Despite an error in calculations and attempts to remove funding for the project, the expansion to the Standish Municipal Building is set to go ahead as planned after Saturday’s annual town meeting.

Standish residents approved the town budget almost exactly as proposed. Besides the $1.21 million dollar bond for capital expenditures, the largest spending category in the $7.16 million budget was $1.05 million for public works.

John Sargent, chairman of the budget committee has largely attributed increases in the town budget to salaries, employee benefits, fuel costs, and highway maintenance. Sargent said the town started maintaining some roads previously taken care of by the state.

The town share of the tax rate will stay even at around $9.96 per $1,000 of valued property, while the school share of the tax rate will rise 20 cents from $7.28 to $7.47.

On June 10, voters approved 641-584 the $1.21 million bond, which included the municipal building expansion as well as eight other items. Residents had a second chance to make a decision on the proposed borrowing during the June 14 meeting.

The discussion started with a motion by former town councilor Larry Simpson to deny the expansion and decrease the bond by $500,000.

“To reduce this now and upset this whole process is beyond me,” newly re-elected Councilor Phil Pomerleau said. “The expansion has been on the capital plan for four years.” Pomerleau urged residents not to overturn the June 10 vote.

Elizabeth Perry joined other residents in arguing that the expansion was too expensive, the proposal didn’t go to the public for discussion and the interest rate was changed at the last minute. Some residents also said they wanted to vote on the municipal building expansion separately from the eight other bond items.

“I’m opposed to having this all lumped together,” said resident Tom Childs.

Pomerleau and Town Manager Gordon Billington spoke to the need for expansion, saying that the town has added 12 employees since the municipal center was finished in 2001 and they don’t have space for storage or joint meetings between committees.

“The need is there to expand,” Billington said.

Billington also said the mistake in the interest rate was an administrative oversight and that Town Clerk Mary Chapman posted corrections on election day. The correction notice explained that the interest for the bond could more accurately be estimated at $260,400, rather than the $159,250 listed on the ballot. The change in the expected interest would not change the budget or tax rate for fiscal year 2008/09, Billington said.

“We did as much as we could to inform the electorate,” said Councilor Louis Stack.

Councilor Carolyn Beigel said plans for expanding the municipal building were largely developed in meetings of the capital improvements committee. Beigel said that when she asked for a public workshop to gather input on the plans, “I was told I was foolish.” Beigel added that the whole plan never came to a public workshop or council meeting.

Stack countered that residents and councilors are always invited to attend capital improvements committee meetings. “There was plenty of public opportunity to be aware of this situation,” Stack said. “To say this is a surprise is hard to believe.” Stack added that a $25,000 engineering fee to look at the expansion was approved in last year’s budget.

“Nothing is going on behind anyone else’s back,” Pomerleau said. “This expansion has been on the books for a year. It’s here. It’s in the open.”

The amendment to lower the bond item failed.

Town resident and former councilor William Orr introduced a second amendment to reduce the bond amount by $385,750, proposing to remove $180,000 for an ambulance, $9,000 for a ball field rehabilitation, $129,000 for a plow truck, $50,000 for a public works facility expansion, and $17,750 for a snowthrower attachment. “Pay for your needs when you need them,” Orr said, adding that the town was encumbering future generations with debt.

“There’s no fat here,” Pomerleau said of the proposed capital expenditures. Orr’s amendment failed and the bond was approved as written.

Simpson made a successful motion to vote on Articles 5-27 together. With a successful amendment proposed by Stack to reduce Article 7 by $13,280 to reflect the failure of ballot question one to revise or replace the municipal charter, the bulk of the municipal budget passed and the meeting ended in just over an hour.


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