ATHENS — Voters at Town Meeting on Saturday afternoon agreed to spend $475,000 to pave and repair two town roads, a proposal that was rejected at last year’s meeting, and they narrowly passed an ordinance banning retail sales of marijuana and marijuana social clubs.

The proposal to pave Chapman Ridge Road and Dore Hill Road was contentious from the start, with the prospect of borrowing $300,000 not sitting well with everyone. The tax rate already was at $17.50 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, and any increase would hurt, some said.

However, First Selectman Mark Munn told residents that the town is scheduled to receive about $200,000 from Central Maine Power Co. for back property payments, adding that should take the edge off spending fears.

Besides, others said, the roads haven’t been paved in 10 or 11 years and were beginning to break up. Letting one or both of the roads go another year could end up costing the town more in the long run, others said.

Ideas went back and forth about paving one road and not the other.

Former First Selectwoman Brenda Avery noted that Chapman Ridge is one of three state transportation reimbursement fund roads in town and should be considered first. Avery amended the original article with a motion to skip Dore Hill Road this year and to pave just Chapman Ridge Road. The estimated costs are $150,000 for Dore Hill Road and $325,000 for Chapman Ridge Road.

Third Selectman Guy Anton said state road money could be applied anyway in conjunction with town money and the borrowing plan.

“It comes out the same no matter which way you push it,” Anton said, adding that oil prices are low and there is no telling what the cost will be next year.

Avery’s motion was defeated, bring the original article back for a vote. Voters approved the article by a wide margin, with $168,950 coming from the existing road paving account and $300,000 to be borrowed for the project. Athens residents also agreed to raise $65,000 this year for the first payment on the loan, which is to be paid off over five years at an estimated interest rate of 3.1 percent.

In dealing with an earlier article, voters agreed to raise $50,000 for the road paving account as seed money for future projects. Road Commissioner Dwight Weese said the necessary ditching and culvert work will be done by his crew in preparation for the paving work and are not part of the paving money.

Resident Donna Avery noted that a lot of the planning and headaches related to such projects could be avoided if the town rejoined the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which assists member towns with grant writing. The town dropped out of KVCOG a few years ago.

About 60 people, including town officials, attended Town Meeting at Somerset Academy, despite the below-zero temperature outside when the meeting started.

Munn said projected town spending for the coming year is just over $612,000; but with the added $65,000, for the first payment on the road bond, the final spending package will be about $677,000. He said the current tax rate of $17.50 will increase to about $18 for every $1,000 worth of property valuation.

In balloting Friday, Anton and Second Selectman Charles Rotondi were re-elected unopposed on the ballot. Town Clerk and Tax Collector Tracey Rotondi and Road Commissioner Dwight Weese also were on the ballot unopposed and were re-elected. Sean Boyd and Chad White ran unopposed for two seats on the Athens school board.

The ordinance asking voters by written ballot if they wanted to enact an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana sales and social clubs under Maine’s home rule authority passed 24-21, but discussion was lively and sometimes loud. Rep. Chad Grignon, R-Athens, said the issue was one of safety for children; others disagreed, noting that the language of the state referendum question in November contained language limiting the legalization of pot to people 21 and older.

“The way it was written, it’s a free-for-all,” Grignon said.

Resident Nathaniel Foss said he thought the town should allow marijuana sales, as did others.

“If someone wants to sell marijuana in our town and bring millions of dollars in, let ’em,” Foss said.

Grignon noted that the Legislature has passed an 18-month moratorium on the initiative, giving lawmakers time to plan how to implement the law with marijuana being illegal under federal law and no legal way to test for impaired driving.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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