North Yarmouth Town Meeting: Recreation, library, other services at risk

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The town could lose recreation, library and other services it receives from Cumberland if it does not add nearly $20,000 to its fiscal 2012 budget at Town Meeting on Saturday, June 18.

North Yarmouth pays Cumberland annually for recreation, library, snow removal, public access TV and animal control services. Cumberland is also in need of help with its parks budget, Town Manager Bill Shane has said, and the town has planned to phase in parks costs for North Yarmouth over three years, starting with about $11,000 in fiscal 2012.

The spending plan the North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen approved in April calls for a three-year contract with Cumberland for recreation, about $59,000 a year, and a one-year $134,500 agreement for library services. But that budget does not include money for parks services.

Rob Wood, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said June 10 that the board is trying to reduce the increase in costs, and that it put off discussion on parks “until we have more firm figures on that.”

“I believe there was not a compelling reason (as to) what the cost included, and why it should be paid for by the residents,” he said.

The budget also does not include about $8,700 in extra library and recreation money to Cumberland to reflect North Yarmouth’s population increase between 2000 and 2010.

North Yarmouth Administrative Assistant Marnie Diffin said the budget numbers the town worked on in January were based on the 2000 census. She said the new census numbers were available in March, but that the town did not receive Cumberland’s request reflecting updated figures until May, after selectmen had approved a fiscal 2012 budget to send to Town Meeting.

Town Manager Bill Shane said he sent letters to Diffin in November and January stating that the money Cumberland requested for recreation, library and parks was a draft assessment and that the numbers would be updated when new census information was released.

Wood said appropriation of money to cover the census increase is “a valid request,” and that those funds could be added by Town Meeting.

Diffin noted that “Cumberland’s position is that they would prefer that all six services be bundled together, and that if you don’t pay for parks, then you can’t have any of the other five. North Yarmouth’s position is that parks was never part of the bundle, because it’s new; we prefer not to bundle it in, and so that’s where the difference is.”

But she added that “we have yet to see anything from an official (Cumberland) council agenda that says it’s all or nothing. It came out of a workshop; there are no minutes from that workshop.”

Shane said the Cumberland Town Council opposed holding off on North Yarmouth’s parks fee in fiscal 2012. He noted that parks has a budget of more than $184,000, and Cumberland is asking only about $11,000 from North Yarmouth for next year.

He said that between the census data difference and the lack of money for parks, there is a nearly $20,000 gap between what North Yarmouth’s budget proposes and what Cumberland is requesting.

Shane said the Cumberland council supports meeting with North Yarmouth officials more frequently as Cumberland builds its future budgets, but that North Yarmouth “can’t not have some type of assessment for parks, so that’s kind of the line in the sand.”

“It’s not an a la carte menu,” he said. “We can’t budget that way, we can’t program that way.”

Shane also said that charging nonresident program fees of North Yarmouth residents would not work, given the large number of North Yarmouth residents who use Cumberland services.

“We’re not going to basically allow an entire community to pay nonresident fees,” Shane said, and “try to figure out who’s going to show up for what program, and how many numbers we’re going to have. And also it’s a massive hole in the budget.”

North Yarmouth resident Heather Giandrea recently served on an ad hoc committee that studied existing and future agreements between the two towns. She said she supports adding the extra money into the budget to fund all six services at the levels Cumberland has requested.

Giandrea said she supports the parks maintenance fee because “we are renting a service, just like we are renting a home. We’re not paying the mortgage, but we are helping pay the utilities.”

She noted that North Yarmouth’s fee for next year would only be 6 percent of the total parks cost.

Diffin said the extra $20,000 would add 5 cents to next year’s municipal tax rate, increasing it from $12.52 per $1,000 of property valuation to $12.57.

Other warrant items

Also at Town Meeting, residents will vote on a $3.5 million municipal budget for fiscal 2012. Nearly $906,000 would come from taxes – a 7.44 percent increase over the current year. The increase would hike the municipal tax rate from $12.45 per $1,000 of property valuation to $12.52, unless the additional money to Cumberland is included.

A $1 million bond is factored into next year’s spending plan. The resurfacing and partial reconstruction of Mill Road would use $900,000 of that bond, and the rest would go toward the balance of the $350,000 expense of a replacement fire truck.

Also proposed is about $160,000 to resurface all of Mountfort Road.

Another warrant item is an ordinance to create an official Fire Department.

“Right now the town has never officially created a Fire Department,” Diffin said, noting that the town has used the fire and rescue services of the existing fire company, and has paid fire company members as if they are town employees.

The fire company is an entity independent of the town, Diffin explained. State law requires the Board of Selectmen to appoint a fire chief, and in the past it has appointed the person chosen by the company, she said.

Establishing the department is “really just declaring what (the town has) actually been doing, and not changing it in midstream.”

North Yarmouth should save nearly $80,000 next year when solid waste and recyclables are picked up by one truck instead of two. The town could also save about $15,000 by closing Town Hall on Fridays. Two full-time employees and one part-timer would have reduced hours.

The budget also includes $19,000 to pay for a 20-hour position to assist in areas like paperwork, training, scheduling and ambulance inventories. An increase of almost $7,000 for fire and rescue gear, and an additional $20,000 for narrow-band radios to comply with a federal mandate, are also proposed.

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.