Harpswell voters to decide on $4M budget at Town Meeting

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HARPSWELL — Along with two contested elections, residents will vote on the town’s 2010 budget at Town Meeting on Saturday, March 20.

The proposed $4 million municipal budget is down about 1 percent from last year, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said Tuesday. Harpswell’s budget runs on a calendar year, so the budget approved at Town Meeting will apply to January through December of this year.

Eiane noted that the tax rate has yet to be determined, since the amount of money Harpswell will pay to School Administrative District 75 will not be approved by district voters until June.

By Town Meeting, Harpswell residents will have also voted, on Tuesday, March 9, whether to keep the West Harpswell School open. The SAD 75 Board of Directors voted last June to close the school and move its students to the larger Harpswell Islands School.

At the start of the March 20 meeting voters will cast secret ballots for elected officials and on one referendum question.

Incumbent Selectman James Henderson is being challenged by Alison Hawkes for his seat and  incumbent Dorothy Carrier is challenged by Linda Hall for a seat on the SAD 75 Board of Directors. Both are three-year terms. All other elections are uncontested.

The referendum question asks the town to spend nearly $120,000 for the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. Eiane said this is an annual appropriation to allow Harpswell residents open and free access to the library.

Selectmen Henderson and Elinor Multer and the Budget Advisory Committee recommend the expenditure, while Selectman Mark Wallace does not.

The latest draft of the Town Meeting warrant has 65 articles. Eiane said she expects the warrant to be signed by the Board of Selectmen at its Thursday, March 4, meeting.

Two warrant articles ask residents to vote on one of two versions of a Harpswell blasting ordinance. Article 10, recommended by Henderson but not by Multer and Wallace, is proposed by the Planning Board. The ordinance in Article 11, which can be passed over if Article 10 is approved, is recommended by all three selectmen and primarily ensures that notice is given to all abutting property owners.

The Article 10 ordinance has additional provisions, Eiane said, concerning water testing being done prior to blasting so that data before and after can be compared, “to ensure that the neighbors are protected from the blasting that occurs.”

Article 48 asks voters to approve borrowing up to $600,000 to purchase emergency service vehicles that would be owned by the town and leased to local fire departments. The Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s/Bailey Island and Harpswell Neck departments are independent entities from the town, Eiane said.

The secret-ballot portion of the meeting, to be held at Harpswell Islands School, will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the business meeting at 10 a.m.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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.