MADISON — Voters chose at the annual Town Meeting on Monday night to prohibit needle exchange programs from operating within town as well as adopt a $3.45 million budget.

Elections were being held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Point School at 108 Old Point Ave. Only one race was opposed on the ballot this year; Craig Parker and Brandon Hagopian were running for the five-year term on the board of directors for Madison Electric Works.

The budget — $3,446,750 — was part of a 32-article warrant and included $620,975 for general government, $612,980 for public safety; $558,000 for public works; and $121,450 for the Madison Public Library.

The budget remained relatively flat this year after voters decided to use $400,000 in undesignated funds to offset taxes. By doing this in 2021, the result is a net reduction to taxpayers of 2.59%.

“The budget was put together in such a way that we’re going to be asking (voters) to take $400,000 out of fund balance to offset any raising of taxes from this budget,” Town Manager Tim Curtis said at the meeting. “We did not bring forward any money last year due to concerns of revenues in the midst of COVID-19. This way, we were able to get some of the projects proposed onto the budget and use this money to offset taxes.”

Curtis said that taxpayers in town should also keep in mind that due to the rapid increase in the value of home sales throughout the region and state, property values have been rising and the town’s sales ratio has dropped below the state’s required 90%.

“The state of Maine requires these valuations to be at least 90% and with the rapid increase in home sales, we’ve fallen to about 86% and will continue to fall unless we make an adjustment,” Curtis said.

To remedy this, Curtis said that he and the assessor’s agent will be presenting an across-the-board increase of 5% to all property values to the Board of Assessors in August.

“In this market, it’s not the time to do a revaluation but rather an across-the-board increase of 5% to allow us to maintain that 90%. That does increase property values, yes taxes will go up, but hopefully the decrease in the mill rate will offset that so your tax bill will be net the same,” Curtis said.

The proposed Maine School Administrative District 59 budget is down this year as well as the county and municipal budget, which “bodes well to be able to raise those values, lower the mill rate and keep things relatively stable.”

The most notable article on the warrant is No. 2, which asked voters to decide on a proposed prohibition of needle exchange programs, needle disposal sites and medically supervised injection sites.

“Several towns around us have been dealing with regulating needle exchange programs,” Curtis said. “Needle exchange programs are sanctioned by Maine (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and they can identify an idea in the state where they feel a needle exchange program would be beneficial.”

In Norridgewock, the municipality voted in March to adopt an ordinance to regulate needle exchange programs after the town was approached by Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

Maine Access Points, a nonprofit organization, provides syringe access services, overdose prevention education and naloxone distribution throughout rural Maine.

Lancaster has previously said that he was concerned about a third-party offering these services in an uncontrolled area. He said he has encouraged municipalities in Somerset County to adopt ordinances where this type of exchange is regulated. “Just to be clear, Madison has not been targeted as an area for a needle exchange program by the Maine CDC, but it has been recommended to us to have some sort of regulation in place,” he said.

The town of Skowhegan adopted a Needle Exchange Ordinance in August 2020, also regulating needle exchange programs within the community.

Though selectmen were split 3-2 on their recommendation to move forward with a prohibition, voters ultimately decided to side with the recommendation, joining nearby Solon in their decision to keep needle exchange programs out of the confines of the town.

In Solon, voters decided in October 2020 to enact a prohibition on needle exchange programs as the town of Solon “does not believe it is an appropriate site.”

An amendment to the town’s “Vehicles and Parking” ordinance was also passed Monday night, which now includes a 60-minute parking limit on Pleasant Street, 100-feet from the intersection at Old Point Avenue near the Madison Public Library.

A representative at the library said that this was brought to the town not to deter the community from coming to the library, but instead to ensure that parking is available in front of the building for those who need close access.

The issue at hand was people parking outside to access the free Wi-Fi and remaining in those spots for long hours. Other parking areas near the library can still connect to the signal.

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