Newry board to consider bylaws
Newry selectmen decided Monday to research bylaws that the board could eventually adopt to guide the conduct of their business.
Bylaws may outline the duties of town officials and the conduct of meetings, hearings, votes and other proceedings.
Selectman Brooks Morton has recently been advocating for Newry to establish a charter commission to craft a town charter, which would provide more comprehensive rules for town business. Morton has argued that Newry needs to better spell out the duties of town officials and town procedures.
But the board voted 2-1 at their last meeting not to go that route.
Morton had also said a citizen petition would likely be presented to force the issue, but none had been received as of Monday, according to Town Administrator Loretta Powers.
In preparation for their next meeting the board plans to review bylaws contained in the town charter for Poland.
Asked later about the status of the charter effort, Morton said, “I feel as if i have taken the charter commission as far as i can as a selectman. There are still folks interested in a charter we will see if it moves forward. In the meantime the selectman will look at Poland and other charters to come up with some ideas for bylaws that would fit Newry’s needs.”
No pellet heat
In other business, selectmen reviewed estimates for a new heating system for the Town Office, with a possible connector to the adjacent Fire Station. In March the town budgeted $7,000 for that purpose, with the work planned for this summer.
The town office currently uses an oil-fired, hot air system.
Code Enforcement Officer Dave Bonney, who researched options, presented some estimates in that range. He also provided estimates for a wood pellet boiler system in the $35,000 range.
Wood pellet prices are currently lower than more traditional fuels, and some towns, like Bethel, have been able to secure grants to help pay the cost.
But, said Bonney, the availability of grant funds is more uncertain now.
His information also included a 15-year comparison of costs for pellet and oil systems from Maine Energy Systems, using initial installation costs of $30,000 and $7,500, respectively. Six years would pass before the pellet system would be more cost-effective overall than the oil one, according to the projection. By the 15th year, relative savings for the pellet system is estimated at about $37,000.
Selectmen said a special town meeting would be needed to approve a pellet system purchase because of the added cost.
Morton noted that there is currently considerable heat loss in the town office where the hot air blows out next to outside walls and windows.
He suggested tackling some of the heat loss issues and replacing the current system with an efficient oil system.
“If we stop the heat loss and get more efficient, we may be able to see [the same savings as with wood pellets] just with minor changes,” he said.
Chairman Wendy Hanscom and Selectman Gary Wight agreed.
“ The payoff is so long and it doesn’t sound like grant money is easy to get anymore. And I didn’t hear a groundswell at town meeting for a pellet system,” said Hanscom.
Wight also said he didn’t think the pellet savings would justify that option.
Powers said a zoned system, presented as part of several estimates, would allow the lightly-used meeting room to be heated to a lower temperature much of the time.
The board decided to rule out the pellet option and study/research the other, traditional ones more for their next meeting.
In other action Monday the board:
Approved a bid of $31,877 from Cross Excavation for summer road maintenance work (no other bids were received);
Approved a bid of $1,130 from Alan Fleet for roadside mowing (three other bid options from TRS Timber Maintenance Inc. were received, but all were higher; the lowest was $1,755);
Approved $689 for E,W. Electric of Dixfield to do electrical work at the Grange Hall;
Agreed to meet with the town auditor at a future date to review the audit and discuss a suggested handbook to guide the town’s financial management;
Agreed to change regular meetings to the first and third Tuesdays at 7 a.m. beginning May 21.