 and the high estimate was $98,000.

“I don’t think anyone knows how to adequately evaluate the building,” LaBelle said.

Some of the larger spending items on the warrant include appropriating $543,225 for the Public Works Department, $288,455 for administration, $117,150 for the Public Safety Department, $90,500 for the Fire Department, and $125,000 from the undesignated fund balance to fund the purchase of a new loader to replace the previous Caterpillar wheel loader. LaBelle said that was for the Public Works Department, and it was determined to be more cost-effective to buy a new one than to continue maintaining the 1995 vehicle.

LaBelle said the selectmen’s proposal was $1,860,710, roughly a 2 percent increase over the current budget, which is $1,650,1229. The Budget Committee proposed a budget of $1,810,240, which is roughly a 1.5 percent increase.

Residents also will be asked to vote on a proposed cemetery ordinance, which is the last item on the warrant. The proposal is an effort to resolve past disputes over family lot lines and to improve record keeping about cemetery plots. The problem began a handful of years ago when the town discovered a Sunset View Cemetery burial plot had been sold improperly a number of times. A mistake in record keeping allowed the plot, owned by the Bishop family, to be sold more than once.

LaBelle said this is his second Town Meeting in Norridgewock, and that last year’s meeting went smoothly.

“Certainly there will be active discussion in regards to each major department and the townspeople holding everyone accountable,” he said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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