MADISON — Improvements to deteriorating sidewalks was the primary focus of discussion last week at a meeting of the Madison Select Board.

The board met last Monday to review funding for sidewalk repairs and to adopt a policy for meetings held remotely.

The town budget includes spending $20,000 to fix sidewalks on Madison Avenue, from Main Street to Bean Street.

Town Manager Tim Curtis said the repairs would be done in concert with a Madison Electric Works project to replace utility poles in the area.

The board decided to look into adding “a significant amount of sidewalks projects” in anticipation of the upcoming budget.

Other lingering concerns, Curtis said, are the sidewalks on Middle, Houghton and Gray streets, which have deteriorated “to the point where they do not exist anymore.”

“The question is do we rebuild them completely or remove them?” Curtis said. “If the will of the board is to focus on rebuilding these sidewalks, then that is something that we will have to budget for.”

Repairs to the sidewalks will cost about $19,000 per street, according to Curtis. The idea is to excavate the existing sidewalks and then provide paving for new sidewalks.

The sidewalks will not be raised or have a curb. Additionally, due to the lack of manpower, these streets will not be maintained during winter, like some other side streets, Curtis said.

In other matters, members of Madison’s Select and Planning boards have a list of guidelines to follow when attending meetings remotely, in keeping with the town’s newly adopted Remote Participation Policy.

Members may attend meetings remotely for specific reasons, including an emergency or other issue, such as illness or being out of town. They cannot attend and participate remotely out of convenience. Under the policy, members of the public can watch public meetings remotely.

Curtis said the policy allows entire boards to meet remotely or specific members to attend remotely. He said final approval on meeting remotely will be left to each board’s chairperson.

Mary Tomlinson, chair of the Planning Board, spoke in favor of the policy and allowing each board to decide on meeting remotely.

“We are meeting in a place where not everyone is masked, and we have learned that people who are vaccinated can carry the same viral load as those who are infected and unvaccinated,” Tomlinson said. “Therefore, we are putting each other at risk each time we meet.

“We all have exposures to different people and we never know if we are carrying the virus that we can spread to others.”

Tomlinson said Somerset remains the lowest-vaccinated county in Maine, at 57%. Statewide, the vaccination rate is 71%.

Selectman Ron Moody also said he supported the policy and thought discussion on the policy was only “making things more confusing for something that should be relatively simple.”

“We did it last time and it worked,” Moody said. “I think there’s enough common sense amongst us, and we’ve already been through it and we’ve got an example to go by.”

In other matters, Curtis said this year’s property tax rate had been set at $19.42 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $21.25 last year.

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