Unexpected Casco expenses need voter approval

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Weeks before area residents engaged in the routine of unboxing and putting up Christmas decorations, the Casco Board of Selectmen began to compile the issues that will face voters at a special town meeting in January.

A handful of the town meeting warrant articles are budgetary items.

The residents of Casco will decide whether or not to re-appropriate money to cover legal fees, a mid-summer cat-hoarding case, and the future disposal of two unsafe structures on private land.

On Tuesday, the board voted to recommend the amounts that will be listed on three articles.

Although the town has an annual budget to cover the services of its town attorney and miscellaneous legal items, this year some unexpected legal battles arose, according to Town Manager Dave Morton.

The legal fees (which tally up to less than $20,000) stem from two court cases and a third item that was settled out of court, he said.

The board voted to back spending $13,500 — the amount not covered by the current legal budget. That money would be re-appropriated from the Undesignated Fund.

Also, this summer a cat-hoarding incident was brought to the attention of the town.

In its attempt to resolve the problems and protect the felines from being euthanized, the town’s Animal Control department was saddled with the costs of veterinarian fees and animal shelter services plus additional staff hours to care for the cats that were temporarily housed in the Casco Memorial School.

The town will have to approve “more money for the animal control account because of extra expenses we have encountered with the cat-hoarding and cat rescue case,” Morton said.

“We have received no reimbursement yet” from the owner of the cats, he said.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept Article 2 for $27,500, which will also be taken from the Undesignated Fund Account.

Another item, which was not appropriated for the 2012–13 fiscal year, is the cost for the disposal of a privately-owned, vacant house. Following a public hearing last month, the selectmen unanimously declared the building hazardous to the public. Also, the board accepted Code Enforcement Officer Don Murphy’s plan to remove the structure with an excavator and yard Dumpsters.

The town has not yet awarded a bid for that job. However, cost estimates between $7,000 and $9,000 had been provided, Morton said.

The disposal of a second home — the house where the cat-hoarding occurred — will likely be a more costly disposal process.

The board voted to recommend $24,000 for these upcoming costs to get rid of the two dangerous and inhabitable buildings.

Another issue that will appear as an article is a resolution for the town to forbid use of an oil pipeline for transporting tar sands oil — should that project happen. That resolution was brought forward by a citizens’ signature petition.

According to Morton, there is no law or ordinance requiring Casco to hold a special town meeting. Like many towns, Casco’s town meeting occurs in June and is the time the budget is passed by land-owning residents.

It has become customary for Casco to keep scheduled its special town meeting in January as this provides an annual time period to attend to items that require residents’ vote, he said.

Any issue, which appears as a warrant item, must get the selectmen’s signatures no less than seven days before a town meeting, Morton said.

The special town meeting is slated for Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at 9 a.m.

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