West Gardiner voters as part of the annual Town Meeting set for Saturday will decide on a race for selectman as well as whether to allow liquor sales in town during the week and/or on Sunday.

The polls are open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the business portion of the meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. at the West Gardiner Town Hall.

The lone contested race sees Christopher McLauglin, deputy fire chief, challenging incumbent Selectman Merton “Mert” Hickey for a three-year term.

McLaughlin ran last year against Randall Macomber for the seat being vacated by Earle McCormick, a former state senator. Macomber won the race.

McLaughlin, 33, is a full-time firefighter paramedic for the city of Augusta and said he’s always wanted to be a selectman and handle local government issues.

“I was under the impression the seat would be vacant this year,” said McLaughlin, who has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine at Orono. “Either way I’m happy with the outcome.”

McLaughlin spoke Tuesday from MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, where he and his wife had a daughter born Monday.

He said he put up campaign signs he had used last year. “They’re covered with snow,” he added.

Hickey, 80, has been a selectman for the past 30 years and said he was unsure about seeking re-election this time until several people asked him to run again.

“I like dealing with the people,” Hickey said Tuesday. “I don’t like dealing with the computer and all the paper work. I try to keep the town simple.”

Hickey complimented his opponent, saying, “He’s a good guy; he’d probably do a good job.”

The town of 3,492 people has no tax maps, and the selectmen themselves do the assessment work rather than use professional assessors.

West Gardiner requires neither building permits nor occupancy permits for construction; however, it adheres to state statutes, including requiring such things as plumbing permits.

Also running for local office is McCormick, who is seeking a three-year seat on the Regional School Unit 11 Gardiner Area Schools Board of Education. Michael Dovinsky opted not to run again.

Angela Phillis is running unopposed for another three-year term as town clerk and excise tax collector.

The other questions on the ballot resulted from a petition by Randy and Nancy Prince, who have owned Four Corners Store on High Street for the past three years.

Randy Prince said Tuesday he had sought an agency liquor license from the state two years and was astonished when he was told West Gardiner was a dry town. That meant the local law would have to change before any location could be licensed as an agency liquor store.

“When I first put the petition out, everybody’s jaw was dropping,” he said. He collected more than the minimum 300 signatures to get the issue put on the ballot.

Sales of beer and wine are already permitted in town.

Prince said he believes the sales of liquor for off-premise consumption would enhance his business. “I want to make it convenient for people,” he said.

At the business portion of the meeting, voters will decide on whether to enact an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana stores and social clubs in town. Hickey said the town already has several establishments offering medical marijuana.

Voters also will weigh in on whether to spend $2,500 to have a town website developed and maintained. The proposal came from Peter Coughlan of Randolph who already provides the service for the towns of Randolph and Pittston. Coughlan is expected to be at Saturday’s meeting, Hickey said.

A large ticket item on the warrant asks whether voters want to approve obtaining a $300,000 bond to help finance construction of a new town garage. The loan would be paid back over a 15-year period. The town has an additional $130,000 set aside for the project.

Hickey said the new garage would be built next to the sand shed.

“We’ll probably tear the old town garage down and use part of it for salt storage,” Hickey said. “It’s been there for 55 years. It was built in pieces and it’s deteriorated. It’s in bad shape and the roof leaks.”

Hickey said the board believes its time to do the project if voters approve. “The money we’re putting away isn’t keeping up with inflation.”

Another article on the warrant asks for authorization for $9,000 for a baler for the transfer station. However, Hickey said selectmen found one available from Sears for $2,500 and purchased it instead.

“We won’t have to raise that $9,000,” Hickey said. “We kind of took it upon ourselves.” The baler is intended to keep plastics from accumulating on the floor of the transfer station.

Hickey said that the overall municipal budget is about $1 million and that the amount to be raised by taxes is $373,000, down about $20,000 from the current year.

The budget proposed for winter road maintenance budget is $90,000, which is down from $115,000 last year. The summer road maintenance budget is proposed at $40,000, down from $50,000 in the current year.

However, school costs accounted for an additional $2.97 million, and Hickey said the board expects that to increase this year. That figure has not been finalized.

Currently, the town’s tax rate is $12 for each $1,000 in valuation.

About 100 people attended last year’s town meeting.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

filed under: