Wardtown Road is top priority in Freeport capital budget

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FREEPORT — The Town Council on Tuesday heard a proposal for a five-year capital improvement plan that would include more than $2.67 million worth of projects for fiscal year 2015, nearly three times the amount approved for 2014.

Nearly half of those funds would go to the repair of Wardtown Road. The plan calls for $1 million to repair a 2.5-mile stretch of the street, also known as Route 125, from Griffin Road to the intersection with Grant and Lunt roads.

The Department of Transportation has agreed to fund half of that money through a municipal partnership initiative grant. The plan calls also calls for an additional $300,000 to pave 3-foot-wide shoulders.

While Wardtown Road has undergone patchwork repairs, it has not been rebuilt in more than 20 years, said Town Manager Peter Joseph, who presented the capital budget with Finance Director Abbe Yacoben. The road’s uneven pavement and high speed limit could make it a safety concern going forward, and residents have complained about the state of the road, Joseph said.

Other significant expenditures proposed for 2015 include $372,000 for two new ambulances for the rescue unit; $150,000 to help cap and close a demolition landfill; and $138,000 for storm water runoff and parking lot improvements at the Pownal Road recreational fields.

The capital program covers areas including police, fire, rescue, public works, solid waste/recycling, comprehensive town improvements, municipal facilities and cable. Most projects are paid for out of reserve funds tied to those respective areas. Others may be funded through tax increment financing, bonds or grants.

Funding in a given area can change radically from one year to the next. For example, the Police Department’s proposal for fiscal year 2016 asks for just $35,000 for one new squad car; in 2018, that number jumps to $189,400 for two new squad cars, firearm replacements, updated mobile data terminals and more.

In other areas, it remains more consistent; the cable department has requested a capital improvement budget of $14,000 in four of the plan’s five years.

The council scheduled a public hearing on the plan for April 1. Councilors will vote April 15 on adoption of the capital program.

Peddlers’ ordinance

It’s about to get a little easier to become a hot dog vendor in Freeport.

The council penned an amendment to the town’s public peddlers’ ordinance on Tuesday with plans to approve it March 18.

The town holds four commercial and two non-commercial licenses for street vendors. The public peddlers’ ordinance requires annual license applications to be submitted during certain days in January.

When it was written, the town had a surplus of people interested in those licenses and used a lottery system to dole them out to qualifying applicants. In recent years, however, several licenses have gone unclaimed, and people seeking to obtain them after the January deadline have been denied because of the ordinance.

“We’ve been leaving spots vacant and town revenue on the table,” Councilor Rich DeGrandpre said.

Under the revised ordinance, any unclaimed or relinquished licenses will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis.

Chandler Harrison, a senior at Freeport High School, is among those happy about the pending ordinance change. He said he plans to obtain a license and start a business selling cheese-steaks and sausage sandwiches as part of his senior class project.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.