Casco annual town meeting recap

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — More than 80 residents upheld their civic duty and attended the town meeting, despite missing the Boston Bruins play during the beginning of the first game in The Stanley Cup Finals.

At the start of Casco Town Meeting, Moderator Holly Hancock joked that she had been warned by the employees at Lake Region Television (LRTV) that they would stop taping and switch to the hockey game at 8 p.m.

That did not happen.

The town meeting on June 12 lasted only two hours, and was adjourned by 9 p.m.

During that time, Finance Committee Chairman Sam Brown urged citizens to take the approach of spending more money to support services and infrastructure that bring culture and economic development to Casco.

In the end, residents supported allocating $66,770 to the Casco Public Library — going against the majority recommendation by the Casco Finance Committee.

Also, community members supported a stipend to put an extra firefighter in the station during daytime hours.

That per diem pay will be shared among different individuals who take that single-person shift at the Casco Fire Department. Currently, two rescue personnel work at the station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Additionally, residents voted to set aside $35,000 for the demolition of Casco Memorial School.

A year ago, during that town meeting, people had elected to put the future of the vacant school in the hands of the Casco Board of Selectmen. Since then, the board had approved the structure’s demolition — which is slated for July. However, there was no money to cover the cost of the job. The plan was to send it to town meeting.

The Memorial School warrant article was not on the floor for long. There was no discussion, and hardly any “no” votes.

Testimony for the library line item was kept to a minimum. The sum to be earmarked for the library was included in unclassified accounts, which appeared as warrant Article 10.

Casco resident Joanne Painter asked why the finance committee did not support the library, which she had witnessed growing from a small building with novels on the shelves to a place where culture, activities, computer assistance and reading is offered.

Brown answered the question. He said he had been the sole “yes” vote for giving the full financial request to the library.

First, he commended his fellow finance committee members for the tough job of keeping the mill rate low, questioning each expense, and cutting the budget where possible. He said the 1–5 vote reflected the difference of opinions of the committee.

“I personally think this community needs to feel comfortable about spending more money,” Brown said.

“We can go to the next level. This town has a good debt ratio,” he said, listing some of the types of services that contribute to residents’ quality of life. “It requires loosening the purse strings,” Brown said.

Although in previous years, dozens of people have spoken in favor or against dedicating tax money to the library, the discussion was brief this time.

However, there was quite a bit of clarification and comment about the firefighter’s stipend, which was warrant Article 8.

“This is a new appropriation. I am not sure what the purpose is. I am not sure how many fires there are,” one resident asked.

Fire Chief Jason Moen explained. “This position is necessary because we have reached a critical level for fire calls. Let me stress this is a per diem with no employee benefits. It will not be a position for one person; many people will take the shift,” Moen said.

He said 45% of fire-related emergency calls occur between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“We are at a critical shortage. I would urge you to support this article,” Moen said.

Resident Peg Dilley asked how many fire departments in the area are utilizing the per diem pay program.

Moen said the towns of Raymond, Naples, Sebago and Bridgton have at-the-station positions.

Moen said that without the extra person on staff, there might be a time that a fire call in Casco would not get a prompt response time.

“We cannot guarantee that a truck will roll in to your house. Right now, that truck will get to the scene. We have good relations but we cannot always rely on other towns as well,” Moen said.

A few residents asked Moen to repeat what he meant, and even asked if there had been incidences when a fire truck was not able to respond to a Casco call. He said that it had happened.

Selectman Ray Grant said he opposed the expenditure. “A town of 4,000 doesn’t need this. With the fire and rescue departments consolidating, it won’t be necessary,” he said.

“The step that needs to be taken first is to cross-train the people there. We need another person,” Grant said.

The article funding a firefighter’s stipend passed, with about a dozen people opposing it.

Later in the evening, the public adopted without discussion several land-use and building ordinances — all of which were simply clarifying definitions.

When the adoption of a mooring ordinance was on the floor, it was the second to the last warrant item.

Resident Neil Garston apologized for interjecting his questions so late in the evening, and so close to the end. “In reading the proposed ordinance on abandonment, I could see problems,” he said.

“How about people getting sick, or their boat sinking, or selling their property? How is the Harbor Master going to keep track? If there was a mooring under three feet of mud, how would anyone know,” he said.

Town Manager Dave Morton responded to the questions.

This ordinance “is just making it very clear that it is the mooring owner’s responsibility. If someone is putting in a new anchorage, engine blocks are not acceptable moorings. Neither are toilet bowls full of rock. It is your responsibility to be up to code,” Morton said.

Garston asked if he was in violation because his mooring allowed his marine vessel to swing into his neighbor’s property line. However, the neighbor had given him permission to moor there, and the swing of Garston’s boat did not pose the threat of damage to the neighbor’s moored boat, which was located somewhere else.

“Our boat swings over into the abutter’s water areas, but where they moor their boat doesn’t matter, and we have an agreement. Is that okay,” Garston said.

Morton said that was a question to pose to the code enforcement officer (CEO) but first citizens would have to vote to allow him to speak since he is not a resident of Casco. The public okayed that.

Casco CEO Don Murphy said, “Those are all very great questions. The mooring registration form says that if the abutter gives permission, that is okay.”

Garston said he was concerned about the mooring for a small craft, which he and his wife keep near the shore and use to row to the bigger boat.

“Certainly, Neil, you can row your boat out to your other boat, we don’t have a problem there,” Morton said.

Garston explained that the rowboat’s bow is tied to a dock, but also the back end is tied to an underwater mooring to prevent damage to the boat. He thought maybe that would count as two moorings.

“This is the first time this question has been asked,” Morton said.

“This is a state law. Floating docks and huge blow-up toys — those are all involved because they are considered moorings by state law,” he said.

“Beyond that, each mooring owner who applies will go through the registration form,” Morton said.

Residents made a motion to move the question. The mooring ordinance was adopted without opposition — bringing Casco in line with state law.

To see the Casco Town Meeting in its entirety, check out the home page for www.cascomaine.org and scroll down to Lake Region Television.  

 

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