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August 8, 2014





Lubec residents disagree over budget and fireworks funding
by JD Rule


      During the annual town business meeting conducted Tuesday, August 5, 78 of Lubec's 1,043 registered voters determined the town's course for the next 12 months, approving the warrant's 48 articles in the three-hour meeting held in the school cafetorium. Moderator Harold Bailey opened the meeting shortly after 7 p.m. by quipping, "I guess I'm not paying enough for you to elect someone else to do this."
     Article 2 asked the town to approve $361,022 for general administration expenses, to be supplemented by a transfer from the undesignated fund of $50,000 for a total of $411,022. Dana Bradley, a former town administrator, rose to commend the outgoing select board for cutting expenses to accommodate the $20,000 reduction in administrative costs that he had backed last year. He then proceeded to move that the proposed appropriation be reduced by $50,000, which would bring the total budget line to $361,022. He further moved that the vote on the amendment be by paper ballot. After considerable discussion, resident Isaac Stephenson pointed out that the "people who put the budget together do the work and know what it should be." Bradley responded by urging that the town "needs a review of the town office productivity," which triggered a response from Town Clerk Betty Case that "things have changed since you were the administrator." At this point Bailey gaveled the meeting back to order. In response to a question from Bradley, Town Administrator John Sutherland stated that the office includes "six full‑time and two part‑time" employees. The voting on the amendment then began, with the line snaking around to the far side of the room.
     Following the amendment vote but before the tally was announced, Sutherland asked for the opportunity to correct his earlier statement, pointing out that the office employs five full‑time employees, one of whom is being trained to fill the treasurer's position in anticipation of a retirement, which will reduce the number to four full‑time plus the two part‑time positions. "This training period is important," Sutherland said, "because the treasurer can take people's houses." The amendment passed by a 44‑31 majority, at which time Bradley moved to have the vote on the article also conducted by paper ballot. The amended article passed by a 52‑19 majority.
     Article 28 was the next to produce controversy; it asked residents to approve $4,000 for use by the Fourth of July Committee. Resident Bruce Wilson said, "I'm not in favor of blowing up money." Several residents supported his position, and he proposed an amendment that would restrict taxpayer funds from the purchase of fireworks. The amendment failed by a 30‑37 vote, and the original article passed by a wide majority.
      The issue of the proposed salt/sand storage shed and town maintenance garage became the focal point of discussion regarding Article 45, which asked the town to approve a Community Development Block Grant of $300,000, which can only be used for construction of the storage facility. While the decision to build the two facilities has not been made and will require a referendum, the acceptance of the grant apparently was viewed as approval of the project, according to several comments made by residents. "Either we accept it tonight, or we turn it down," said Town Clerk Betty Case, referring specifically to the grant. Bradley asked, "Our taxes will be higher without the grant, right?" When Sutherland replied, "Yes," a motion was made to "move the article." The motion to halt discussion passed 53‑3, then the article was approved by a wide majority.
     Article 46 was the last one to generate discussion. It asked the town to approve $40,000 for sidewalk upgrades, to be matched by $159,800 in federal funds. Approval of the federal funding is contingent on the town's contribution, said Sutherland, adding that the work will be on Washington Street from Pleasant Street to Flatiron Corner -- a distance of 1,700 feet. The article passed unanimously.
      A total of $150,000 was approved by the town to be allocated from undesignated funds; this included $50,000 each for general administrative expenses, ambulance service and the public works department
The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 p.m.
     On the morning following the meeting Bradley hand‑delivered a letter addressed to the Lubec board of selectmen, with a copy to The Quoddy Tides. In the letter, Bradley urged the board to conduct a review of town operations, focusing particularly on how the office serves the public in conducting official business such as automobile and boat registrations and also in the release of public information. He suggested that the 2013 business meeting should be viewed as "a wake-up call" that he says was not heard and that "the call got a little louder last night."

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