SOMERVILLE — A town spending plan that is up from the current year, but that is offset by projected increases in revenues, goes to voters at the polls Tuesday when residents decide the annual Town Meeting warrant in secret ballot voting.

Residents will also be asked if the town should establish a fire department equipment reserve account, with $10,000, and establish a board to oversee the creation of a proposed new municipal broadband network if the town receives grant funding to help build the network.

In April at a special town meeting residents, in a narrow 49-to-45 vote, approved a proposal for the town to apply for and accept state ConnectMaine grant funds, of $667,750, and borrow up to $632,250 in a bond. That will be used to create a broadband system that would be owned by the town, an effort to improve internet access in Somerville.

The town would own the network and contract with a private firm to construct, maintain and operate the network, which would be made available to all residents who wanted the service, for a fee.

Chris Johnson, first selectman, said the town’s grant application was not funded by ConnectMaine because the grant program ran out of funds this year. He said there is a possibility the state will apply other funds, such as American Recovery Plan money, to the program, which could allow Somerville’s proposal, one of three that did not receive funding, to be funded.

Voters on Tuesday’s secret ballot annual Town Meeting warrant will decide whether the town should create a municipal broadband board, which would be made up of five people to be appointed by the selectmen who would oversee execution of any proposed broadband franchise agreement and a reserve fund, periodically review performance of the technology provider, and review changes in service and pricing options. Johnson said the board would only be formed upon the start of construction of a municipal broadband network.


Polls will be open Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the town office.

Voters will also consider numerous spending items that are part of the proposed $583,000 town budget.

The budget is up from last year’s $555,000, but Johnson said revenues are also up, enough so it should offset the proposed increase in spending. The amount of money needed from taxpayers to fund municipal operations is expected to remain about what it is now. The town’s current tax rate is $20.40 per $1,000 of property value.

The town is also taking $24,000 from surplus funds unspent in previous years, to help lessen the impact to taxpayers of the combined town and school budget, which is proposed to go up this year.

One proposal also going to voters would create a reserve account, and fund it with $10,000, to save for the future purchase of firefighting equipment, such as firetrucks.

The Somerville Volunteer Fire Department is not a town department; it is a nonprofit volunteer organization and the town’s designated fire department. Johnson said the department hasn’t made any firetruck purchases in quite a while and some of its trucks were bought used and are reaching the end of their life. The reserve funds could be used to match grants which may become available to purchase a firetruck or other firefighting equipment.

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