Cumberland, North Yarmouth begin meetings on service costs

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CUMBERLAND — A series of meetings are being held to help North Yarmouth understand how the money it pays Cumberland for services is spent.

The first session was held July 13. It followed a fiscal 2012 budget process in North Yarmouth that raised questions about some of the services the town receives from Cumberland. 

North Yarmouth pays Cumberland each year for recreation, library, public access TV, snow removal and animal control. Cumberland also plans to phase in parks costs for North Yarmouth over three years, starting with about $11,000 in fiscal 2012 and ultimately rising to about $33,000.

The spending plan the North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen approved in April did not include funding for parks, or about $8,700 in extra library and recreation funds that reflected North Yarmouth’s population increase between 2000 and 2010.

Residents were faced with losing all six services if they did not add the nearly $20,000 total to their fiscal 2012 budget. The issue led to lengthy discussion at North Yarmouth’s Town Meeting last month, where an amendment to add the extra funds produced a split show of hands, forcing the decision to a written ballot.

It passed by three votes, 68-65, and was ultimately approved as amended by a show of hands.

But some residents expressed a desire to look into options with other towns over the next year, and to improve communication between Cumberland and North Yarmouth in forging future service agreements.

Last week’s meeting included Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane and Town Councilors Steve Moriarty, Bill Stiles and George Turner, as well as North Yarmouth Administrative Assistant Marnie Diffin, Selectmen Steve Palmer and Andrew Walsh, and Budget Committee member Pam Ames.

Shane said Monday that the town representatives talked about each of the services Cumberland provides North Yarmouth, and reviewed the last few years of budgets.

The two towns are scheduled to meet again Wednesday, July 20, in North Yarmouth, to discuss the library budget. Recreation will be discussed Aug. 10 in Cumberland, and parks will be on the agenda Aug. 24, also in Cumberland.

Shane said the meetings will give North Yarmouth officials a chance to ask questions, give feedback, discuss programming, staffing and budget concerns.

“We’re not going to be kind of debating any of this at this point,” he said. “We’re really trying to develop more background information, so everybody starts at the same level.”

Shane added that “hopefully, within a month, (we will) at least have the background information handy, and then we can start the discussion on the services and how those break down, and what are the next steps.”

He said he hoped that Cumberland’s Town Council and North Yarmouth’s Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee will ultimately be “all on the same page, so that there’s no misinformation,” and that the North Yarmouth officials have “what they need, so that they feel confident that they can share that information with their public.”

Diffin said Monday that she thought the first meeting went well, and that it set the groundwork for the next few meetings. She noted that the meetings will now give North Yarmouth officials a chance to hear detailed presentations from Cumberland on the services.

Those officials “want to make sure that North Yarmouth tax dollars are being spent wisely,” she said, noting that the town will still look into service options from other towns, as discussed at Town Meeting.

Shane said last week’s meeting was “very cordial.”

“I think everybody kind of rolled up their sleeves and said OK, let’s work together to see if we can get this done and see if we can get to a place that at least informed decisions can be made,” he said. “Whether they choose to stay (with Cumberland) or choose to look for services elsewhere, at least the background and the information is out there, (so) that they can evaluate that decision again based on fact.”

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

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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.