TOWN OF LAMOINE
PUBLIC WORKS STUDY COMMITTEE
4/14/03, 7:00 PM at the Town Hall
Those Present: Committee Members: Ken Smith, Reggie McDevitt, John Wuorinen, Donald Cooper and Jay Fowler. Ken reported that Chris Tadema-Wielandt had sent an e-mail indicating that he would be at a closing with a client in Boston and would be unable to attend.
· Ken reported that he provided the Public Works Study Committee’s final recommendations to the selectmen on December 18 (action item from the December 10 Committee meeting). Dennis Ford and Bill Pinkham also attended the meeting. All of the selectmen were present. Ken provided the following summary of the meeting:
Ken discussed the alternatives considered (using the “Description of Alternatives” table) and the costs (using the “Building and Equipment Costs” and “Comparison of Alternatives” tables). He advised the selectmen that the Committee’s final determination was that the implementation of a public works department did not appear to be economically sound, at least not at this time. However, Ken also advised them that increases in plowing costs or the possible need to relocate the transfer station could make implementation cost effective in the future. Therefore, the Committee’s recommendation is that the Town proceed immediately with the purchase of an appropriate parcel of land for future public use, because suitable land in the town is rapidly disappearing. Such uses could include a public works complex, transfer station, fire station and/or school. Ken provided the selectmen with an update of the land search (using the “Potential Sites for a Public Works Complex” table). He advised them of the Committee’s recommendations that i) the Town initiate negotiations for the Zerrien parcel (tax map 3, lot 7), subject to verification of the claimed 100 ft road frontage next to Dick King’s pit, and ii) negotiate a right of first refusal with Dick King for purchase of the back portion of his site with a right of way from Route 184. Bill Pinkham, who had walked the Zerrien site with Ken and George Crawford, expressed his belief that the site was wet. Ken agreed that, at the time of the walkthrough, some of the old skidder ruts were filled with water. However, Ken also noted that over 2-in of rain had fallen a few days prior to our inspection (the newspaper subsequently reported that it was over 3-in). Bill also expressed concern that only a small portion of the site would be usable. Ken agreed, but noted that 15-20 acres of usable land (out of the claimed 72-87 acres) would be sufficient and the price is cheap in comparison to the other sites investigated, some of which had even less usable land. Ken conveyed the Committee’s recommendation that the selectmen place an appropriate article on the town meeting warrant for vote at either the town meeting or in a referendum. Bill strongly suggested that the referendum approach should be the only way to proceed since it generally provides better voter representation. He noted that if the selectmen didn’t agree, then he would initiate the necessary petition to have the issue placed on a referendum ballot. The selectmen didn’t have a problem with a referendum.
Ken responded to a number of questions from the selectmen during the course of the presentation, which were answered to their satisfaction. Jo Cooper asked Ken to comment on the Committee’s opinion regarding the study outcome. Ken noted that he could not speak for the entire Committee, but could give his opinion and Dennis and Bill could give theirs. Ken noted that a public works department may never be necessary, but strongly supported the land purchase now for the reasons cited. Dennis agreed and added that if we purchased the land now we would be able to build the salt shed as soon as we need to and then add the other buildings when or if feasible. Bill prefaced his opinion by noting that, due to his obligations in Augusta, he was only able to attend the first and last Committee meetings. However, he felt that Lamoine would never need a public works department because contracting out would always be cheaper. He said that he would not support such a department and that he was totally against the recommended land purchase. He expressed his belief that there always will be land coming on the market and that the town may be able to find a better parcel in the future.
The selectmen indicated that they wanted to think everything over and would decide at their next meeting what approach they would take. The options would be to put questions for both the public works department and the land purchase on the referendum, put only the land purchase question on the referendum or drop any further consideration of either.
· Ken reported that he met with the selectmen again on January 2, 2003. Reggie also attended the meeting. All of the selectmen were present. Ken provided the following summary of the meeting:
Subsequent to the December 18 meeting, Ken had prepared a marked up copy of the Lamoine Aquifer map to show all of the lots upon which the town tax records show buildings (i.e., “developed”), lots registered in tree growth and lots with conservation easements. Ken reviewed the marked up map with the selectmen and noted that it clearly pointed out that there are relatively few “undeveloped” or unrestricted parcels located off the aquifer or outside the residentially-zoned area, and that many of these are wet. The selectmen agreed. Jo asked Ken for his personal recommendations. Ken indicated that they were the same as the Committee’s recommendations, which are that a public works department is not viable at this time but the land should be purchased. Ken reviewed some of the factors that could change the viability of a public works department. Plowing costs, which represent the single largest public works expenditure, could go up as more contractors find suitable year-round work (as Glen had expressed at the last meeting), or if town residents demand a higher level of service, such as bare pavement, or the town accepts certain private ways as town roads. Additionally, although not an issue at the present time, the DEP could change its regulations to require the relocation of the transfer station from the aquifer, which would be consistent with DEP requirements for new transfer stations.
The selectmen discussed whether they should recommend the purchase of the Zerrien parcel to the town meeting (or a referendum) or should simply request town meeting approval to conduct a comprehensive search. Although Ken indicated that the latter approach might result in the loss of the Zerrien parcel to another buyer, the selectmen opted for this approach.
Steve Joy of the Katsiaficas Agency, who represents the Zerriens, arrived at 8:05 (after the above discussions). He had been invited to the meeting by the selectmen, through Stu Marckoon, to address options for a possible deferred purchase of the Zerrien parcel. Steve indicated that his client would be willing to take the parcel off the market for a $1,000 fee that would be applied to the purchase price if ultimately purchased and forfeited if not purchased. When asked whether or not his client would be willing to pay for the land survey, which Ken estimated to be about $6K and Steve estimated to be $3-$5K, Steve said they might be willing to do so, but only at the full asking price. The selectmen advised Steve of the need to obtain town meeting approval to look at multiple parcels and to hold a referendum vote at a later date on whatever parcel ultimately is selected. Steve indicated that his client probably would be willing to take the parcel off the market for 90 days if the town makes the $1,000 payment at this time. However, if the town must wait until after the town meeting in March to make the payment, which is when the real estate market heats up, then it probably would be for no more than 60 days.
After some additional discussion, the selectmen agreed to ask the town meeting for $2,000 to cover the cost of an option fee and an abbreviated survey at whatever site is selected. For the Zerrien parcel, the survey would be to verify the availability of the 100 ft frontage next to Dick King’s pit.
· Ken passed out copies of the Power Point presentation made at the March town meeting and the one page Committee report to the selectmen that was included in the town’s Annual Report. With respect to the latter, Ken apologized for not having had the time to obtain Committee input before providing the report to Stu. He indicated that his out of state work assignment had resulted in running up against the printing deadline.
· Ken reviewed the land selection criteria previously developed by the Committee. He then reviewed his markup of the Lamoine aquifer map that was reviewed with the selectmen at their January 2 meeting and included in his presentation to the town meeting. There was considerable discussion of the “undeveloped” parcels shown on the map. Jay and Reggie had the most experience and both agreed that a number of them have not been developed for a reason – they are wet or have soils that are not suitable for septic systems. The group also discussed the possibility of purchasing a suitable portion of larger parcel on which there may be development in only a small area. Reggie suggested that the portion of Gott’s parcel off Mill Road, west of Archer’s Brook might be acceptable. Jay noted that there is a lot of ledge in there, but it’s possible there’s enough acceptable land for our needs. It was agreed that we need to get Gott’s approval to conduct an on-site evaluation. Action: Reggie will contact Doug Gott to see if he would be willing to consider selling this portion of the larger parcel to the town and, if so, obtain his approval for an on-site evaluation by the Committee.
· Ken provided a status update on the Zerrien parcel, which still has not been sold. He recommended that the next step should be to dig a few test pits after the snow melts and the ground dries out a bit. Although the soils at the west end of the site should be suitable for a septic system (based on the soils in Dick King’s pit), the soils quickly change as evidenced by the clay pit on Dick’s site just east of his active pit area. Since we have suggested that the site should be suitable for multiple uses, we probably should be aware of what the soil conditions are on the remainder of the “usable” portion of the site. Everyone agreed and Jay volunteered to dig the test pits. Action: Ken will pursue this with the selectmen first, then talk with Steve Joy and finally make arrangements with Jay.
· Ken discussed the procedure for identifying other potential parcels for consideration. He noted that he’s already talked with the realtors and they don’t have anything on the market that we haven’t already considered. In fact, David Dodge reported that the sale of the Collier parcel across from the town hall is pending. Ken suggested that it was important to identify and contact all owners of parcels of 20 acres or more that appear to meet our selection criteria. This, in his opinion, is essential to address the legitimate issue indirectly raised by Bill Pinkham. Specifically, that there may be other landowners willing to sell all or a portion of their land to the town, even though they do not have the land on the market at the present time or have no intention of putting it on the market. To accomplish this objective, Ken suggested calling or sending a letter to all such individuals. He recommended the letter route since it’s less intrusive.
· Ken passed out a draft letter and brief questionnaire that could be sent to all such landowners (copy attached). He noted that the selectmen’s approval would be required. Moreover, they may decide to send the letter out themselves, although they probably will expect the Committee to do so. The group went through the letter in detail. One suggestion was that we ought to emphasize in both the letter and the questionnaire that the sale would be to the town and everyone agreed. John suggested reversing the order of the items on the questionnaire (i.e., expressing interest in selling first instead of last) and eliminating the line for possible interest in selling in five or more years – everyone agreed. Ken noted that the disclaimer in bold print at the bottom of the questionnaire might not be necessary. Stu had advised Ken of the possibility that the questionnaire can be considered part of purchase negotiations, which are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. If that turns out to be the case, then the language will be change accordingly. Action: Ken will modify the letter as discussed, review it with the selectmen, and, if OK, mail it to the appropriate landowners.
· Ken noted that for suitable parcels not presently on the market, there are alternatives to immediate purchase. One is to purchase an option for a defined period of time. This would allow the town time to assess the need for the public works department. (Note: although not discussed at the meeting, such options normally are for less than a year, but, some landowners may be willing to provide a longer period for the town.) Another alternative is to negotiate a right of first refusal. However, this approach does not provide any guarantee that the land will be available if (or when) needed and would require “immediate” purchase if the landowner decides to sell and has another willing buyer (or the parcel could be sold to the other buyer).
Next Committee Meeting: It was agreed that it was unnecessary to schedule the next meeting at this time. Once the letter is mailed and an appropriate number of responses have been received, Ken will send out the meeting notice. Thus, it probably will be mid-June at the earliest before another meeting will be necessary.
The meeting adjourned at 8:35 PM.