WEST GARDINER — In a return to the open Town Meeting format, residents in West Gardiner will gather April 10 to vote on a proposed spending plan for the town that’s 6.4% higher than what they approved last July.

The proposed $1.27 million spending plan includes requested funding for a new snowplow.

“About every seven years, we replace a plow truck,” said Gregory Couture, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “This year, we’re replacing two that were bought in 2000 with a new one, and we’ll keep the other as an emergency backup.”

While the proposed spending plan is higher than the reduced budget town officials presented last year, it’s too soon to know what impact it will have on the town’s property tax rate. West Gardiner’s property tax bills also include assessments for the Gardiner-area school district and Kennebec County, and those will be decided later this year.

Currently, the property tax rate in West Gardiner is $11.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That means for a house assessed at $200,000, owners pay $2,240 a year in property tax current, before any exemptions are applied.

Traditionally, the West Gardiner Town Meeting takes place on the third Saturday in March. This year, town officials opted to postpone the meeting indefinitely, but scheduled it for April 10 after restrictions on public gatherings were relaxed.

To pay for the proposed $1,277,355 in spending, town officials plan to use $857,600 from excise tax and $419,755 from property tax.

Couture said the spending proposals also include a request to set aside $50,000 toward the purchase of a new fire truck. As part of the fire department’s long-range plan, the town plans to submit a grant request to the Aid to Firefighters Grant offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a new truck.

“This is our fifth year trying to get a new fire truck through them, and we think this is our best opportunity,” Couture said.

If the grant application is successful, the town would buy a new truck to replace the department’s 1979 pumper truck. From there, town officials could consider how to replace other aging fire trucks in the fleet to keep pace with changes in fire codes and fire truck technology. Couture said parts are no longer available to repair the older trucks.

Town officials are also proposing an ordinance to impose restrictions on where convicted sex offenders may live in West Gardiner.

During a special town meeting last year, town residents voted to authorize buying property next to the Town Office for the Historical Society. The mobile home has been removed, and the selectmen are asking to move the $80,000 left into a new account for the Historical Society building.

In West Gardiner, the municipal election takes place in the morning before the Town Meeting.

This year, voting will take place from 8 a.m. to noon in the West Gardiner Highway Garage at 1274 High St., and the Town Meeting is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. in the same place.

Couture said they chose the town garage, because it’s much larger than the fire station, where the voting and meeting are traditionally held.

Town Clerk Angela Phillis said absentee ballots are available at the Town Office for those who do not or cannot cast a vote at the election.

Couture is running unopposed for reelection to the Board of Selectmen. Gary Hickey is running unopposed for reelection as road commissioner. Two seats are up on the Gardiner-area school district board. Patrick Saucier is running for a three-year term; no one is running to fulfill a two-year term.

Last year, West Gardiner’s Town Meeting was delayed by four months, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the limits on public gatherings that were imposed to slow the spread of the contagious respiratory virus. Town officials also opted to hold both the election of town officials and the budget vote by secret ballot.

Just a week before the scheduled 2020 Town Meeting, businesses, government agencies and schools closed after a global pandemic was declared. Before it ended its session, the Maine Legislature enacted emergency legislation to allow municipalities with scheduled Town Meetings to delay holding those votes and continue funding town government operations.

The 2020 Town Meeting, with a scaled-back budget of $1.2 million, was approved July 14.

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