Slew of questions, tidal wave of responses

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — When was the paving contract awarded? Who decided to grade and pave the parking lot in front of the storage facility on Route 11? What are the future plans for that property formerly owned by the state?

By the way, how much did the town-owned drone cost?

The Naples Board of Selectmen was hit with a slew of inquiries about recent activities in Naples, including the paving projects that began early last week and the future of the building that stores two lesser-used fire trucks.

The public participation period of the Naples meeting was very active — with four people sharing concerns, gathering information or just making a comment. There was an interchange of mostly civil dialogue between the public and the selectmen.

However, the message was mixed as Selectman Dana Watson told a member of the public to wrap up comments as two other selectmen invited the public to come to meetings for a turn at the microphone.

By the way, the drone was purchased for $900 using Naples Fire and Rescue Department funds, according to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak.

It was resident Jim Grattelo who asked about the cost of the drone that had been purchased with extra funds in the fire department’s account.

As the new chairman of the Naples Budget Committee, Grattelo said he plans to ask a lot of money-related questions. He told the board that the budget committee would follow the suggestion of Selectman Rich Cebra, and ask all department heads to participate in the budget process, going over the department budgets line by line.

The taxpayers of Naples deserve to know how every dollar is being spent, Grattelo said.

At that point, resident Roger Clement stepped to the podium and commended Grattelo for taking that approach to the budget and said that when he sat on the budget committee that is how things were done.

No one expressed any problems with taking a closer look at the budget.

However, as questions about the paving contract and the future of the town’s storage facility emerged, some board members seemed like they were on the defensive.

First off, many members of the public did not know when the board had awarded the paving contract to F.R. Carroll, Inc.

At first, nobody recalled a definitive moment that the paving schedule was locked in.

Then, Chairman Bob Caron II referred to his notes and said that the board made a motion to award the paving contract to F.R. Carroll during the June 27 meeting.

Secondly, the board was grilled as to why the road that Paraschak lives on was the first one to be paved — something brought up during public participation as a question asked by Naples residents not present at Monday’s meeting.

Once again, Caron referred to his notes from previous meetings, saying the order of paving was up to the contractor, not town officials.

Paraschak said that to not have one road done because he lived on it would be a disservice to the other Naples residents who lived off a road that was in need of repair.

During public participation, Jim Turpin put forth many of the questions about paving. He was particularly put off that town officials had said the storage facility property, formerly owned by the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), did not require any monetary improvements. Yet, $25,000 has been spent on the grading and paving of the front of the lot, Turpin said. His take was that the voters and taxpayers at Town Meeting should have had more information up front about the true costs of the facility.

“One question that was asked by the budget committee was, ‘In buying a new building, do we see improvements or upgrades?’ The answer was, ‘No, the building was good to go.’

What precipitated the expenditure for a storage building — given that (14) months ago, Ephrem said no improvements were needed. Where did the plan to spend money for paving come from,” Turpin said.

Turpin also wanted to know when the board okayed the expenditure for paving the lot.

Paraschak spoke on the topic.

“Several months ago, the building was turnkey and it continues to be turnkey. The fire chief (Chris Pond) and myself decided it was a good idea to pave the lot. It is a high-use lot,” he said.

He added that public safety vehicles were stored there and, during the spring, there were some issues with mud.

“The town has ample paving reserves. It was brought before the board of selectmen. Nothing that was long-term in the planning. The opportunity came up and the town has roughly $1 million in the bank,” Paraschak said.

“The money was there, why not spend it,” Turpin said. He added that town officials should be cautious not to spend just because the money is there, especially on a parcel of land that voters were told wouldn’t need any improvements.

“It is a town facility,” Paraschak said.

The future of the storage facility is a topic that came up a few separate times during the meeting.

As expressed by Christine Powers, “When conversations started about the storage facility” it was open to becoming a second fire station closer to Casco, a future public works building, a lot that could the MDOT could purchase back from the town down the road.

“That was always part of the conversation, and to imply that it wasn’t…” Powers said, unable to finish her sentence before being interrupted.

Turpin said people in the community — who usually wished to remain anonymous — would ask him questions about town goings-on, particularly those that are budget-related, and Turpin would relay those inquiries to the selectmen.

“People ask me questions. There are some people that have taken exception to the fact that the road in front of your house got paved first, to put it plainly,” Turpin said.

At this point, Selectman Watson spoke.

“Are you staying within your limits,” Watson said, referring to the three minutes allowed for each person during public participation.

At the same time, Powers said the people bringing concerns to Turpin are invited to selectmen’s meetings.

“Bring your friends and family,” Turpin joked.

Powers asked who was making inquiries to Turpin, but he declined to answer.

“It is good to know who is concerned and have them reach out to us,” she said.

Both Powers and Caron made it clear that the selectmen’s meetings are open to the public.

Also, Caron made a point to explain that the contractor had the choice of which road to start paving on the list of roads approved by the board.

“It is not our call. It is up to the contractor,” Caron said.

Please follow and like us: