Waste hauling, EMS top Durham Town Meeting warrant

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DURHAM — Choosing a company to haul household trash and recyclables, plus the future of emergency medical service are top items at the April 1 annual Town Meeting.

Residents and registered voters will act on 42 warrant articles beginning at 9 a.m. at Durham Community School, 654 Hallowell Road.

If all articles are approved, the town’s general operations budget will be set at more than $2.97 million, an increase of almost 11 percent over the $2.6 million budget voters approved almost a year ago. The impact on property tax bills would be an additional $54 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser.

Choosing a new curbside waste and recycling pickup company is the focus of Article 4. Two companies submitted bids for fiscal years 2018-2020: Pine Tree Waste and Tice Waste Management.

Pine Tree Waste would cost almost $620,000; the contract with Tice Waste Management came in at $561,000. The board of selectmen and budget committee each recommend choosing Pine Tree Waste, Durham’s current vendor.

Sarah Hall, board vice chairman, said they appreciate the enthusiasm of Josh Tice, owner of Norway-based Tice Waste Management. But Tice has not handled a municipal contract, Hall said.

Tice also does not own the trash compactor needed to do the job, and would have to borrow equipment, she said.

“We have very high recycling rates now,” Hall said. “We ultimately made the decision to go with what we know works.”

EMS calls, meanwhile, are up 71 percent since 2012, Fire Chief Bill St. Michel said previously. As in other Maine communities, the number of people volunteering for rescue service calls is declining. Since 2012, St. Michel said, EMS personnel is down 40 percent.

The “current department roster cannot completely staff all required EMS coverage assignments,” he noted in a PowerPoint presentation. Accident victims cannot be physically moved or extricated from a vehicular crash until an EMS person arrives.

Durham began offering emergency medical services in 1997. The fire chief, volunteers and a part-time employee have provided the service. Now, the town needs more EMS coverage, he said.

Town Meeting attendees may learn of the several options St. Michel has mapped out to remedy this need, through shift schedules and stipends. Proposed costs to taxpayers for a new and improved schedule ranges from $40 to $207 a year.

Residents will vote on 28 separate funding articles, including Article 32, which requires a vote by written ballot. It affects taxpayers because it involves increasing the amount of money that can be raised to meet the town’s operating budget.  It does not apply to property taxes raised for schools, counties, TIFs, or the overlay, per the state’s Office and Policy Management website. The maximum levy limit per state law is $1.01 million.

Article 13 asks residents to approve raising $3,000 to support social and community service agencies. Community Concepts, Western Maine Transportation, Lisbon Area Christian Outreach, Tri-County Mental Health, Seniors Plus and Oasis Free Clinic would each receive $500.

Financial support for the Eureka Community Center is the intent of Article 14. Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommend $4,900.

Public safety is the focus of Articles 15 through 18.

The Durham Fire and Rescue operating budget is earmarked to receive almost $322,000, if residents agree with the selectmen and budget committee, per Article 15.

Setting aside $50,000 in the Fire and Rescue Capital Improvement Account is Article 16’s intent.

Article 17 asks voters to approve the fourth payment of six for the Quint Ladder Fire Truck, which will cost a bit over $33,000.

Approval of a $486,000 bond for a new fire truck is requested in Article 18. If approved, no payments would be due until a year from now. And, if approved, the total amount Durham owes in outstanding bond payments would be $4.9 million.

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

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