Longtime councilor nominated for Yarmouth award

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YARMOUTH — Before councilors discuss municipal spending at their meeting April 19, they will take time to honor one of their own.

Councilor Erving Bickford has been nominated to receive this year’s Latchstring Award, established in 1980 to laud public service and leadership. The award name is a reference to the town motto: “Our latchstring is always out.”

Illness has prevented Bickford from attending council meetings lately, but his service in town government predates the award; he was first elected in 1978.

Bickford has been a councilor for 24 of the ensuing 34 years. His current term expires in June.

His tenure “has been only an extension of his unflinching and unflagging love of spirit of this community manifest by gestures as simple as a warm smile and wave to every passerby,” according to a resolution councilors will consider at the April 19 meeting.

If the resolution passes, Bickford will be honored with the award at the June 5 Town Meeting.

Budget hearing

Following the vote on the Latchstring Award, councilors will hold a public hearing on a combined $32.06 million municipal and school budget for fiscal 2013, with a local taxpayer share of $26.21 million.

If passed, the combined budgets would require a tax increase of 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from the current $20.28 to $21.15, according to projections by Town Manager Nat Tupper.

The municipal budget presents a spending increase of $271,000 to $10.92 million. Tupper attributed the increases almost in total to a shift of 2.5 positions from Regional School Unit 5 to public works at a cost of $161,000, and the decision to allocate $195,000 for improvements to Route 88.

The allocation for repairs to Route 88 from Pleasant Street to Princes Point Road will be combined with money intended for other road projects to meet a 50 percent match of $228,000 on a Maine Department of Transportation grant for the work.

The spending increases are offset by a $40,000 reduction in the community development budget, elimination of $46,000 of part-time administration wages, and a $20,400 reduction in tipping fees at the ecomaine waste facility in Portland.

The retirement of a bond paying for 1991 improvements to the wastewater treatment plant saves the town $398,000 in debt service payments, Tupper said.

Council Chairman Steve Woods said “the budget review was the most vigorous I have been part of.”

Woods said the reviews were often conducted with the minimum of four councilors needed for a quorum. Some sessions and meetings, including last month’s regular council meeting, were rescheduled, too.

“It is and was not an ideal situation,” Woods said.

Bickford’s condition prevented full participation by councilors, and Councilors Carl Winslow and Tim Saunders also missed the March 19 meeting and some budget review sessions.

Bickford, Winslow and Saunders hold seats up for election in June because of expiring terms and Saunders’ decision to resign with a year left on his three-year term.

Woods said he does not expect future town business to be disrupted for lack of a quorum, but added he hopes potential council candidates understand the demands of the office.

“I hope we will have at least three people running who are interested in being engaged,” he said.

The municipal budget faces voter approval at the June 5 Town Meeting. The $20.16 million school budget faces a town meeting-style vote on the 11 “cost centers” and specific operations, and then a district-wide referendum June 12.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.