With the exception of changes to the public works budget, there was little discussion in Rockport as voters approved a fiscal year 2011-12 budget that was 3.3 percent higher than the previous year.

According to Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw, 54 registered voters were present in the Rockport Opera House June 15.

The discussion on Article 15, the public works budget, began with a motion from Helen Shaw. That motion asked voters to amend the $1.5 million line in the following ways.

  • Remove $75,536 designated to rebuild and repave Pleasant Street.
  • Remove $4,000 for vehicle maintenance.
  • Add $32,000 to be the first of three annual payments on a 2012 Ford F-550 1.5-ton truck. This would include the cost of equipping it for winter road maintenance.
  • Add $44,282 to hire a full-time worker to start in the fall of 2011.

The changes would reduce the public works line by $3,254 and did not affect the sanitation budget that was also in Article 15.

Shaw said the proposed changes would leave $9,000 in the budget to stabilize Pleasant Street and fix drainage issues there, and that it was expected that the full repair would be included in the fiscal year 2012-13 budget. According to Finance Director Virginia Lindsey, the vehicle maintenance would be reduced $4,000 because a new truck would be under warranty.

“The department has been down an employee for the past year,” said Shaw. She said the position needed to be returned to the department in order to provide residents with the level of service they are accustomed to.

Victor Steinglass said he hoped the Pleasant Street project would remain in the budget.

“It’s probably one of the worst streets in town,” he said. Steinglass said the project had already been postponed once.

Tom Murphy asked Public Works Director Steve Beveridge to explain how the project was related to work Aqua Maine was planning to do.

Beveridge said the water company had to put off its planned work on Pleasant Street, due to more urgent projects in the county, and that he had a verbal commitment from Aqua Maine to do the work next year.

“I can’t really speak for them,” said Beveridge. “As it stands right now, it might be better for the town to do Pleasant Street next year.”

Select Board member Dale Landrith said the town had gotten through last winter with its current staffing level and equipment, and that it had been “one of the worst winters on record.”

Landrith said he would like to keep the money in the budget for other roads, so as not to fall behind on the town’s routine maintenance schedule.

Select Board member Tracy Murphy said it was unfair to ask the department to work with fewer people and an old truck that is in need of major repairs.

Thomas Latta asked Beveridge what the outcome would be if the truck and staff position were not replaced.

Beveridge said the position became vacant last year when a worker retired and that the loss of that worker meant a 17 percent cut in the department’s total staff. That vacancy was filled, in part, through the hiring of an on-call driver.

“When you lose a full-time man and have a workload increase, the taxpayers pay more through overtime,” he said. Beveridge said Rockport had its first workers compensation claim in more than four years last spring, and that it was difficult to ask his staff to continue to “do more with less.”

“We’ve done it for more than a year,” he said. “I can’t see it as an ongoing situation.”

Beveridge said the existing 1999 truck needed a lot of repair in order to be reliable.

Shaw’s motion passed with fewer than 10 opposing votes, and Article 15 passed as amended.

The remaining articles passed without discussion.

Rockport’s $4.2 million gross budget is up 7.4 percent from last year. Anticipated revenues are $1.6 million, a 14.5 percent increase over fiscal year 2010-11. The net municipal budget represents an estimated tax commitment for municipal services of $2.6 million, up 3.3 percent from the previous year.

The 14.5 percent increase in revenue is due, in large part, to $140,000 from the Commercial Street tax increment financing district coming into the Public Works Department to offset a sewer and water project, $80,000 from undesignated fund balance and $36,225 in grant funds for energy updates at the Rockport Opera House.

At the meeting’s close, Select Board Chairman William Chapman announced the presentation of a Peter Ralston photograph, “The Beginning,” to Ralph and Elizabeth Field, who are moving to Rockland.

“Ralph, when he is at Select Board meetings, is the historian for us all,” said Chapman. He said Field had been a great help to him and to all members of the board for many years.

After adjournment, Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw administered the oath of office to Chapman, who was re-elected to the Select Board the previous night, and Geoffrey Parker, who was elected to fill the seat vacated by outgoing member Thomas Farley. Newly elected Budget Committee member Stephanie Kumble was also sworn into office. The newly configured board met briefly to re-elect Chapman as chairman and Tracy Murphy as vice chairman.

The Select Board will hold its next two meetings Monday, June 27 and Monday, July 11.

For more information, visit the website at town.rockport.me.us or call the Rockport Town Office at 236-0806.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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