WASHINGTON — Residents of this town with 1,600 people are set to consider forming their own municipal broadband network at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday.

The proposed network would be done in partnership with a private company, Axiom, and funded largely by a $2.9 million federal grant.

Residents also will be asked to approve a proposed town budget that’s increased slightly. The proposal includes $117,290 to continue using Union Ambulance Service, the cost of which nearly doubled from the current year’s budget.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Prescott Memorial School at 100 Waldoboro Road.

Three warrant articles at the Town Meeting relate to forming a municipally-owned broadband service, which would provide high speed internet access in town.

The proposed network would be built, operated and managed by the private company Axiom. Its construction would primarily be funded by $2.9 million in federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant funding with the state matching 10% of that funding. Once operating, the network would have ongoing costs covered by user fees, according to Tom Johnston, a selectman. The network would be owned by the town.


Johnston said high-speed internet access has been lacking in town. Last year residents authorized officials to explore ways to improve that service, and the town has since been awarded grant funding for its partnership with Axiom to bring broadband to Washington.

Saturday, residents will be asked if the town will accept the grant funding to form the municipal service, to contract with Axiom to install and manage it, and form a town committee to advise selectmen on the system.

Johnston said the proposed town budget is up about 3% from the current year’s spending plan.

One major increase is a jump from $63,000 to $117,290 to continue receiving rescue services from Union Ambulance.

Johnston said the town of Union-owned ambulance service initially sought about $200,000 from Washington for the coming year, in part due to a plan to add workers, but later reduced its bill.

Johnston said the increase is due largely to Union Ambulance increasing its pay scales, in order to retain and attract paramedics in a hotly contested labor market in which emergency medical workers are in short supply and high demand.


A related warrant article asks residents to authorize selectmen to investigate other options for emergency medical services in town. Johnston said the town is hoping to reach an agreement with Union Ambulance to have representation for the town of Washington so the town has a voice when decisions, including billing decisions, are made.

“It’s a conversation we’re going to have to have,” Johnston said of Washington exploring ways to provide affordable ambulance services to residents, while continuing, if voters approve, to stay with Union Ambulance for at least another year.

One warrant article would authorize creation of an IRA benefit plan for town employees who earn more than $5,000 a year, with a 3% town match to what employees contribute to their savings plans. Officials estimate if all eligible town employees take part it would cost the town about $8,500. The town currently has no retirement savings plan for employees.

Another article would authorize spending up to $120,000 to purchase new self contained breathing apparatuses to replace the 20-year-old units used by firefighters now. The safety devices would be purchased with $79,000 in federal coronavirus recovery funds with the remaining money coming from the town’s undesignated fund balance, or surplus, account.

Johnston said some of the fire department’s breathing systems are so old they have been taken out of service, because parts can’t be found for them.

Changes to the town’s dog control ordinance would expand its rules to also cover other domesticated animals, not just dogs.

A municipal election Friday precedes Saturday’s Town Meeting. Polls for the election, in which all races are uncontested, will be open Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at Gibbs Library, 40 Old Union Road. Incumbent Wesley Daniel is the only candidate for selectman, and there are no candidates on the ballot to represent Washington on the Regional School Unit 40 board of directors.

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