Town Meeting: Waterford okays $1.3 million budget

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LONG CAREER OF PUBLIC SERVICE — Waterford Selectman Chairman Randy Lessard, left, presented an appreciation plaque Saturday to longtime Town Meeting Moderator Sawin Millett Jr., who has led the annual meetings for 35 years and is retiring to his Waterford farm. This year's Town Report was dedicated to Millett, who served as a state representative from 1968­72 and for four terms beginning in 2002. He currently serves as the state's Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

WATERFORD — Funds for an expanded paving program, an upcoming revaluation and a possible lawsuit are part of the $1.33 million budget approved by around 60 voters Saturday at Waterford's annual Town Meeting.

Voters also showed their gratitude to the Sweden Food Pantry and the rape crisis organization REACH by granting them $500 and $450, respectively, even though their requests hadn't made the warrant. And they agreed to take over ownership of Woodlawn Cemetery, along with raising $1,300 for its annual maintenance.

In preparation for a 2015 revaluation, voters agreed to add $19,850 to the $12,200 already funded for a total of $32.050. Selectman Chairman Randy Lessard said he and Selectman Wyatt Andrews are taking classes to become professional assessors, and will work with state-certified Assessor John Bell as they conduct field visits and enter data on updated building values to reflect current replacement costs. He pointed out that Waterford has 700 buildings, and the town will save over $100,000 by conducting the review in-house.

Buildings were last updated in 2003, and although in general it has served the town well, "it was highly simplified and therefore not as accurate or evenly distributed as it could have been," as stated in the annual report.

A member of the Woodlawn Cemetery Association said she was "asking the good people of Waterford" to take over the cemetery on Five Kezars Road because membership is aging in the association and "We're very worried about the future." The association had been created nearly 100 years ago when the cemetery was established on a 2.5-acre parcel.

The $950 in appropriations for the Sweden Food Pantry and REACH were added to the $6,400 recommended by the budget committee to be spread among eight charitable organizations.

Finance Committee Chairman Barry Patrie said REACH's request was not received in time to be included on the warrant, and that all the services were reduced by six percent. "No one got the full amount," he said.

A REACH spokeswoman said her agency could not disclose, for reasons of confidentiality, how many clients served last year were Waterford residents, as the Budget Committee had requested. She pointed out, however, that REACH maintains an educational program at Waterford Elementary School that serves 79 children. The agency also works with clients as they deal with the court system, she added.

After voters approved the REACH request, Sweden Food Pantry volunteer Carol Madsen made the case for her cause.

"We have a very small budget," and "this is a very serious problem these days," she said.

Lessard pointed out that Waterford's General Assistance budget, at $5,750, would be much higher if not for the services such agencies as Community Concepts, Inc. and Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice provide. He said the General Assistance budget for West Paris, by comparison, is $21,000.

Lessard also praised the town's 100 or so loyal volunteers, on boards, committees, the transfer station and fire department who do so much for the town. He called on several retiring volunteers to be recognized with a certificate of appreciation — John McBryant from the Planning Board, Henry Plate from the Transfer Station Committee, and Barry Patrie from the Finance Committee and SAD 17 Board of Directors.

"I don't have the words to put in how important that is to the town," he said. "And the people doing this work are getting smaller" each year, he added. "Most of our boards need new blood."

Road Commissioner Bradley Grover said the $200,000 budgeted for roads this year will be used on the worst roads in town, such as Mill Hill, Temple and Deer Hill Roads. Waterford's roads will receive $50,000 more in funding than last year, mostly due to the increasing cost of hot top.

Lessard told voters the town needed $40,000 for legal expenses to fight a lawsuit that may be filed against the town. The amount includes $3,800 carried over from last year and was recommended by the town's attorney. He declined to be more specific, but during a break, he said that "We've been told that if we don't do a certain thing by April 1, the lawsuit will begin." Selectman Richard Hunt said the town was presented with three criteria, all of which had to be met to avoid litigation.

"It's an ultimatum, basically," said Selectman Wyatt Andrews. He said the board will be meeting with the town attorney in the near future to decide how to proceed.

The budget for 2014 is $103,700 more than last year, with most of the increase due to the road budget, revaluation fees and legal fees. The current tax rate of 14.30 mills will remain stable.

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