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Spirited debate meets Appleton town meeting  

Credit:  By Kim Lincoln, Herald Gazette, knox.villagesoup.com 16 June 2011 ~~

Appleton – Residents offered passionate discussion and made several amendments at the 2011 annual town meeting June 15.

About 45 people attended the meeting, which lasted about three hours. Many of the articles generated questions or comments from attendees.

The total budget package for the coming fiscal year was approved at $681,882. Voters also approved taking $200,000 from surplus to reduce the property tax assessment.

Residents passed all but one of the 33 articles. The one article that failed to gain approval was a question concerning an amendment to the Appleton Shoreland Zoning Map, which was to include a property in the resource protection zone at the head of Sennebec Pond across from the Appleton Village School. The question was defeated 22 to 17.

Under a question asking to allow the Board of Selectmen to appoint and set compensation for town officials, Fire Chief David Stone raised a concern about being allowed to spend the fire department budget as he sees fit.

“I’ve been appointed fire chief. I’m not asking for more money, I’m not, but I feel I’ve been put out,” Stone said. “I’ve been given a budget, but I’ve been told I can’t spend it on what I need to spend it on.”

Stone asked the town to allow him to spend the fire department budget as he sees fit or the town would be looking for a new fire chief.

“If I have to come to you every time I want to spend $100 the game will be over,” the chief said.

Selectmen did not respond to Stone’s comments as moderator Elmer “Buddy” Savage of Union, as well as some other residents, noted this article question was not the right place for this discussion and it could be addressed later in the meeting.

Lorie Costigan said a similar concern was brought up last year by the road commissioner, who is an elected official, and she asked what the impact would be if it were voted down.

Savage said no officials could be appointed.

Selectman Don Burke said state law determines the salary of the fire chief and he said Stone came before the board a few years ago with a list of suggested salaries for himself and the crew.

Stone said he did not want more money, as he is a volunteer. He just wants to know he can spend the budgeted money.

As the fire chief continued to discuss the issue, Savage continued to tell him it could be addressed later in the meeting when the appropriate question came forward. Savage then told Stone to stop talking and called for a vote.

The question was ultimately passed and later in the meeting when the fire department budget question came up, Stone did not bring up the issue again.

A question to carry forward the professional services line drew a considerable discussion. The town is currently involved in a lawsuit where it was found by the courts that the town erred in issuing a building permit for a home built on Route 131 by Jacob Boyington. The issue was brought forth by abutters Patrick and Lorie Costigan and Paul and Rita Gagnon, who argued that the home would be too close to the property lines and the lot was too small to be developed.

Town officials had suggested carrying $28,133 forward. Of that amount, about $4,000 is needed for audits and another $2,000 is for Maine Municipal Association dues. Residents questioned if the remainder would be needed for legal fees. Burke said if it is not used it will go into surplus.

To date the town has spent $10,300 on the Boyington case.

A resident asked to amend the question to instead carry $10,000 forward, but it was noted that about $6,000 of that was needed for purposes other than legal fees. So the question was amended a second time, and approved 26 to 16, to carry forward $16,000.

Townspeople said it is important to know what’s happening in the case and they would rather carry forward a smaller amount and then if more is needed come back to a special town meeting.

Residents approved a Wind Energy Facility Ordinance to guide projects. The ordinance defines four classes of turbines, reserving tougher restrictions for turbines that generate more than 100 kilowatts and are more than 80 feet tall, and projects with more than one turbine. The ordinance does not effect turbines already built in town, unless the homeowner wishes to make changes or updates.

Randall Parr, who is an associate member of the planning board, spoke against the ordinance.

“It’s a backward move to put a hurdle and bureaucracy in the way of building a wind turbine,” Parr said.

Parr said wind power is the most renewable, clean and efficient energy and the town should not be discouraging landowners from installing windmills.

He said the ordinance defines the various classes of turbines by kilowatts, but if a person were to build their own turbine they would not know how much power is generated until it is actually built. He also stated that the town’s building and site ordinance conflicts with the wind ordinance because a height limit of 34 feet is already in place in Appleton.

Planning board member David Kelley said that the board did a lot of research and the ordinance gives guidance on how to install a turbine safely, which addresses setbacks from neighboring properties.

“I’m tired of people telling me what I can do on my own property,” Stone said.

Liz Sullivan said if people read it they would see that it doesn’t restrict an individual taking advantage of wind power and puts more restrictions on larger developments.

“Let’s support our planning board, they have our town’s best interest,” Sullivan said.

Residents also approved an amendment to the Lot Specification and Building Permit Ordinance to address height issue exceptions for wireless telecommunications towers and wind power projects because the town has separate ordinances dealing with those types of projects.

In other votes, residents voted to appropriate up to $40,000 from capital reserve to repair and repave the fire station and town office parking lots, spend $875 to purchase a program to allow the town office to accept credit and debit cards, allow a 2 percent discount on taxes paid within one month after commitment, and amended an article concerning interest on late taxes from 7 percent to 5 percent.

Source:  By Kim Lincoln, Herald Gazette, knox.villagesoup.com 16 June 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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