Casco to float several bonds at town meeting

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Several bonds are being proposed at the Casco Town Meeting next month.

If passed, those bonds would impact the tax rate slightly, ranging from 20 or 30 cents to about 47 cents.

On the other hand, if the bonds are approved, the town would be able to afford major road repairs, the replacement of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond dam, and the purchase of land behind the town hall.

The voting public will be offered a few different options to take care of the town’s infrastructure needs.

“Other towns have done this. We have watched it. We are not breaking new ground here,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said regarding the infrastructure bond.

The land buy is being proposed as a separate bond from the roads and dam bond.

All of the proposed bonds have a payment schedule, or term, of ten years.

On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen signed the Warrant Articles for the proposed 2016-17 budget.

Copies of the Warrant Articles will be available as a Portable Document Format (PDF) on the town’s website. Also, hard copies can be obtained at the Town Office.

Included in the budget package is a graph, showing how much each proposed bond would increase the tax rate, and how much it would increase the property tax bill based on a home valued at $150,000.

The Casco Town Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15. The meeting starts at 7 p.m., and will be held in the Casco Fire Station.

For almost a year, selectmen have been discussing the idea of borrowing money to complete much needed road projects at a quicker pace. The most recent Libby Road reconstruction project took four years to complete.

Two bond options — to repair area roads and to replace the Pleasant Lake dam — will be proposed at the Town Meeting. One bond is for $2.5 million, and one is for $1.3 million. For property owners, the passage of the $2.5 million bond would increase the tax rate by 41 cents, and the tax bill would be $61.50 for $150,000 valuation.

For the less expensive bond, 21 cents would be added to the mil rate, and the tax bill would be raised by $31.95 for $150,000 home.

Morton said the roads bond would allow the town to address reconstruction needs and minor repairs on the most problematic roads.

“We are proposing to do all of Johnson Hill Road, Edwards Road, Cooks Mills Road, and parts of Tenney Hill and Point Sebago roads,” he said.

Johnson Hill Road and Edwards Road were chosen because constant upkeep of those two roads has chewed up most of the town’s road maintenance budget every year. The short section of Cooks Mills Road before the Naples boundary line also requires maintenance money on a regular basis. (On a related topic, the Town of Naples has put Cooks Mills Road on its road repair list for this fiscal year.)

Even with the passage of one of the two bonds, “it would probably take three years” to complete the improvements on the five roads being top-listed.

“Within six years, we will be money ahead,” Morton, said referring to giving the maintenance account a break. From that point in time, the town would be able to manage road upkeep without taking out another bond for at least ten years, he said.

Without borrowing money, “it would be six to seven years just to get two roads done in phases,” he said. “We just never are going to catch up.”

“We are hoping the voters see the savings potential in taking out the roads bond, and having good roads to drive over — instead of waiting years to get them fixed,” Morton said.

If neither infrastructure bond passes, the voters will need to vote on replacing money in the roads repair budget. Also, if neither bond is approved, the residents will need to consider borrowing $250,000 for its half of the dam replacement. That cost is being shared with the Town of Otisfield.

Because the two towns are responsible for maintaining the state-mandated water level on Pleasant Lake, there is no choice but to replace the failing dam, Morton said.

Engineers from the Maine Department of Transportation, and also a private firm, confirmed that the dam is failing, and its complete demise is unavoidable. Sooner or later, the dam will fail completely, and it is doing little to hold back water now, Morton said.

Therefore, one way or another, residents will have to budget for the dam construction project.

Lastly, the land acquisition bond is another money-borrowing measure that residents will review at the Town Meeting. That $440,000 bond would raise the tax rate by 7 cents; the annual increase to tax bills would be $10.50 per $150,000 valuation.

The proposed land acquisition was not on the town’s radar, but the landowner made an offer for the parcel adjacent to the fire station. The property for sale is located north of the town hall and fire station. The parcel for sale also runs east of the town’s land, and it has waterfront access to Parker Pond.

 

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