Tri-Town, road bond easy winners in Greenwood
Tri-Town Rescue Service – on the verge of dissolution early in the year – got a resounding vote of confidence Saturday, when residents at Greenwood's annual Town Meeting voted nearly five to one to have the town explore forming an inter-local agreement with West Paris, Oxford County and Tri-Town, for the provision of ambulance service to the two towns and Milton Township.
After nearly an hour of discussion, they voted 62-13, by secret ballot, to authorize the selectmen to negotiate such an agreement, which would then be brought back to another Town Meeting for final voter approval.
By doing so, they effectively rejected the option of switching to PACE Ambulance Service of Norway, at least at this time.
They did, however, leave the door open for PACE, voting 32-31 to have the selectmen continue negotiations with PACE regarding a possible future coverage package.
Saturday's discussion kicked off with questions regarding the financial implications of coverage from the each of the two services (Tri-Town coverage is expected to cost Greenwood in the neighborhood of $17,000 for the coming year), but after 20 minutes of that, Locke Mills resident Mark Lablond said it was time to shift to more life-or-death matters.
“No matter who we get, we're going to pay for something,” Leblond said. “Nobody's said anything about response times.”
Norm St. Pierre and Bob Hand, the chiefs, respectively, of Tri-Town and PACE, each described how their services would go about covering the town, with Greenwood's acting fire chief, Albert Curtis Jr., weighing in on behalf of PACE.
At the end of the discussion neither service emerged notably better qualified than the other, and Selectman Amy Chapman reminded voters that approval of the article (6a) authorizing negotiations with Tri-Town left the town's options open.
“If we opt to vote for 6a,” she said, “we're entering into negotiations. We're leaving both options open. If we don't, Tri-Town is shutting down and that's out of the picture.”
If the town goes with Tri-Town and is not satisfied, Chapman said, “PACE is still there, but the opposite is not true.”
And on the matter of response times, she noted that in a letter to the town, PACE said that if Greenwood were to go with them, they recommended that the town establish a first-responder program.
“And to me that saying: 'We're not entirely sure of our response times, and you should have something in place in your own town as a first responder.'”
“Those are my reasons for supporting 6a.”
Fellow selectmen Fred Henderson and Arnold Jordan agreed.
Henderson, the board's chair, said, “I think we will get a little better service with Tri-Town for less money than we would going with PACE. And if we go with PACE there will be no Tri-Town to go with if things don't work.”
Voters also agreed to authorize the selectmen to apply to the Maine Municipal Bond Bank for a $500,000 bond to pay for repairs to the town's roads.
It will be Greenwood's first such bond, and that worried resident Nancy Dewing.
“I really hate to see us go down the bond route. I really do,” she said. “Its the start of a descent, once we start financing things that way.”
Town Manager Kim Sparks said the bond would be paid back over five years, at an annual payment of $120,000 a year (principal and a projected 4% interest).
The payback would be funded by the $100,000 to $150,000 the town has been raising annually for road improvements, Sparks said.
Budget Committee member Fran Piccirillo urged voters to approve the bond.
“We just keep band-aiding our roads,” he said, “We just keep throwing $100,000 here, $100,000 there, and our roads that are in real bad shape just continue to get worse.”
The town has to start approaching the road situation with a long-term view, Picirillo said, and with the bond money “We're going to fix the sections of road that are fixable right now – to get us 10 years on those.”
“It is our intent next year, just raise enough money that Alan [Road Foreman Alan Seames] can replace culverts and start doing significant trenching on road like Richardson Hollow Road and Patch Mountain Road – roads that everybody in this room knows are in disastrous shape.
“Then five years from now, go for another half a million dollars, to be able to bring those roads up to a higher standard, a much higher standard.
“Do you guys want to do that?” Piccirillo asked. “Or do you want to just keep band-aiding the roads?”
This bond money will not be used to pay for work on the Bryant Pond side of Rowe Hill Road – one of the town's worst stretches.
But former selectman Ivan Roberts, who lives along a particularly bad part of the road, nonetheless supported the bond
Brian Dunham is a neighbor, Roberts said, “and me and my good friend Brian have four-wheel tractors, so we can get off Rowe Hill, but I go along with the fact that we have to maintain the good roads, and if I have to make a choice of maintaining the good roads or doing Rowe Hill, then I'd maintain the good roads. … And Brian and I can race up and down Rowe Hill on our tractors.”
The highway bond passed easily on a show of hands.
In voting for town officials, Henderson was elected to a fourth term, defeating Dunham, Roberts' neighbor, 40-26.
SAD44 Director Richard Melville was re-elected to a three-year term, and Erin Collins, who had been appointed to fill out the term of a resigned director, was elected to a one-year term. Both were unopposed.