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Woodstock discusses impact of Governor's budget
WOODSTOCK — Woodstock selectmen last week learned the potential impact on their town of Governor Paul LePage’s budget proposal to suspend municipal revenue sharing for the next two fiscal years.
The suspension would save the state approximately $200 million over those years, according to the LePage administration, but many towns are saying it would simply push the burden on to them.
Town Manager Vern Maxfield told selectmen, at their meeting last week, that suspending revenue sharing “would look like a 4 percent increase in our budget,” and a .47 increase in the mil rate (currently 11.45).
Revenue sharing for Woodstock this year was about $58,000, Maxfield said, and the tax commitment was about $2 million.
Resident Hank Forman, who attended the board meeting, said Woodstock will have to look at how to cut its budget more.
“It’s tough, it’s hard, but the governor is having to make some hard decisions, so we need to start looking at hard things, too,” he said.
Selectman Ron Deegan said much of the Woodstock budget includes items that are not controllable, such as electricity, fuel, insurance and labor costs.
Selectmen Rick Young agreed. “You’re not going to squeeze much more unless you start laying people off,” he said.
The state Legislature, controlled by Democrats, can make changes to the budget proposal in working out a deal with the governor.
In a discussion by selectmen on the Greenwood-Woodstock Transfer Station, Young said it appears that Greenwood is generating more trash, possibly due to more development in recent years.
The towns have shared the transfer station, located in Greenwood, since 1986. Woodstock has paid 60 percent of the annual bill and Greenwood 40 percent, according to Maxfield, because Woodstock has had more people.
But recently, said Young, the amount of trash from Greenwood seems to have caught up. “I think we’re about 50/50,” he said.
Maxfield said the G&W board, which oversees the station and is comprised of selectmen from both towns, will likely discuss the possibility of adjusting the cost-sharing formula.
Although Greenwood may have had more development than Woodstock in the past few years, that does not mean all was quiet in 2012 on the building front in Woodstock, according to Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman.
She said the Planning Board had issued about 50 building permits in 2012, netting the town about $3,000 in fees. Although there were only a couple of new homes, “there’s plenty of activity, keeping local contractors busy,” she said.
A business building permit has also been issued for the Crazy Sisters Redemption center, to be located next to the Post Office in a building that had previously served the same purpose. It is expected to open in March.
Corey-Whitman also updated the board on her efforts regarding several properties that have been out of compliance with the town’s property maintenance ordinance. In addition, she reported that North Pond property owner Ken Roberts had paid a $1,875 fine for illegally cutting trees too close to the pond. He has also been directed to plant new trees.
In other business:
• Maxfield said the town attorney has reviewed a proposed wind ordinance crafted by a special town committee, and the committee is now updating it based on his recommendations. A final version is expected for early February, and a public hearing will likely take place later in the month. The ordinance will be voted upon at the annual town meeting in March.
• Selectmen voted to pay time-and-a-half to firefighters who man the stations on holidays. They are generally on call for those days. But, said Young, “My feeling is that if the fire department is manning on a holiday, they should be paid time and a half. We’re only looking at five or six holidays out of the year. We do appreciate the work they do and what they’re bringing to the community.”
The town shares enhanced mutual aid services with Greenwood, and the two towns take turns manning each other’s stations on alternating days.
• The board approved interfaith minister Sarah Shepley of South Paris to deliver a prayer at the annual town meeting. The board decided last year to use different clergy each year, after receiving complaints that Christian prayers delivered in past years may have made people of different religious beliefs feel uncomfortable.
• Young reported that the transfer station has received delivery of a used bucketloader purchased from Cumberland for $29,500.