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Voters to finalize sidewalk decision

By Christine Simmonds | Feb 05, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Chairman Greg Grotton speaks at the board meeting in Union Feb. 4.

Union — Despite the invalidation of a petition regarding the matter, a controversial sidewalk project will go to the voters as a warrant item in June.

At the Board of Selectmen meeting Feb. 4, Chairman Greg Grotton made a motion that the petition was invalid due to not being properly circulated.

Town Manager Jay Feyler previously presented a letter from the town attorney stating that the petition was not valid due to the circulator signatures on the bottom not being from registered Maine voters.

Selectman Sarah Drickey said that the board still heard the voters who signed it.

Grotton then made a motion to put the sidewalk project on the warrant in June.

Drickey said perhaps the item should be voted on in November when there are more voters present.

Selectman Adam Fuller said he initially considered November, but he was concerned it would push the project back another year, adding to the cost.

Drickey said she was concerned about the capacity of the William L. Pullen meeting room, but Grotton said they could move the meeting to the Thompson Community Center if too many people attended.

Feyler said the town could hold a public forum before the vote, but it would be on a paper ballot.

Resident Erik Amundsen said that if they put the project as a warrant item, then people should know the operating and upfront costs. A few people in the audience voiced their agreement.

Grotton agreed that he would like that information too, and said that as soon as the Department of Transportation knows the costs, they will have a meeting.

The board agreed to have the vote in June and the motion passed.

In other business, the board discussed adding a streaming program for the town meetings as an additional warrant item.

Fuller said that in his experience when organizations start streaming meetings, people stop showing up. “If you want to stay involved, show up,” Fuller said.

He also said such a project was not free, and there were better ways to spend that money.

The board decided the streaming program would not go to the voters as a warrant item.

Abraham Knight was given approval to tap trees on town property. Knight said he would put up flags on the trees to prevent people from running into them.

Mike Johnson was present to be appointed to the Planning Board. Johnson spoke briefly and said he wanted to be more involved in the town. The board accepted his application.

Chris Packard Excavation was approved for a ditching bid on North Union Road at $117,040. Other bids were from Farley Inc. for $167,945, Wellman Paving for $164,970, Jake Barbour, Inc. for $185,398, and Ford Enterprises for $118,600.

The board authorized Feyler to put out a Request for Proposals to take on mowing the cemeteries and the parks.

Feyler said that mowing the cemeteries is a lot of time and effort for the Public Works crew who need to be focusing on other projects, such as road cleanup. He said the purpose of getting bids would mainly be to compare prices.

Initially the discussion was that the Public Works crew would continue to maintain the parks. Fuller said he agreed with that sentiment.

Board member Josh White said he was alarmed to see how much time it took to mow the cemeteries, and he was unsure how he felt about the Public Works crew maintaining the other parks as well, since they should be focusing on the roads.

“Just have someone else do it all,” White said.

Grotton asked if they should get bids on both cemeteries and the parks.

Feyler commented that it takes time because the crew goes slowly to avoid damaging headstones, and “we want contractors to go slow too.”

The board discussed who would be on the Pullen Committee. It was determined that Grotton, White, and board member John Shepard, who was absent, would be on the committee.

The board discussed the town report and the Spirit of America award. Feyler said he has some suggestions from the board for the dedication of the town report, and would put them on a ballot to be voted on at a future meeting. The dedication would be announced when the reports are out to the printer.

Feyler said the Spirit of America award is a similar process, and could be done in March.

Feyler also discussed the increase in the emergency medical services budget. He said the town needs the revenue.

While some people will have to pay for the services, they can apply for a hardship waiver, Feyler said.

Fuller asked if the hardship waiver was decided in-house.

Feyler said that he and EMS Director Jesse Thompson decided on a case-by-case basis.

The board approved the new rates.

For the Town Manager’s report, Feyler said the Public Works garage process was “slow, but we’re getting there.”

Grotton asked for an estimate of when the project would be completed.

Feyler said mid-March.

Fuller asked about having an open house when the Public Works garage is ready, so people can “see their tax dollars at work.”

Grotton said maybe around Founder’s Day.

Feyler also spoke about the ice rink that is behind the Town Office. He said it should be ready to use in a few weeks, and he hoped people would take care of it.

Feyler said the town should have the LED streetlights installed around the end of February, which “should save a ton of money.” He said the delay is waiting for other towns to be ready, as the contractor RealTerm Energy wants to install all the lights at the same time.

Some residents in attendance shared that current streetlights had gone out, which could pose a danger.

Feyler said fixing those lights would cost money, and the new LED lights would be installed soon. It would be better to wait for the new lights to be installed.

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