Route 88 road work at risk in 2010 budget
CUMBERLAND — A proposal to put a credit union on Main Street will go to a public hearing at the Town Council’s Feb. 23 meeting.
Also scheduled for the meeting are a public hearing on the rezoning of the town-owned Doane Property and a presentation on the Rines Forest Management Plan.
Town Manager Bill Shane is also expected to present a 2010 budget, which will go to workshop March 7.
The contract zone proposal on behalf of Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union is expected to bring Main Street residents out in force, many of whom have expressed fears of traffic and parking issues at the already-congested intersection of Main Street/Route 9 and Farwell Avenue.
The site plan proposal tries to address concerns raised by widening Farwell Avenue to allow road-side parking in what is now an unpaved right-of-way, and increasing the turning radius onto Farwell Avenue to improve safety. The plan also includes building sidewalks on both sides of Farwell Avenue and a portion of Main Street and moving the existing sidewalk farther up Main Street to the current traffic signal to address pedestrian safety.
Some residents are opposed simply to the idea of the credit union. While some have no problem with business uses in general, they’ve expressed the hope that a more community-building use, like a coffee shop, go into the former Chase Flower Shop.
Councilor Shirley Storey-King, on the other hand, has said that if the contract zone were for a bank, she would have been opposed. But she said a credit union better serves its customers, since all credit unions are member-owned.
A contract zone is required for any business use on the property. While it was formerly used by the flower shop, that use was grandfathered and the property has reverted back to the underlying residential zone.
In contrast to the credit union discussion, a public hearing on the Doane Property rezoning is expected to go smoothly. So far, public comment has been minimal on the Planning Board’s recommendation that the property be rezoned to encourage dense, mixed commercial and residential uses.
The town currently owns the property, which is behind Drowne Road School and bordered by the Town Forest, and hopes to sell it to developers in the future. The rezoning is being proposed in the hopes that the non-performing town asset might bring in business development and increase tax revenues.
The Rines Forest Management Plan will be presented Monday as well, with details on plans for selective cutting within the 200-acre forest. The cutting is a measure proposed to eradicate invasive plants within the forest.
Shane said he will present two versions of a 2010 budget. The first will include a zero percent increase to taxes. In order to achieve the flat budget, Shane took out a proposed Route 88 reconstruction project, which town councilors hope to fund next year.
The second budget, with a 3 percent increase, will include the Route 88 work, which will address drainage issues, bring the road back up to state standards, and include paved shoulders for bike and pedestrian traffic. The Route 88 project will add $240,000 to next year’s budget. The same amount would be included in future budgets as debt payment for the project.
In both budgets, Shane has frozen salaries for all town employees except those in public works, who are under a three-year contract. Those workers, however, opted to give back a total of $25,000 in the form of half their overtime, which will be converted to future time off.
Police Department employees are currently discussing giving up their contracted 2 percent raises.
Three full-time positions have been turned into part-time jobs, including a paramedic, a librarian, and a public works employee. The willingness of those employees to cut hours or pay likely saved at least two other town positions, Shane said.
Part-time employee benefits are proposed to be eliminated, along with all services at the brush dump facility other than leaves, brush and yard waste dumping. Shane hopes to include a fee for dumping at that facility.
Shane has also proposed fee increases for the Planning Board review process and victualer licenses.
Also under exploration is a future merger of the Fire and Rescue departments. The merger would “not be ready tomorrow,” Shane said, but the department chiefs are talking about what such a program might look like.
After Shane presents the budget Feb. 23, a workshop will be held by the Finance Committee March 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Televised public hearings are scheduled for Town Council meetings on April 13 and 27.