HARPSWELL RESIDENTS gathered Saturday at Harpswell Community School to vote at the annual Town Meeting moderated by John Loyd Jr.

HARPSWELL RESIDENTS gathered Saturday at Harpswell Community School to vote at the annual Town Meeting moderated by John Loyd Jr.


Harpswell residents elected selectmen and MSAD 75 board members and approved a $5,054,787 municipal budget for the fiscal year at Saturday’s annual Town Meeting. That is a 2.7 percent increase over the $4,920,047 2016 municipal budget.

Mitchell Field

As recommended by the Mitchell Field Committee, residents approved a plan for the demolition and removal of the Mitchell Field Pier. The plan includes a $5 million bond that would cost the town nearly $7 million over 20 years, with an interest rate of 3.8 percent.

“We don’t bring this before the legislative body of our town lightly, but feel very much so that it is in the town’s best interest,” said Chairman Richard Daniel. “We also believe it makes sense to plan when to bring the pier down, rather than have the pier do the planning for us. It continues to lose pieces and parts, and is slowly draining more money from the town.”

Following that vote, the residents agreed to set aside money to fund the pier’s replacement.

Also debated on Saturday was an appropriation of not more than $10,000 from the Mitchell Field Capital Reserve toward exploring the potential for using the Mitchell Field Water Tower as a host for communications equipment. After a heated debate, residents passed the article 125-78.

Cedar Beach

Residents authorized selectmen to sign the license agreement with Gable Real Estate LLC to ensure access to Cedar Beach via the privately owned Cedar Beach Road. The agreement is the latest chapter following a multi-year legal battle with the property owner to access the beach. The agreement contains a number of protections for the property owner which the town is enforced to oblige. The future cost of enforcement was not clear, although a representative of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters said that he had received a strong response from people interested in volunteering as enforcement agents of the town.

Road commissioner

After more than half an hour of discussion, residents voted 127-102 to make the road commissioner an appointed, rather than elected, position.

“I’m in favor of keeping things the way they are,” said Jim Knight, a sentiment mirrored by other residents, some of whom expressed concerns that the selectboard was trying to exert more control over the commissioner.

However, Road Commissioner Ronald Ponziani stated that he was in favor of the article and did not think that the selectboard was using it to exert more control over his work.

“This article isn’t a commentary on the job Ron’s done either. He’s doing a great job, but he’s not going to be road commissioner forever, and we’re looking down the road with this,” said Selectman Kevin Johnson.

Selectman Elinor Multer said that the reasoning behind the measure was the same as her efforts to change the town treasurer position from elected to appointed some years earlier.

“You cannot legally provide for any required qualifications on the part of somebody who goes on the ballot, and I was scared to death that someone who could barely balance his checkbook, but is a friend of a lot of people, would become the treasurer in this town,” said Multer. “So you have to make a choice between either being able to have qualification requirements or keeping the ballot and the decision in the hands of the public.”

Even though the salary of the commissioner was not part of the article, much of the debate over the measure concerned whether the position would be changed from salaried to hourly. Moderator John Loyd Jr. entertained a subsequent, nonbinding straw poll vote that showed overwhelming support for keeping the position salaried.

Future fire station

Voters approved the Municipal Firefighter Assistance Ordinance, which is the first part of a multi- phase strategy to address recruitment and retention issues with the town’s three all-volunteer fire associations.

The measure funds two municipal firefighters who provides coverage during daylight hours from Monday to Friday. It also establishes a fire chief/administrator to oversee those employees and assist the volunteer associations.

Residents also voted to fund an architectural study that is the first step in building a centrally located fire station.

By the ballot

David Chipman was elected to finish Multer’s final year on the board of selectmen, defeating Ellen Shillinglaw, 309-285. Multer announced her decision to resign last year.

Selectman Kevin Johnson was unopposed and was re-elected to another three-year term.

Allison Hawkes, the only name on the ballot, was reelected to the MSAD 75 board of directors, Writein candidate David Johnson was also elected with 44 votes.

A $137,104 appropriation for Curtis Memorial Library was approved overwhelmingly.

A full list of results from the Town Meeting and a copy of the 2016 Annual Report can be found at harpswell.maine.gov.

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