HARPSWELL — Voters will decide two referendum questions Nov. 6 regarding legal fees and improvements at a local boat launch.
The first question will be to appropriate $25,000 from the unassigned fund balance to make improvements to the Pott’s Point boat launch and town parking area.
The second will see if the town will allocate $30,000 from unassigned funds to the contingency reserve account “for certain 2018 expenditures, including legal fees.”
When asked Sept. 11 if the Mitchell Field water tower lawsuit prompted the second question, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said via email that legal fees and “possibly” road maintenance costs “are a primary concern” for the town this year.
She added the town has a $16,000 contingency reserve, but that amount “may not be enough to cover unanticipated expenses in both of those areas.”
Treasurer Marguerite Kelly said Sept. 12 that the town spent $20,554 on water tower litigation through the end of July, which is the last period for which it was billed.
The town’s total budget for the year for legal costs is $50,000, and through the end of July it spent $35,313, according to Kelly.
Costs related to Mitchell Field totaled $3,080, and general expenses were $6,674. Legal input for a violation of land use ordinances also cost the town $3,112.
Kelly affirmed the total legal expenses are higher than what the town has typically spent on legal bills by this point in the year in the past, and was a consideration for the question.
The funds will be used for costs “that may exceed appropriated amounts due to special or unforeseen circumstances,” according to the ballot, and that any unused money will remain in the contingency reserve account.
When discussing the question on legal fees at the Board of Selectmen’s Sept. 6 meeting, Eiane said, “We’re just concerned given some of the other budget things that are going on, legal expenses, that we need to boost the contingency reserve account. Obviously we won’t spend it unless we need to spend it and then it just gets carried over and stays in that contingency reserve.”
The $25,000 proposed for the Pott’s Point boat launch is in addition to $25,000 in previously approved funds from the Land Acquisition and Town Property Improvement Fund. Half of the project’s cost will also be covered by a Small Harbor Improvement Grant from the Maine Department of Transportation.
Sawyer said via email Sept. 11 that the boat ramp at Potts Point is too low, causing it to get buried in the sand and rendering it “unusable.”
She said the design for the project calls “for leaving the existing ramp in place but building a newer and higher ramp over it with the concrete boat ramps.”
A contractor for the program has not been chosen, but if it is approved by the voters in November it will go out to bid.
The other piece of the project involves adding gravel to the parking area near the wharf.
Selectmen recommended the project be placed on the November ballot at their Aug. 23 meeting.
Sawyer said that evening the state wants the boat ramp completed before the parking, and the town “does not have enough funding.” The total cost of the Pott’s Point project is about $100,000.
At the same meeting, Chairman Rick Daniel asked when the work would begin if the project is approved in November.
Sawyer said she will ask the contractor if the work can be done in the winter, and if so, “it’s going to be weather-dependent at that point, but if it’s able to be done, then we want it done as soon as possible, certainly before May, before the (boating) season starts.”
Eiane said Sept. 6 that because both questions technically are special Town Meeting warrant articles requiring secret ballots, they require a public hearing. The town will post a public notice of the hearing when it is scheduled.
She also said the warrant will need to be revised at the selectmen’s next meeting to “make it clear” the referendum questions will be voted on by secret ballot. The signed warrant is available for viewing on the town website.
Voting on Election Day will be held 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in three locations.
For Mountain Road and Harpswell Neck residents, voting will be at Elijah Kellogg Church, also known as Fellowship Hall, at 917 Harpswell Neck Road.
Great Islanders can vote at the Cundys Harbor Community Building, 837 Cundys Harbor Road.
Orrs/Bailey Island residents will be at the old Orrs Island School House, 1594 Harpswell Islands Road.
More information about how to vote absentee is available on the town website.