Town Meeting preview: Casco voters to act on dam plan, barking dogs, road policy

What: Casco Town Meeting

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Casco Central Fire Station

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Pleasant Lake stretches between the towns of Otisfield and Casco.

Residents and business-owners on the shores of that three-mile-long lake know the importance of protecting the water quality. Those are taxpayers in an area where it is understood that a healthy lake is connected to a healthy economy.

This year, the two towns that share ownership of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond spillway dam will also share the cost to repair the failing infrastructure. The solution is a two-phase project: (1) Paying for the bid package to be completed from money in the fiscal year 2015 budget and, (2) during the 2016–17 fiscal year, raising the money and putting the dam construction job out to bid.

At the Casco Town Meeting this Wednesday, citizens will vote on Article 13, which is part of the proposed municipal budget.

“What we are asking for here is Casco’s share of the cost for the final engineering and design of the new structure,” Morton said.

“This year, it is the cost of putting together the bid package,” he said.

“If voters approve the funds, the final design and bidding will take place in the next fiscal year,” he said.

The joint boards of selectmen have already selected MBP Consulting in Portland for phase one of the project. Selectmen have worked in person with owner Myron Petrovsky. The total cost is $64,000.

So, the fiscal note for Casco’s share is $32,000; and that would allow the towns to be ‘bid ready’ by the summer of 2016.

“We have a legal obligation to maintain the dam, and it is in critical condition,” Morton said.

Another monetary item that is shared between towns this year is the Lakes Region Bus service. RTP, which operates the rural transportation program, has asked five towns including Casco for $9,600 each.

“The finance committee has recommended this. The selectmen have supported this. We are hoping the voters support it,” Morton said.

“Casco’s contribution depends of what other towns do. We recognize difference of opinions,” Morton said.

“The bus service is still relatively new. We think ridership will continue to grow,” he said.

“Public transportation is important as a general concept,” he said.

Every year at the Town Meeting, the residents of Casco vote to continue the practice of using public funds, tax dollar, to maintain private roads during the winter. That is done by accepting roads as public easements.

Very few Maine towns still provide this service. Casco and Windham and Gray are among those in this region.

Warrant Article 16, which updates a 1972 road-standards policy, will not change the status of current public easements. Those roads are grandfathered in, and will continue to be sanded and plowed – as long as the roads don’t fall into total disrepair.

So, when the snow flies, there won’t be much change in the air – Casco’s established public easements will continue to be plowed per usual.

However, if voters approve Warrant Article 16, the selectmen will have an up-to-date policy for accepting local roads as public easements.

New roads that are being considered as public easements will be held to higher standards regarding width and turn-around space, he said.

Besides the fact that fads like disco and bellbottoms have fallen to the wayside since 1972, the emergency vehicles and snow-plowing rigs were much smaller 40 years ago. The updated public easement acceptance policy is geared toward giving clearance to this century emergency vehicles, and to protect the fleet of the town-contracted plow company.

The town is “not going to penalize those road associations that have maintained those roads,” he said.

Article 26, an amendment to the barking dog ordinance, would put more teeth in the enforcement end of the law.

“The major change is that it includes penalties that weren’t outlined in the previous ordinance,” Morton said.

The town’s Animal Control Officer, Jessica Jackson, compared fees and fines for similar ordinances in other towns.

While the owner whose canine breaks the barking dog ordinance might only get a warning, second-time offenders can be fined $100, and people who violate the ordinance for a third time will be fined $250.

“We ran it by legal counsel to make sure it was in compliance with the law, and the fees were acceptable,” Morton said.

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