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Council Minutes 4/23/2001
PRESENT:        Chairman Hathaway, Councilor Cheney, Councilor Michaels, Councilor Friedman and Councilor Kelly-- Budget Committee members G. Greenwood, and J. Manter and W. Hogan, Police Chief B. O’Halloran, Fire Chief G. Martin, Public Works Supt. B. Free, Parks and Recreation Chair K. Wadleigh, S. Lahaie, T. Davis, P. Robertson, K. Robertson, Town Manager B. Reed, CEO A. Thomas, and Deputy Clerk J. Reed
                
ITEM 1. The April 23, 2001 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 6:35.

ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion: Chairman Hathaway --to accept April 9, 2001 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Michaels Vote 4-0 in favor. Councilor Friedman abstained

ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: T. Davis wanted to be heard.

ITEM 4a.        Public Comments: The Council told Mr. Davis they could listen to what he had to say but that there would be no decision made at this meeting. Mr. Davis expressed that he was not happy with not being added to the agenda. He delivered the proposal for a land swap but had not yet heard from the Town on the issue. Mr. Davis told the council “it is time to fish or cut bait.” He also said he will not let the Town take the land by eminent domain. Davis said the land had been offered to the Town for sale years ago and the Town did not act on it. Davis believes that the deeds are clear on the measurements, footage, and the left lines but not where the points are.

        Chairman Hathaway asked Manager Reed for his perspective on the issue. Manger Reed stated it is the issue of where the lines are for the proposed swap. Reed expressed that if Mr. Davis does not know where the lines are how does he know the Town is encroaching on his land and how can a swap take place without knowing what it is that is being swapped? Additionally Reed outlined that the present proposal is not a representation of what the original proposal was and did not include the lots where the walking trails are near the Arata’s property. Mr. Davis claims he wants to swap the land behind Arata’s and the lot behind Flaggs, and a right of way at the end of Davis Drive and he wants what is the north end of the Town wood lot for the trade. Chairman Hathaway asked what needed to be done to make a decision on the issue? Manager Reed stated that Tax Assessor Thomas could now walk the lines now that the snow is gone. Additionally, the Conservation Commission will need to walk the parcels and make a recommendation to the Town Council. Davis asked to join the conservation commission for their meeting. Davis suggested the Council walk the property and the consensus of the council agreed that it might be a good idea. Councilor Cheney stated that the land abutters should have an opportunity to express their feelings. Manager Reed stated that legal counsel will have to review the issue and there would have to be a Public Hearing held before the Town Council would make a final decision.
ITEM 5. Budget Workshop: Manager Reed began by describing how the budget books were put together. He outlined that the proposed budget would create another tax decrease of roughly 1 mill. The manager presented the committee and Town Council with graphs displaying the abutting communities’ proposed tax increases and mill rates. The chart displayed communities that provide like or similar service; i.e. city water, city sewer, street lights, majority of pave roads, police service with average response time, fire service with a good ISO ratings and EMS capabilities, good school system and favorable tax collection rates. In general, the chart displayed that the Town’s proposed mill rate was some 7 mills lower the average. Reed gave an over view of the structural gap memo, that was enclosed in the budget book, and how the CBEC TIF District would “impact” / or “shelter” the Town in reguards to the amount of State Aid the Town receives in the years to come. At the present time, the Town is in a position that it can set its community value by adjusting the Town’s mill rate. The manager outlined that as the mill rate drops community value increases and the State will reduce its funding for Aid to Education, Debt Service Aid, and Municipal revenue sharing. The County Tax will also increase. He noted that the County Tax this year increased from some $72,000 to $92,500 just due to these past fiscal years increased community value.  He outlined that if the mill rate went too low then for every dollar that is taken from the budget to reduce the mill rate the Town will lose an estimated .49 cents in State revenues for every dollar decrease. Economic development increases the Town’s valuation but can cause adverse appreciation due to losing a portion of revenue sharing and other State Aid. The Manager noted that the goal of the TIF was to allow the Town to shelter community value from the State buy allowing the community to adjust its community value. The State issues funds based on a number of different formulas so when a town’s valuation increases and the mill rate decreases below the mean tax rate the funds available from the State are decreased. The formulas are set up so that no community’s mill rate can be to low or to high. The problem becomes worse once the mill rate declines lower than between 17.4-16.9. Which is 30 percent lower than comparison communities. The manager displayed in a spreadsheet that the School’s potential loss in State Aid ranged from $370,000 to $518,000 per year. Potential County tax increases ranged from $70,000 - $102,000 per year and potential loss revenue sharing ranged from $90,000 - $120,000.00 per year. The manager outlined that the setting of the community’s value is directly correlated to the shelter of the TIF.

        It was discussed that it is the Council’s intention to lower and stabilizes Veazie mill rate for years to come so it is important to plan for the future and minimize loses of revenue sharing and state aid to education. Chairman Hathaway expressed that the taxpayers are expecting a greater reduction in the mill rate then the current budget because of the new power plant. He asked Manager Reed how we could educate the public about what Veazie could lose in the future if the mill rate is decreased by too much? Manager Reed said that we will have to find a way or the Town could be faced with an unstable mill rate in future years due to the volatility of the community value.

        Municipal Revenues and Executive Budget: Manager Reed then presented the projected municipal revenues and executive budgets as written in the 2001-2002 proposed budget book.

        Councilor Friedman asked to be excused for 5-10 minutes so Chairman Hathaway suggested a 10-minute recess at 8:00. The meeting reconvened at 8:10.

        Fire Department Budget: Fire Chief Martin began to present his proposed budget. Once he was through with the salary lines, B. Hogan asked why the chief’s salary had dropped and the day coverage had increased so much. Chief Martin said the department would be staffed every day for ten-hour shifts and that the department is trying to get more EMS trained personnel during the daytime shifts.

        S. Lahaie presented the VEMA budget. These monies are used to work on disaster prevention. Currently, there is a plan in the works to stage a mock disaster in conjunction with the county. Surveys indicate that Veazie residents would prefer to evacuate to a location within Veazie or stay in their own homes so it is important to have a plan.

        Police Department Budget: Chief R. O’Halloran presented the Police Department budget with a proposed 9% increase. The Chief stated that there are additional printing costs this year for summonses because the state will no longer distribute them for free.

        K. Robertson interjected with a statement that according to a recent business magazine, Veazie is rated the best-protected town in the State of Maine. He went on to ask, “is this what we want?” Robertson said he did not believe this is what the people want. Councilor Friedman responded with a “yes” and added that the Town is very proud to have a great police department and a safe community. K. Robertson went on to say that the councilor should get out more and talk with people. P. Robertson asked why there are two officers on duty at a time. Chief O’Halloran explained that sometimes there is a lap over in shifts and at shift change; two officers are available when a call comes in. The chief also noted that field training of new officers occurs on day and evening shifts. All new officers go though the training program. Friedman asked Robertson for a copy of the magazine article. P. Robertson said she would keep track of when she sees two officers in the car and then speak with the Police Chief.

Mr. Robertson then said he has looked at area police department’s budgets and wondered why Veazie’s is so much higher. Chairman Hathaway explained that Veazie has a nice small police department sandwiched between the two highest population centers in Penobscot County and he believes that the citizens of Veazie want to feel safe. The 1999/2000-community survey concluded that the number 1 reason people live in Veazie is because of “low crime rate/safe place to live.” He added that the proposed police budget increase was in-line with the school’s increase.

Councilor Michaels stated that people like that the police are noticeable. Councilor Friedman stated that Duke Energy located in Veazie because of the Public Safety available, the school system, and the quality of living. The manager noted that the police department was the first to responded to the Fire at the Power plant, which occurred in the early, AM hours. It was discussed that the power plant expects prompt fire and police services just due to the fact that the plant does exist in Town now. Friedman thanked Mr. Robertson for his comments and again said he would like to see a copy of the article Mr. Robertson referred to earlier. Councilor Cheney asked the Robertson if they read the paper and if they have noticed the past drug busts and other crimes reported in Veazie? She then asked the Chief how many officers his department currently employs?  The Chief said, counting himself 4 full-time and 5 reserve officers are currently employed. It was noted that the majority of the time only one officer is on duty.  Manager Reed discussed the retention plan that is being utilized in an effort to keep good officers. What is happening is that Veazie trains an officer and then a larger department poaches our investment. Councilor Friedman stated that Eddington is putting together a police department and their town is using Veazie’s policies in their plan. Manager Reed added that one of the measuring tools is the number of hours worked, cost per hour of service, and response time. He also noted that Veazie’s is the same if not better than Bangor and Hampden. The manager outlined that Hampden, Orono, Bangor, Brewer and Old Town police department’s budgets are far larger than Veazie’s budget. Chief O’Halloran finished presenting the rest of his budget.

        Parks and Recreation Budget: K. Wadleigh presented the Parks and Recreation Budget. She began by noting that R. Freese has done a great job with the recreation department. Wadleigh added that Freese is also working with the seniors in the community and attends their meetings. Councilor Friedman agreed that she is doing a great job. Councilor Hathaway stated that he was skeptical last year but would like to compliment the department and the committee for a great community program.

        K. Wadleigh explained some of the increases in this year’s budget. First, she stated that the Parks and Recreation Department would take over the Halloween Carnival this year so the department will need funds for that project. She stated that the egg hunt went much better this year than last and they would like to continue with that event. The costs of ongoing programs were discussed and line item amounts were raised based on higher costs. The revenues from the program were discussed and it was noted that the numbers are better than projected.

        Public Works Budget: Manager Reed clarified that line items have been moved to the Public Work’s Budget. Reed stated that the cleaning and cemetery lines are more appropriate in the Public Works Budget. He detailed that these additions would skew his budget request. The manager outlined the Town’s auditor recommended budgeting for the cemetery costs instead of debiting the cemetery care investment account. The manager outlined that they could not locate the establishment documents of the fund but it was recommended that the cemetary investment fund be treated like a traditional trust fund. The revenues projected from the fund should increase over time to offset the new budget line.  

        B. Free presented the Public Works Budget. He began by stating that a new line was added this year for storm drain cleaning; there are approximately 60 storm drains in Veazie. Council Friedman asked if the sand is being recycled and if the department had considered using salt? Free said, in order to swap to salt there would be a need for a salt shed which would cost a great deal of money. As for sand recycling, very little is recycled because the sand gets too fine to use twice. The State claims that salt is cheaper because it cuts down on overtime. Chairman Hathaway stated that it would reduce or eliminate the need for street sweeping and also help reduce drain cleaning. Councilor Friedman mentioned how well the roads were maintained this past winter.

        Free went on to the projected Highway budget. K. Robertson asked how much the Town paid to crack seal last year and why Main Street would be paved after spending money on crack sealing. Free said that $16,000.00 was spent on the Town wide crack sealing program but that it was done prior to the BACTS report and that the proposed roads to be repaired are not set in stone. The proposal is based on the streets he thinks needs maintenance. There is not agreement on which roads will be repaired at this time.

        Chairman Hathaway asked about the federal mandates on storm water drainage to the river. Manager Reed said this has to be reviewed by the Town’s Engineer.

Public Works is requesting $12,000 for Ball field development to purchase a water reel irrigation system to protect the field from drying up completely.  K. Robertson asked if the ball field had ever been soil tested? He said the University of Maine would do a test if the town sends a sample. Free finished his presentation.
        
        The council decided that the rest of the budget would be heard at the next meeting.

ITEM 6. Manager’s Report: Manager Reed apologized to the council for not sending the memo about the newly appointed Fire Chief, Gerry Martin, in the last council packet.

ITEM 7  Requests for Information/Council Comments: There was discussion about what the citizens expect for a tax decrease this year. Robertson stated that people think that the taxes are going down this year and that the money is being spent at the Town office. P. Robertson claimed the agenda was not posted but recanted after she stated she checked Friday afternoon. The posting was done that evening.

        In closing, Chairman Hathaway said, “We do live in the finest community in the State.” He also said, for the price the town offers a lot and believes people are proud. B. Hogan said he had lived here 16 years and has watched the all departments prepare budgets. He said there are always hot topics over budget issues and the council does try to get the best for the town’s money. He said he was proud to live in Veazie and intends to stay.

ITEM 8. Warrants: Town Warrant 20, Town Payroll Warrant 20, School Warrant 20, School Payroll Warrant 20, and School Lunch Warrant 20, were circulated and signed.

ITEM 9. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Friedman-to adjourn April 23, 2001, Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, there was no further discussion.  Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned 10:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,



Julie D. S. Reed
Deputy Town Clerk


 

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