Town to seek bill to move forward with senior tax relief plan

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Years ago, Bear Zaidman learned how to cut wood from others who had experience and a willingness to take a little time to guide him.

Now, those folks are in their 80s and 90s, and need some assistance.

“We have people in this town that have lived here a long time and have supported the town and the schools,” Bridgton Selectman Bear Zaidman said. “Now, they could use a little help.”

Bridgton selectmen previously considered a tax assistance program for seniors, which has been successful in Cumberland. But, the town’s attorney questioned the legality of some language regarding who would be eligible for the rebate program.

To clean it up, the town will ask State Senator Jim Hamper to sponsor a bill to provide “additional flexibility” in the municipal property tax assistance programs for seniors. New language would include, “A municipality may choose to restrict the program to persons who are of a particular age, not less than 62 years of age, as determined by the municipality. It also includes stipulations regarding length of residency and median income to be eligible. Initial numbers discussed were 70 years of age and 15 to 20 years of consistent residency.

“The bill ultimately creates ‘home rule,’” Zaidman noted.

To fund the program, Zaidman said town officials will take a much closer look at some outside agencies that Bridgton financially supports to determine if that money might best be used locally. In Cumberland, the program costs about $132,000 to operate. Zaidman said the amount of funding available could fluctuate year-to-year, which is why an ordinance is helpful, giving officials the flexibility to adjust rebate amounts or even halt the program if need be.

“It doesn’t lock us in,” he added.

Zaidman pushed for quick contact with Senator Hamper since proposed bills must be submitted this month.

On a side note, Zaidman gained support from other selectmen to investigate options regarding legal representation.

“I’d like to reach out to other law firms and see what they have to offer,” Zaidman said.

Town Manager Robert Peabody pointed out that there is a “formal process” to follow, including a Request for Offer to be advertised. Peabody suggested that selectmen obtain some feedback in regards to needs from town staff that often works with counsel. Selectmen will hold a workshop meeting on Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. to discuss the matter.

Some quick takes:

  • A Project Oversight Committee will be formed to keep tabs on the upcoming wastewater and streetscape projects. One goal is to keep the public consistently informed regarding project developments.
  • The town could take steps to address a dangerous building on South High Street if the property’s owners do not. Eight years ago, fire destroyed a home owned by David Grantham. The property is now owned by Mr. Grantham’s estate (his daughter Paige Pearson, who resides in Florida). In September, Code Officer Rob Baker sent a certified letter to Pearson saying, “At this time, the first-floor decking is rotten away and falling into the basement. Currently, I am asking you to fill the basement with sand or gravel.”

Baker set a notification date of Oct. 12. Since there was no reply, Baker took the matter to selectmen. Earlier in the meeting, selectmen authorized Baker to serve as their agent in dealing with dangerous buildings and junkyards.

A neighbor said household animals had fallen into the basement, and she felt the building’s current condition posed a safety hazard to the general public. Selectmen agreed, voting 5–0 to commence action to “secure” the building. Public Works will handle the matter, logging time taken and materials used, which will be charged to the owner.

  • Vacancies still exist on the Board of Appeals and the Pondicherry Park Stewardship Committee. Selectmen interviewed two prospects — Cathy DiPietro for the BOA post and Mark Lagoda for the park committee. DiPietro admitted her interest at this time is exploratory, learning what the position entails and how the board functions before she commits.

Lagoda sees the park as Bridgton’s gem.

“As a daily user of Pondicherry Park, I would like to assist in decision-making and project planning that will ensure this great resource continues on for future generations,” he wrote on his application.

Another candidate failed to show for the meeting. Selectmen voted 5–0 to place Lagoda on the committee.

  • Fire Chief Steve Fay recognized the efforts of those responding to a fire at 44 Reindeer Trail in late November.

“The job done was outstanding and as an efficient operation as could be expected considering the conditions,” the chief said.

The chief also recognized Captain Brad Vincent for securing access to the site on Sweden Road; Bridgton Police Officers Muise and Reese for their assistance in shuttling personnel and providing sand.

The Fire Department also thanked Karen Harding of Pleasant View Too B&B for the donation of a new Bunn coffee brewer.

  • Selectmen will meet this Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.
Please follow and like us: