Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 15, 2014
Castine Town Meeting
Castine voters overwhelmingly approve $7+ million in capital improvements
Julie Van der Graaf and Jim Goodson of Castine, Maine cast their ballots at Castine Town Meeting on May 10, 2014 in Maine.
by Anne Berleant
Voters made short work and had little to say before approving more than $7 million in bonds for capital improvements to water, sewer and other public infrastructure, including burying utility wires underground.
The $9+ million in debt service incurred through the bonds will be repaid over a 20-year period and not affect property tax rates, said Town Manager Dale Abernethy, as about an equal amount of debt service will be retired this year.
A total of 56 warrant articles were approved at town meeting on May 10 in just over 2-1/2 hours—the briefest town meeting many attendees could recall in Castine.
The only discussions on the capital improvement articles was to vote on burying utility wires underground before the infrastructure upgrade project. Doug Koos made the motion to switch the order of the articles from the floor.
“There are a lot of us who will not vote for the capital [improvement] project” without utility lines being buried, Koos said. “If they’re not put underground now, it will never happen.”
The cost for burying the lines is about $1 million or $1.3 million in debt service, including $70,000 for running secondary lines from transformers to private Main Street residences.
“[We should] hold our noses and vote yes,” said Bob Friedlander. “It’s holding the whole project hostage.”
The article was approved 80-14, separate from the overall underground wiring project, which passed 81-11, with no discussion.
The larger capital improvement article, to improve water, sewer and other infrastructure in downtown streets, passed 86-6, while a new water filtration system at the Battle Avenue water facility was approved 82-4.
“This borrowing will not impact the water rates,” said Abernethy.
The annual payment for the debt service will be about $345,000 and will begin in 2015-16 and is not part of the budget passed at town meeting, as was reported in last week’s Castine Patriot.
The approved capital improvement projects are the second phase of a three-phase plan to repair and upgrade the village infrastructure.
With Robin Mass as moderator, voters also approved a 2014-15 municipal budget of $2,000,084, with nearly all articles adopted unanimously. A few lone nays were voiced over a $20,000 request for economic development consultants, and for allowing Witherle Memorial Library to spend $5,000 from its investment fund on building maintenance.
The economic development funding request was $10,000 lower than last year.
“We feel we can live with that,” said Rick Armstrong, chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee. “We’re basically buying services as we need them.”
The CED has also “spurred” merchants to raise $5,000 for advertising in national magazines, Armstrong said. “We really want to put the committee in a role to be catalytic.”
“I just want to say thank you to Dale Abernethy,” said Joe Slocum as the final municipal article passed, to an extended round of applause from those present. Abernethy is retiring as town manager on July 1.
School articles representing a $1,426,404 budget and 2.8 percent increase over this year also passed with few questions, after a break in which nearly half those present left the meeting.
“There is not one thing that is attributable to [the] increase,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.
There are 49 pre-K through eighth grade students at Adams School and 28 attending high schools.
“We’re hoping that stays stable for the next year,” Hurvitt said.
The meeting adjourned at 11:05 a.m. “I can’t get over how much money we spend,” remarked one citizen, as people left Emerson Hall, another town meeting behind them.