Budget increase of almost 8% awaits Harpswell Town Meeting

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectman was expected to decide Thursday, Feb. 28, whether to send proposed ordinances regulating sport shooting ranges and the use of firearms to next week’s annual Town Meeting.

The two ordinances would replace an existing one-page firearms ordinance, and include a limit on the hours firearms can be discharged and a clear definition of what constitutes a shooting range.

Town Meeting takes place March 9 at Harpswell Community School. Town elections will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The business meeting, which begins at 10 a.m., will decide 72 warrant articles and a proposed annual budget of nearly $5.63 million, up 7.8 percent from 2018.

Reserves for five capital expenditures totaling more than $240,000 contribute to the increase, for items including land acquisition ($60,000) and a future Mitchell Field boat launch ($50,000).

Additionally, on the operations side of the proposed budget, there are increases for winter road maintenance ($46,000), contingency ($25,000) and wages and salaries ($24,750 or 2.5 percent).

“In terms of the actual tax rate, it’s a bit too early to tell because we don’t yet know what the school budget increase will be,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said Wednesday. “We will be putting together an estimated tax rate sheet that will be a handout at the Town Meeting.”

She said the projected tax rate increase is less than 3 percent, based on the assumption of a 3.5 percent school budget increase the addition of $12 million of new taxable value. In addition, Eiane said, the town will use more revenue to offset increased costs.

The town’s current firearms ordinance does not limit when firearms can be discharged.

According to Town Planner Mark Eyerman, he and Cundy’s Harbor resident Jonathan Burbank, who helped draft the warrant article, agree that the proposed ordinance should read something like “the time of target practice is allowed, 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. or sunset or whichever comes first,” given the daylight hours in the summer.

The current ordinance also only mentions the broad term “firearm;” it would be expanded to include the definition from state statute: “Any weapon whether loaded or unloaded … commonly referred to as a pistol, revolver, rifle, gun, machine gun, or shotgun. Any weapon that can be made into a firearm by the insertion of a firing pin, or other similar thing, or by repair.”

Eyerman also said “archery” would be removed from the ordinances to align with the state statute. “I think there was a sense that archery shouldn’t be included, shouldn’t be required to be done in a sports shooting range,” he said.

In other town business, according to Eiane, selectmen will likely appoint two people to the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors sometime after the annual Town Meeting on March 9.

Two town seats on the School Board were vacated earlier this month by longtime board members Joanne Rogers and David Johnson.

“This comes at a very difficult time with not much time before the town meeting,” Eiane said earlier this month.

Selectmen are fielding letters of interest for the two vacancies.

4 candidates in Harpswell elections

HARPSWELL — There will only be one name on the ballot March 9 for a seat on the Board of Selectmen, but there are two candidates running.

Jane Covey was the only candidate to file nomination papers to replace Selectman Rick Daniel, who announced he would not seek re-election.

On Monday, however, Orr’s Island and Bailey Island Assistant Fire Chief Zachary Smith announced he would also run for the seat as a write-in candidate.

Two write-in candidates are competing for one seat on the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors: Linda Hall, who has served on the School Board for nine years, and Molly Perry of Harpswell Neck Road.

Jane Covey

Covey is no stranger to Harpswell town politics. She’s served on multiple committees over the last several years, including the Mitchell Field Committee for nearly seven years. Covey was instrumental in being successful with the bond to remove the pier and she continues to work on that committee to find ways to redevelop the former Navy property and its waterfront.

Covey said she decided in December to run after being encouraged by family and friends in the community.

“I feel like now is the perfect time to run. I really feel like I bring a lot of experience to this community and I am ready to do what is best for Harpswell,” Covey said.

“I care very deeply about the town of Harpswell, I’ve been a full-time resident here for 10 years and I summered here 40 years before that. I have some background that I think is helpful and I would like to contribute,” Covey said.

Covey said infrastructure, including an updated central fire station and recycling center, are the biggest issues facing the town.

“There are also 14 roads that are vulnerable to flooding and with the impacts of climate change, we need to address that.”

Zachary Smith

Smith serves as the Assistant Fire Chief on Orr’s Island and Bailey’s Island, a post he’s held for nearly two years. Previously, he was in the Marine Corps from 2007-2013.

“I will bring ideas and a vision from a younger generation to move the town forward in a right direction,” Smith said.

In 2017, Smith moved to Harpswell from South Berwick, and says what he loves about the town is “the close-knit community and neighbors helping neighbors. This is where we (he and his wife) chose to raise our family.”

The biggest issues facing Harpswell? Smith said he wants to work on “wasting unneeded taxpayer dollars” and would like to see a new central fire station. He also said he wants Harpswell to be “working on keeping waterfronts open with access to the flats and seaweed farms.”

Linda Hall

Initially, Hall decided not to hand in her papers for reelection to the SAD 75 School Board, where she has served for nine years. But, with two recent resignations, she felt she needed to stay with what she knows best.

“The district needs someone with experience,” she said. “With the recent resignations I feel like I needed to step up and stay with what I love and what I know. … I bring a lot of knowledge of how the School Board works, which is going to be important with two new board members.”

“I feel like I bring that experience and knowledge of what goes on with the Board to the table,” Hall said.

Hall said another factor in her desire to continue to serve on the School Board is the importance of finding a new school chief for the district.

“Finding a new superintendent is one of the most important parts of being on the board and that is one of the top priorities right now,” she said.

Molly Perry

Perry grew up in Harpswell Neck and moved back as an adult to raise her family. She has three children in the school system.

“I feel like we need a voice of someone who has younger kids in the school system on the School Board,” Perry, the mother of 7-month- and 5-year-old girls, and a 9-year-old boy, said.

Her younger daughter also has spina bifida, a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. 

“Younger kids with disabilities don’t have much opportunity around here to learn,” Perry said. “All of my kids are at Harpswell Community School, where my sister and I went, but I think the school needs more resources for kids like my daughter.”

— Patti McDonald

Jane CoveyZachary SmithLinda HallMolly Perry

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