Casco town hall petition upsets some

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — One resident expressed anger over a citizens’ petition that will ask voters at the town meeting if they want to add onto the building now being used as the Casco Town Office.

It is a broken verbal agreement with the town’s fire and rescue personnel, he said.

Jim Willey was among the handful of people who volunteered to help build the structure meant to be a temporary town hall, and then a storage unit and garage for the fire department.

“I was one of the people who put time into that building down there,” he said.

“When I was approached, I was told it was a temporary town office. And the way it was proposed to me was it was going to be temporary, and then returned to the fire department,” he said.

He said the rally to raise the structure came from fire department representatives. In the end, a handful of volunteers put in hundreds of hours to complete the construction.

Willey asked the board, “How does it come that we are putting a petition together, and adding onto a building that was supposed to be a temporary town office and turned back to the fire department?”

In later discussion, it was pointed out the town office has been located in that temporary space for nine years.

Willey was speaking at the Casco Board of Selectmen’s meeting about a validated citizens’ petition which, by municipal law, must become a warrant item at the Town Meeting scheduled for June 10.

The petition is to see if the residents agree to spend no more than $300,000 to make additions to the existing town hall.

“The people who signed that petition — do they even know what that building was originally designed for?” Willey asked.

The selectmen could not make the decision of whether or not the citizens’ petition becomes a warrant item.

“Unless the board finds a flaw, they are legally obligated” to vote for it to become a town meeting warrant, Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said.

When Willey was at the microphone, he was struggling to understand how the building could have been part of a petition to be a town hall when it was already promised to the fire department.

He spoke directly to Morton and Selectman Calvin Nutting who sat on the board nine years ago. Willey asked if the intent of the building had ever been discussed at recent selectmen meetings.

Nutting recalled it was supposed to be a garage.

Morton said there had been mention that the building was designed to be storage for the fire department.

However, no one had shared the details of the volunteer work that occurred to make it happen, Morton said.

“Wouldn’t that be a pretty important piece of the puzzle?” Willey said.

“What are you saying to the volunteers of this town when you go and ask somebody to put time, energy and resources into something and that means nothing? I mean, that is insane to me,” he said.

Willey said the building was not designed for additions.

“I am not going to pick apart what they did down there,” he said of the construction done by community members.

“But, that building is pole bond with vinyl siding on it. How are you going to attach something that looks halfway intelligent?” he said.

He said that the cost estimates would actually be higher since the original structure would need improvements before any additions could be made.

Other residents spoke in agreement with Willey.

Resident Barbara York said she served on the committee that worked on Casco’s most recent Comprehensive Plan almost a decade ago. The comp plan identified one of the town’s needs as storage for fire and rescue department, she said.

“For us to try to take it now and use it — and it is worn out — it doesn’t make sense to put money into a temporary building,” York said.

Chairman Grant Plummer concurred.

“It is going to take a heck of a Band-Aid to bring it up to standard for the Town of Casco. My issue has been about the dollar value attached” to the petition, he said.

“I want to build a structure we don’t have to touch for 30 years. Maybe a front door because it is worn out. I want a sound investment for the Town of Casco,” he said.

Earlier during the meeting, a resident spoke in favor of the future warrant items, saying the cost of a new town hall should not be another burden on property taxpayers.

To view the discussion in its entirety, go to http://livestream.com/account/566917/cascolive

 

 

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