North Yarmouth OKs extra money for services from Cumberland

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Town Meeting on Saturday narrowly approved adding nearly $20,000 to the fiscal 2012 budget.

The vote ensures the town will continue to receive a package of services from Cumberland for another year.

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

The municipal budget will increase from $2.1 million this year to $2.6 million next year. The entire budget, with costs for school, county and overlay added in, will rise from $7.2 million to nearly $8 million, with taxes increasing from $5.9 million to $6.2 million.

The projected tax rate will rise from the current $12.45 per $1,000 of property value to $13.23.

The additional $20,000 will fill a gap between what North Yarmouth budgeted to fund services it receives from Cumberland, and what Cumberland requested.

North Yarmouth pays Cumberland each year for recreation, library, snow removal, public access TV and animal control services. Cumberland also sought help for next year with its parks budget. The town has planned to phase in parks costs for North Yarmouth over three years, starting with about $11,000 in fiscal 2012 and ultimately increasing 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 to reflect North Yarmouth’s population increase between 2000 and 2010.

Residents were faced with losing all six services if they did not pay the total fee.

Heather Giandrea’s amendment to add more than $19,600 to the public lands and recreation portion of the budget produced such a split show of hands that the matter went to a written ballot, where it passed by three votes, 68-65. The warrant article was ultimately approved as amended by a show of hands.

The Cumberland Town Council on Monday authorized Town Manager Bill Shane to execute a service agreement between the two towns.

“I hope moving forward that we can … put this behind us, and work on better collaboration and a better meeting of the minds,” Shane said.

Lincoln Merrill of North Road noted during Saturday’s discussion that “we seem to have an overwhelming belief that all of our services need to be purchased from the town of Cumberland. I would allege that the services in the town of Yarmouth, or the town of Falmouth, or the town of Freeport, in many areas, are just as acceptable, but we’ve never actually debated what services we should provide, or actually gone out to a bid process to figure out where those should be provided.”

He added that “I do not think that we do as effective a job as we should in figuring out whether we’re getting the best bang for our buck.”

Mark Girard, who served on a recent ad-hoc committee on agreements between North Yarmouth and Cumberland, said the town should be thoughtful about how it spends its money.

He said one recommendation of the committee, which was embraced by Cumberland, was that there be more communication and joint meetings between the Board of Selectmen and Cumberland’s Town Council “to address these issues, and to come up with an understanding and a process by which there will be appropriate input and good decisions made.”

Darla Hamlin, who was recently elected to the Board of Selectmen, said the extra money was “somewhat insignificant” when it comes to providing for youths, but she noted that “I have a problem with a community coming to us and asking us to help maintain … a park … that they’ve had in existence for some time. They never asked us to participate in voting whether we needed a park of that magnitude, and now (they have) decided they can’t afford it, so they want to assess us to help them pay for the park.”

“Does anyone like to be told ‘you are going to pay this, no matter what?,'” resident Jeanne Chadbourne said. “No, they don’t. And I don’t want Cumberland … to put me into a corner when it comes to my tax money. But in this situation, looking at … what we’ve had for a few years, I would approve the increase to do this one more year, with an awful lot of discussion with Cumberland in the year to come.”

Mill Road

Voters rejected a proposal to borrow $900,000 for the resurfacing and partial reconstruction of Mill Road.

Girard, who was among those who opposed passage of the article, said “the net effect of the work doesn’t warrant the expense. I think the scope of the work has been poorly executed. Although it’s been adjusted midstream several times, there have been choices made which were not the most cost-efficient.”

Selectman Paul Napolitano defended the work on the grounds the town must take care of its infrastructure, and either “pay now, or pay more later.”

Voters also approved the creation of an official Fire Department. Administrative Assistant Marnie Diffin explained earlier this month that the town has used the fire and rescue services of the existing independent fire company, but has paid fire company members as if they are town employees.

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.