APPLETON – The town office on Sennebec Road is now open just three instead of four days a week, which might give Appleton the distinction of the least user-friendly town office in Knox County.

And after lowering the price, Appleton’s still having a tough time selling a piece of tax-acquired land that voters opted to put on the market.

The heavily treed, vacant, 17-acre parcel on West Appleton Road was initially listed for $145,000 on Oct. 19. Town meeting voters in June 2022 gave the Select Board the go-head to sell the tax-acquired property and the board voted Oct. 11 to do so.

The “primary” reason for the sale of the land was “to raise money so we can do a town-wide revaluation of all properties,” vice chair Peter Beckett noted at the time.

“That was the original thrust, that was the top priority, and we think we will have to do in the next couple of years,” Beckett said of the revaluation. Revaluations can cost more than $100,000.

A few months later, despite interest, the parcel had not sold. So, the board, working with its real estate agent, lowered the price to $130,000. A week later, a solid, no contingent, cash offer was announced at the board’s Jan. 17 meeting; it was $75,000.

“It’s far too low, I think we should wait it out,” vice chair Peter Beckett said.

“Absolutely,” colleague Scott Esancy responded.

On a motion by Costigan, seconded by Beckett, the offer was rejected and the asking price of $130,000 was retained.

Office hours will have to be changed on this window sign at Appleton’s Town Office. Photo by Jack M. Foley

Costigan later told The Camden Herald that the real estate company has reported that there has been good interest for the time of year and the type of parcel.

The town is working with Camden Coast Real Estate to market the property. The firm suggested last October it be listed in the range of $145,000. The land is zoned residential and can be subdivided, according to the town.

In the meantime, the move to cut the number of days and hours the office is open to the public was prompted by the need for the two-person office staff to get work done, according to recent Select Board discussions on the matter.

“We have reduced the hours the counter is open so that the staff can focus on work that requires extended concentration time, which is difficult to do when continually being interrupted,” Beckett told The Camden Herald Jan. 23. “We are doing this as an experiment and will review again in the future,” he added.

The reduction in hours was announced on the town website like this: “The town office will now be closed Wednesdays and Thursdays.”

Before the cut, the office was closed Wednesday and open the other weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. plus from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. That meant 31 hours per week the office was open for the public to conduct business — everything from submitting dog license applications to paying property taxes.

Under the new system, the office will be closed to the public all day Wednesdays and Thursdays. Open hours are now 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday, plus 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. That is a total of 24 hours, or 7 hours less than before the change. There was no reduction in employee hours or pay, only in employee interaction with the public.

That change now makes Appleton close to last among Knox County’s 17 towns in the number of hours the town office is open to the town’s taxpayers, according to a review of municipal websites by The Camden Herald.

The other towns range in open hours from a high of five days and 42.5 hours in Rockland to Appleton’s new, three-day, 24 hours schedule. Appleton’s open office time appears to be either the lowest or second lowest in the county. Hours for the tiny island community of Isle Au Haut could not be found online and town officials could not be reached.

Of the known numbers, coming in just ahead of Appleton is North Haven, which is open five days a week for five hours a day or 25 hours per week. Only Cushing along with Appleton is open less than four days a week, both are at three.