Plenty on plate for Bridgton voters

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Voters will take up 44 warrant articles, when the Bridgton annual town meeting convenes at the Town Hall on North High Street Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Five articles will be decided by secret ballot vote at the polls on Tuesday, June 12 — including election of municipal officers and proposed amendments to the Site Plan Review Ordinance and enactment of two proposed ordinances — the Bridgton Park Forest Trust Fund Ordinance and the Town of Bridgton Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Ordinance. (See separate story on the proposed ordinances and amendments).

Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said Tuesday that if all articles pass as presented on June 13, the current mil rate would increase by between 13 and 15 cents.

As for the philosophy used in formulating the proposed budget for 2012-13, Berkowitz said of himself, the selectmen and department heads, "We're trying to anticipate expenses...which means putting money in reserve and keeping the debt very low."

Ballot questions

"The ballot on Tuesday is very interesting," Berkowitz said. "There are (proposed) amendments to the Site Plan Review Ordinance, and the Park Forest Trust Fund Ordinance is a very important issue."

"Clearly, the selectmen are saying we should only spend that money (generated from timber harvesting) on town-owned forests and parks," said Berkowitz. "The PACE Ordinance is probably the least utilized and the most important to property owners."

Article 30 asks voters to raise and appropriate $706,429 for law enforcement services, which includes the police department, court appearances, animal control and public safety administration for dispatch — or a difference of $64,292.

"The operating budget has been reduced, because a year ago, with voter approval, we embarked on Dispatch being handled by Cumberland County (instead of in-house), and we went from a budget of $218,000 for Dispatch to $133,000 now."

The amount for paving in the Public Works budget is proposed to be increased from $300,000 last year to $375,000 in 2012-13.

Berkowitz said the selectmen are proposing to spend more money for capital expenditures, in particular an increase of $75,000 that is being proposed for the Public Works Department, at the recommendation of the Budget Advisory Committee to the selectmen, "just to keep up with (road) repair and paving."

Additionally, under capital expenditures, the selectmen are recommending raising and appropriating $77,200 for a plow truck, $40,000 in reserve for a Public Works grader, another $40,000 in reserve for a Public Works loader, $15,000 for a pickup truck, $25,000 for downtown restrooms and $3,480 for a welder. The amount of $54,000 is being proposed for a backhoe at the transfer station.

The town manager said there are also proposed increases for fuel — gasoline, diesel, and heating fuel. Berkowitz said that, even though every effort is being made to save money in this area, "We still have to put police cruisers on the street, plows need fuel and buildings need heat. So, some costs are out of our control."

Article 49 asks voters to "authorize the selectmen to purchase a vacuum tanker truck for the Bridgton Fire Department at a price not to exceed $225,000; to make an initial payment of up to $150,000 from funds appropriated by the town in 2011 and 2012 for capital expenditures; and to finance the remaining balance of up to $75,000 by a borrowing or lease purchase agreement in the name of the town at an interest rate not to exceed 4% for a term not to exceed 13 months."

It further states, "As of the date of the annual town meeting, June 12, 2012, the total amount of bonds and capital leases for the Town of Bridgton outstanding and unpaid is $261,958 of which $251,738 is principal and $10,220 is interest. The town has no bonds authorized and unissued. The total general obligation to be assumed if the article authorizing this borrowing or lease purchase agreement is ratified by the voters is $75,000 plus interest. The total debt service costs of the financing will vary depending on the prevailing interest rates at the time the bond or lease purchase agreement is issued. The total estimated debt service is $78,250 of which $75,000 is principal and $3,250 is estimated interest at 4% over 13 months."

Berkowitz apologized for inadvertently omitting Article 49 from the original annual town meeting warrant that meant an emergency selectmen's meeting had to be held last week to take care of the oversight, in order for voters to be able to consider it on June 13.

Should voters approve the new vacuum tanker truck, said Berkowitz, "it means we will then take care of another critical piece of equipment to take care of our community. The old style of tanker truck is gravity fed, according to Berkowitz.

"With the new vacuum tanker truck, you fill up the tank a lot quicker and when you get to the fire scene, it will push the water out with greater force," Berkowitz stated. "If it's your house and you're (located) away from water (sources), it may make the difference between saving it and not saving it."

Monies for revaluation in 2016-17?

Berkowitz said the Town of Bridgton's valuation "is closing in on close to a billion dollars."

"It's about $990 million, right now," he said. "The selectmen have been putting money aside for a revaluation in 2016 or 2017, so the year we do have a revaluation we don't have a spike in the tax rate and we don't have to pay debt service if you borrowed it."

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