Southwest Harbor voters reject $668,000 firetruck purchase

Posted Nov. 07, 2008, at 9:14 p.m.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Voters this week rejected a proposal to purchase a new firetruck, but approved spending $300,000 to help improve the quality of the town’s drinking water, according to a town official.

Voters also expressed support in a nonbinding referendum to renovate the first floor of the municipal building to provide more room for the Police Department, Town Manager Robin Bennett said Friday.

The votes were held Tuesday, Nov. 4, in conjunction with the state and national elections.

Bennett said the firetruck would have cost $668,000 and would have helped replace two of the department’s aging pumper trucks. The new truck would have had a ladder, which would have provided the department with a capability it does not have now, she said.

Bennett said she is not sure why voters decided against approving the truck purchase, but speculated that the poor economy likely was a factor.

Voters approved spending $300,000 to add an aeration system to the local water department’s chlorine contact tank. The aeration system is intended to help remove contaminants from the town’s drinking water, as mandated by the state.

“We’re hoping this will end our quest,” Bennett said of the town’s lengthy efforts to improve its water quality.

She said the expense is a relatively good deal for Southwest Harbor because many Maine towns are facing the same problem and have spent millions of dollars on it without success.

Local voters also approved spending $100,000 on a generator for the water plant and $177,000 to extend the system’s intake pipe 150 feet further into Long Pond. The town hopes to get a low-interest loan to pay for the improvements, Bennett said, but the water system’s ratepayers will have to pick up the tab.

The addition of the generator and the extension of the intake pipe are not being mandated by the state but nonetheless are expected to improve water quality and service, she said.

Bennett said voters also weighed in on their preferences for how to improve the town’s Police Department facilities. In the nonbinding referendum, the voters were given several options:

ä Building a new town office that would have office space for the Police Department and other municipal employees.

ä Moving the Police Department to the former health care clinic next to Carroll’s Drug Store.

ä Renovating the first floor of the existing town office to give the Police Department more room.

Most voters expressed support for the third option, according to Bennett. She said selectmen will consider the voters’ preference as they continue their deliberations on the issue.

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