Newry to vote on budget, Byway "de-designation"
At the March 4 annual town meeting Newry residents will vote on a $771,838 municipal budget.
They will also decide whether to ask the Maine Commissioner of Transportation to remove the designation of “Scenic Byway” from Route 26 in Newry.
The municipal budget proposal is down from last year’s $834,262, largely because the town’s auditor is recommending that abatements and discounts now be taken from the Overlay Account instead of appropriating funds in separate accounts, according to Town Administrator Loretta Powers.
Selectmen propose to appropriate funds that have been carried forward from three accounts to the Capital Improvement Account. The three accounts are Bear River Watershed ($28,363); Sunday River Watershed ($9,431); and Tri-Town Transfer Station Capital Improvement ($15,276).
Powers said there have not been any watershed projects in several years. The transfer station account was established a decade ago in anticipation of work to be done jointly with Bethel and Hanover, but it never materialized, she said.
Other monies are proposed to be taken from Unappropriated Surplus Account, which currently stands at $1,033,295. Voters will be asked to appropriate $100,000 to the Capital Improvement Account and $75,000 to help offset taxes.
The Capital Improvement Account will be used, if approved, to provide up to $254,000 for road work on the Sunday River and Lone Pine roads.
Selectmen last week awarded to Bruce A. Manzer Inc. the bid to repave 6,288 feet of the Sunday River Road and reclaim and repave 3,150 feet of the Lone Pine Road.
Manzer’s bid for the Sunday River Road project was $144,434 and for Lone Pine $69,348.
Other bids received were: Pike Industries, $196,500 for the Sunday River Road and $97,225 for Lone Pine; and White Bros., $174,336 and $77,795, respectively.
Manzer told the town if the price of asphalt increases before work begins, his charge to the town could go as high as $254,000, but not more than that, Powers said. The work is expected to start in mid-June.
Other large town accounts to be funded include Administration and Salaries ($247,773 recommended, with 2 percent raises for the staff); Highways and Bridges ($128,500, down from last year’s $139,000); and Sanitation ($121,028, down from $128,488).
The Grange Hall and Municipal Building accounts are up from last year. Selectmen are proposing $12,500 for the Grange Hall ($10,000 last year), in part to pay for a new electric stove to replace the current gas stove. The Municipal Building Account is proposed at $27,300 ($19,300 last year), in part to pay for a new furnace.
Residents will be asked if they wish to have the designation of “Scenic Byway” removed from Route 26 in Newry. The designation has been in place for four decades for a stretch of Route 26 that is between three and four miles in length, in the northern part of the town.
The status attracted little attention locally until last year, when MDOT proposed to upgrade a “Corridor Management Plan” for the state byway and established a committee of local residents to make recommendations.
The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments facilitated the update, along with another for a byway on Route 27. AVCOG received a $40,000 grant to support both efforts and provide improvements, possibly including signage and bathroom facilities. The grant money was made available for tourism-related improvements along the road, but not to the road itself.
State Scenic Byways Program Coordinator Fred Michaud participated in the review. But from the beginning committee members questioned the whole idea of a management plan, concerned that it might result in regulations that would affect property rights.
Then, at a special town meeting last August, voters overwhelmingly rejected supporting the development and implementation of the plan. They also discussed the possibility of eliminating the existing designation.
Michaud said then that “the decision to rescind the designation is up to the commissioner of transportation. The byway likely will not be undesignated, but Newry will not be shown as part of it, provided the commissioner decides to rescind the designation for the Newry section only.”
In election of town officials, Selectman Gary Wight and SAD 44 Director Deb Webster are seeking re-election, according to Powers.
Under a new format approved last year, candidates may take out nomination papers to officially promote their candidacy, but are not required to do so. Wight did, Powers said.
Voters may still nominate candidates from the floor at town meeting.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Grange Hall. It will be preceded by a potluck supper at5:30 p.m.