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Budget & School Committee

Minutes, November 30, 2020


Chair Merle Bragdon called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM.   The meeting was held via Zoom.


Present were (via zoom) – Mark Harris, Robin Veysey, Tiffany McMullen, Merle Bragdon, Greg Hiltz; Selectman Jo Cooper,  Fire Chief George “Skip” Smith (town hall); Secretary Stu Marckoon (town hall),


Minutes – November 16, 2020 – Mark moved to approve the minutes as distributed.  Tiffany 2nd.  Vote in favor was unanimous.


Public Safety – Chief Skip Smith asked if there were any questions about his budget.  Jo said she was curious about fire hydrants, and if there is anything peculiar.  Chief Smith said the department prefers hydrants from storage tanks instead of dry hydrants on ponds, as the former requires much less maintenance.  He said there are several water storage tanks around town now.  He said pond hydrants are more difficult to maintain.  Stu noted that the department installed a new barrier around the hydrant head at the Grange this past weekend.


Chief Smith said the budget includes a small raise, but personnel reimbursements stay the same.  He said the number of volunteers fluctuates. 


Merle asked about replacing airpacks.  Chief Smith said that the department got a very good deal on slightly used airpacks from the Ellsworth Fire Department and completed the acquisition.  He said by the end of 2022 the department will have to replace about 25-SCBA bottles which will reach the end of their approved life, which is 15-years.  Merle asked what the cost would be.  Chief Smith said about $900 per bottle. He said the department has about 50-bottles, and is required to have two per airpack.  Merle noted the budget under consideration expires in June 2022.  Chief Smith said he’s not sure of the expiration dates on the bottles.  There was a brief discussion about funding either with a special town meeting or with a separate article.  Merle suggested adding a line to the 21/22 budget and prefunding some of the purchase. Mark suggested funding half the purchase in FY 21/22 and the other half in FY 22/23.  Jo agreed that something should be in the budget.  Chief Smith says the sooner the new bottles are purchased, the less expensive it would be as price hikes seem fairly frequent.  Merle suggested putting this in the capital improvement article.  Stu said that’s what he had planned to do. 


Chief Smith said he tried to keep the fire budget as close to the previous year as possible, but that is sometimes difficult.  He said emergency repairs occur and that’s an unknown. Merle asked if the trucks are running well.  Chief Smith said they are.  Merle noted that the ladder truck was used on a big fire.  Chief Smith said that was correct and it performed as expected.


Ambulance Contract – Stu said the figure in the spreadsheet was just an estimate as Northern Light Ambulance has not gotten back to him with a firmer price.  Merle asked if the price had held the same when that company took over from County Ambulance.  Stu said it did for the first year, but there was a gradual increase.  Chief Smith noted that come the first of the year, Northern Light will be based in its own facility instead of inside the Ellsworth fire station.


Dispatch – Stu said the price for 2021 will remain the same, but Hancock County Regional Communications Center operates on a calendar year, so it’s not known what the 2022 price will be.


Animal Control – Stu said he based the figure on the average costs for the ACO.


Health Insurance Revisited – Stu reported that following the previous meeting, he researched the items requested.  He said the Board of Selectmen endorsed a plan to pay $1,000/month of the premium for the town’s two full time employees.  Merle said that seemed to be a good way to go.


Roads – Stu noted that the snow plowing contract increases in the coming fiscal year.  He said he discussed paving with the Board of Selectmen and it was agreed to plan to pave the western end of Buttermilk Road.  He said Marlboro Beach Road, Maxwell Avenue and Lorimer Road are in decent shape and could wait another year. 


Merle noted the proposed budget decreases by $15,650.  A brief discussion followed on paving.


Capital Projects – Revaluation - Stu reported he plans to meet with the Board of Assessors this week to discuss budgeting for a revaluation as sale prices are very out of sync with assessed value.  He said the town had set aside about $113,000 for the revaluation which would be used to fund the project.  Mark asked when a revaluation might take place.  Stu said he could foresee the process taking about a year and a half, so most likely the new values would not go into effect until 2024 when the project is complete.


Town Hall Foundation Project – Merle said this project has been in the talking stage for a long time.  Stu said there has been discussion about a community center as well.  He said the school department has hired an architect and the community center concept will be discussed during some school facilities planning.  He said he’s not sure what the function of the current town hall will turn out to be.   He said he has not proposed adding anything to the foundation/steps reserve for the upcoming budget and until there is a concrete plan in place, the fund level will stay the same. 


Broadband Expansion – Merle inquired about the effort to expand broadband to cover all parts of town.  Stu reported the town recently received a grant from the Island Institute which adds $5,000 more to the budget.  He said the town has hired a consultant, and the next step is to be under discussion.  Merle noted that getting a ConnectMaine grant will be a big issue, as the cost per household is pretty steep. 


Transfer Station – Stu said the Selectmen are still in the design phase to add compaction at the transfer station in order to cut down on transportation costs.  He said he included funding for something in the next budget.  He said he expects a project to be pretty expensive and funded over 5-years, similarly to recent fire truck purchases. 


Lamoine 150 – Jo Cooper said the pandemic squashed the planned big celebration in August, but the group hopes to celebrate in August 2021 and will likely have some expenses in the next fiscal year.  She noted if funding is not used, the money goes back to the town’s surplus account.


Revenues – Stu noted that he significantly reduced state revenue sharing based on the poor economic forecast.  He said the undesignated fund balance (surplus) had fared well in the past year, thanks largely to sale of tax acquired property.  He said the budget does not include an appropriation from the transfer station account or the local road fund.  Mark asked about Local Road Assistance, and Stu gave a brief explanation of the program.


Next Meeting – The board requested that the SCBA bottle matter be placed on the next meeting agenda.  Stu said the December 14th meeting will also have social service agency requests, parks, recreation and cemeteries.


There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 7:15 PM.


Respectfully submitted,


Stu Marckoon, Adm. Asst. to the Selectmen/Secretary