Naples says yes to bus service

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Naples residents decided to pitch in $2,931 to fund a proposed bus service from Portland to Bridgton while finishing off town debt at the annual town meeting June 18.

Approving the town’s $2.32 million budget in just an hour, residents went with the Selectboard’s recommendations over the Budget Committee on several contested items. Residents also decided to pay off the rest of the town’s $223,000 debt.

Some of the largest budget categories were more than $554,000 for administration, more than $349,000 for roads and highways, more than $387,000 for rescue and more than $474,000 for capital and other reserve funds. While budgets for administration and roads and highways dropped slightly, the rescue budget rose by more than $5,500 and the reserve funds budget is up by more than $70,000. The tax rate is set to remain constant at $15.80.

Though a couple of residents questioned the more than $387,000 rescue budget before it passed, there was minimal discussion at the meeting until residents considered four items with different recommended amounts from the Budget Committee and the Selectboard.

The first of these disputed items was for marine safety. The Budget Committee recommended more than $13,000 and the Selectboard recommended more than $15,000.

“I’m strongly in support of the $15,455,” said Selectwoman Christine Powers, adding that this amount was already a cut from last year’s total by almost $3,000. The marine safety budget covers a stipend for the Harbor Master as well as money to support volunteer patrols on the lakes.

The purpose, Town Manager Derik Goodine said later, is to have a presence on the lakes, adding that volunteers have the right to pull boats over and report violations to the Maine Warden Service.

Since there weren’t many volunteers in the past few years, Selectman Rick Paraschak said the previously designated marine safety money wasn’t entirely spent. Powers added that she believed the money should be spent. Budget Committee member Barbara Clark said the committee looked for cuts that made sense. Residents went with the Selectboard’s suggestion.

The library budget was also disputed by the Selectboard, which recommended more than $75,000 and the Budget Committee, which recommended $70,000. After the Budget Committee reduced the library budget, supporters of the library petitioned the Selectboard to restore funding, which they did recommend. Residents approved the Selectboard’s amount

The Selectboard’s recommendation for the sanitation budget was lower than the Budget Committee’s because, according to Goodine, the transfer station budget was in rough draft when it went to the Budget Committee. Paraschak added that costs are actually going down at the transfer station. The Selectboard’s amount passed.

The last disputed item was $2,931 for a new bus service from Portland to Bridgton.

“We think this could be an essential service,” Goodine said, pointing out there was a non-binding straw poll showing that a majority of voters said they would use the service. The article passed and now the process depends on other area towns also deciding to share the start-up cost of the bus service.

At the end of the meeting, residents discussed how much interest to charge those who are late to pay their property taxes. Tim Hamilton pointed out a difference between the 11 percent proposed to collect from late taxpayers and 7 percent paid to those who overpay their taxes. Roger Clement made a motion to change the interest collected from 11 percent to 7 percent.

Goodine said while he sees the idea behind lowering the interest rate, he sees interest as good incentive to pay taxes on time. The motion to change the interest rate failed and the rate passed as proposed at 11 percent.

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