Selectmen say NO to VotersEditorial by Dick Jarrett
Selectmen say NO to Clean Water
Also later in this paper:
Planning Board Elects First Woman Chairperson
Jump to March 17th edition of the Limington Free Press
In an apparent attempt to thwart the will of the voters, the selectmen have enlisted the aid of the town attorney to prevent any of the money that was authorized by the voters at the annual town meeting to be used for water quality testing.
The Limington voters have long recognized the need to protect our local natural resources such as our drinking water. The townspeople of Limington depend upon the underground aquifer to supply their wells with pure water. The Saco River feeds one of the two high yield aquifers in town. Not only do the residents cherish and use the pristine waters of the Saco, some segments of the local business economy depend upon it.
All of the towns in the Saco River watershed share both the benefits of the river and the responsibility for keeping it clean. This is why all of the towns were asked to contribute funds for water quality testing. And to make this money go further, for every dollar funded by the towns, three dollars will be matched from other sources. Therefore Limington's $600 contribution will actually purchase $2,400 of water testing services. The selectmen did not place any specific allocation on the warrant for this purpose.
Events at Town Meeting on March 4th:
Because it is the Planning Board's responsibility to protect the environment, including the Saco River, I proposed at town meeting to correct this "oversight" of the selectmen.
Article 22 as printed read: "To see if the Town will vote to raise or appropriate $3,000 and carry $1,500 of the 1999 balance for the Planning Board."
I proposed that this entire $4,500 amount be allocated to the Planning Board with the condition that $600 of the allocated funds be used for water quality testing. The exact wording of the amendment which was placed at the end of the article was: "with the provision that $600 of these funds be given to the Saco River Corridor Commission for water quality testing."
In 1999 the Planning Board spent $3,444. So that even after this $600 is spent, the Board will still have $456 more this year than was used last year. The voters at town meeting passed the article with the amendment as listed here.
Tuesday March 7th:
Selectman Herbert Ramsdell consulted Town Attorney Jim Haddow. Judging from his Memorandum of March 9th, it is obvious that Mr. Haddow was not given the facts or even the exact wording of the amendment. (Note: The results of the Annual Town Meeting were posted on this site after the meeting.) What is clear is that the selectmen are looking for a way to prevent this money from being used for water quality testing. This appears to be a common tactic of the selectmen: furnish the legal counsel with incomplete or misleading information so that the selectmen can get the ruling and response that they desire - not what is best for the Town or the Townspeople. If the advice of the Town Lawyer were taken literally, then the Town could spend no monies at all unless all of the recipients were named by name in the Warrant!
Why Attend Town Meeting?
It is quite common for the voters at town meeting to attach conditions to the department budgets on how taxpayer money may or may not be spent. Indeed, many such conditions were imposed last Saturday. If the selectmen get their way, they will be able to claim that any conditions they choose are "non-germane and therefore out of order". Does the will of the voters mean nothing? Why bother going to town meeting at all if the votes are just going to be ignored?
How much money are the selectmen willing to spend in order to "save" this $600? The services of prestigious Portland law firms such as Petruccelli and Martin do not come cheap. How many taxpayer dollars did the selectmen spend for Mr. Haddow's consultation and the resulting two-page memorandum that was presented to the Planning Board in open session on March 9th? Last year the selectmen spent $28,775 on legal fees. How many thousands of taxpayer dollars will the selectmen spend in order to keep this $600 from being used to test the water quality of the Saco? Just what are the selectmen trying to hide?
What is the mind set of the Town administration on this issue? Outgoing Planning Board Chairman Ralph Libby summed up the attitude Thursday night when he stated about the $600 directed for water quality testing:
"They are not going to get it out of our budget. We might be $600 less, but nobody else is getting it."
Planning Board Elects First Woman Chairperson
On Thursday night, the Limington Planning Board elected Wendy Walker as Chairperson. This is Ms. Walker's third year on the board. Outgoing Chairman Ralph Libby stated that he believes that this is the first time that a woman has been elected to that position in Limington. Mr. Libby was elected as vice-chairman. The board also welcomed Ray Coffin as the newly elected board member.
In other board business, the Planning Board heavily criticized member Dick Jarrett for proposing at the Annual Town Meeting that the $600 water quality testing fee be taken out of the Planning Board budget. Mr. Jarrett was also heavily criticized for publishing this website, www.Limington.org. Outgoing chairman Ralph Libby felt that despite the ads in the Shopping Guide and the disclaimer on every page, too many people still believe that the site is being published by the Town government. He also felt that Mr. Jarrett should not use different email addresses to classify different functions and that a more awkward "personal" domain name should be used. Long time member Harold Jordan stated that "As far as I am concerned, Jarrett has a conflict of interest with the Planning Board. He puts all of this information out ... I don't think we need that."
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