NORRIDGEWOCK — Residents will consider on Monday an annual budget that is 18 percent lower than the current budget, a result of the town not looking to tackle any major road reconstruction projects in the coming year.

The town manager, the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee are each recommending budgets that vary slightly but range from $889,111 to $894,751. That equates to around an 18 percent decrease from the 2018 budget of $1,089,310.

Town Meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Mill Stream Elementary School gymnasium. Elections will be held from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the school.

Also up for consideration is $325,000 in grant and bond funding for upgrades to the Norridgewock Sewer Department’s wastewater treatment facility, which is scheduled for $5.3 million worth of upgrades after the facility was found to be in violation of Maine Department of Environmental Protection rules in 2016.

Fire Chief Dave Jones will be asking residents at the meeting for feedback on applying for a grant that would fund two full-time firefighters partially for three years, potentially allowing the town to add its first full-time firefighters.

The reason for the major decrease in the budget is that the town is not funding any major road reconstruction projects in 2019, Town Manager Richard LaBelle said.

Over the last few years, the town typically has raised $250,000 annually from taxation and directed $250,000 from its host benefit agreement with Waste Management toward road projects. This year, the $250,000 from the host benefit agreement will go toward overlay, and no capital improvement projects are planned for roads.

“It should impact the tax rate in a good way,” LaBelle said. “Unfortunately, when we look at our calculations and valuation trends, I think the savings at the municipal basis will be made up in increases in the school and county. I don’t think it will be all of it, but I think a good portion will be offset by increases in the school budget.”

Property tax rates are based on town, county and school budgets and typically are committed in the second week in August.

Also on the warrant for Monday’s meeting is a request that voters approve $325,000 in funding for improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment facilities and sewer system. The funding would be composed of a $243,750 bond and an $81,250 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service.

If approved, it would be added to $5 million in grant and loan funds the town already has received from the USDA for the project.

In 2016, the Sewer Department was found to be in violation of Department of Environmental Protection regulations after a state report showed water clarity was not up to standards.

The first payment on the loan, if approved, would not be expected to be due for 18 to 24 months, LaBelle said. Construction is planned to start this spring.

Norridgewock Town Manager Richard LaBelle, shown Feb. 5, 2016, in his office shortly after he was hired, said most of the nearly 20 percent reduction in the proposed town budget probably would be offset by an increase in the school and county budgets. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“I would deem it an essential project,” LaBelle said. “Where there is available grant funding to be paired with it, I would think it would be seriously considered and likely to pass. This will allow for the complete upgrade that is needed.”

Jones, the Norridgewock fire chief, also is scheduled to speak to residents Monday about the possibility of applying for a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The item is for discussion only and won’t be voted on as part of the meeting warrant.

The deadline for the grant application is March 22, with the awards scheduled to be announced before Sept. 30.

The grant would help cover the cost of two full-time firefighters, estimated to cost $50,000 each per year, for three years, LaBelle said.

It would cover 75 percent of the cost the first two years and 35 percent in the third year. The remainder of the cost would be covered by taxpayers in Norridgewock and Mercer, which contracts with Norridgewock for fire coverage.

“I think this is a decision taxpayers need to make,” LaBelle said, when asked if the move would be right for the town in the long term. “I think they need to look at the cost benefit and a changing landscape in all fire departments, whether they’re at the local, state or national level. Really it’s a decision for taxpayers to make about what do they deem necessary for protection.”

Finally, the proposed budget includes a $9,575 raise for LaBelle that was approved last fall by the Board of Selectmen when they renewed his contract for three years.

The raise would elevate LaBelle’s salary to $67,575, which he said is comparable to pay received by town managers of owns of similar size and population.

In elections, six people are running for five seats on the Board of Selectmen. The terms of office are all one year. Candidates include the current board of Josh Chartrand, Matthew Everett, Ron Frederick, James Lyman and Sara Wilder; as well as candidate Charlotte Curtis, who  previously served on the board but was not elected last year.

Curtis also is trying to regain her seat on the Board of Assessors and is one of four candidates for three seats in that race. The other candidates now hold seats on the board and are Frederick, Lyman and Wilder. The term is one year.

Uncontested races include a three-year term on the School Administrative District 54 board of directors, a three-year term on the Planning Board, two three-year terms on the Sewer Commission, a one-year term on the Sewer Commission, a five-year term on the library board of trustees, a three-year term on the library board of trustees, a two-year term on the library board of trustees, two three-year terms on the Budget Committee and a two-year term on the Budget Committee.

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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