Cumberland council to vote on town budget

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council is expected to vote next week on the fiscal 2016 municipal budget.

The panel will also hear a report from the Ocean Access Committee on a management plan for the town’s portion of the former Payson property, and to approve a contractor for this year’s Blackstrap Road improvement project.

Next year’s $9.6 million municipal budget – which now encompasses about 29 percent of Cumberland’s tax rate distribution – would add 3 cents to the current tax rate of $17.40 per $1,000 of property valuation, an increase of less than 1 percent, Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday.

An approximately $51,000 Cumberland County tax increase, which makes up about 3 percent of the tax rate distribution, would add another 3 cents.

The impact on Cumberland’s budget from School Administrative District 51 – which accounts for about 67 percent of the distribution – would be 69 cents, an increase of nearly 4 percent.

As a result, Cumberland’s tax rate would increase 75 cents to reach $18.15, a 4.3 percent hike. This would cause a $225 tax increase on a home valued at $300,000.

The council vote, scheduled for Monday, April 13, will be preceded by a public budget hearing.

Payson property

The Ocean Access Committee‘s management plan, which will ultimately be approved by the Town Council, regards a nearly 25-acre piece of the former Payson property that the town purchased last December.

The $3 million purchase, which voters narrowly approved in November, includes 2,200 feet of shoreline and a 200-foot pier; funds for the acquisition come from a 20-year bond, at a cost of $240,000 a year.

Cumberland bought its portion of the overall approximately 100-acre property from the Bateman Group, which plans to develop homes on its part of the land as allowed by a 1997 conservation easement.

A lawsuit filed by the Payson heirs against the town and the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust challenges the town’s proposed use of the 179 Foreside Road property.

In an op-ed The Forecaster published in January, Payson’s grandchildren said their goal “is not to prevent continued or even expanded public access, but to ensure that the town of Cumberland and the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust comply with the conservation restrictions imposed years ago by our grandmother.”

The heirs added that the “conservation easement restricts what can be done on the property and protects its unique ecological and aesthetic attributes.”

A judge may rule this month on whether the lawsuit is dismissed or goes to court, Shane said.

The Town Council formed the Ocean Access Committee to meet with the town attorney on the conservation easement and protection of the natural qualities of the property, and ultimately to develop the management plan. Details of that plan are still being worked out.

Blackstrap Road

The Town Council on Monday will also vote on a bid from Lewiston contractor Gendron & Gendron for reconstruction of Blackstrap Road. The $1.17 million bid, plus $60,000 for construction contingency, would cover shoulder widening and paving, along with the installation of drainage and improvement of sight distances along the road.

A base course layer is to be applied this year, with final paving next year.

Half this year’s nearly $1 million cost of the approximately 6,500-foot project, which runs from Route 100 to the Falmouth town line, will be paid by the Maine Department of Transportation, with the town funding the remaining $500,000.

The town has been budgeting capital funds towards the project in recent years. All costs greater than $1 million would be funded by the town in fiscal 2017.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.