MACHIAS, Maine — Town selectmen set a new mill rate Wednesday night, one a whopping 7 mills lower than last year.
Town Manager Betsy Fitzgerald said the major drop — to $19.50 per $1,000 of valuation from $26.50 — is due to a total property revaluation earlier this year.
“We did a complete revaluation as of April 1,” she said. “Only what was there on your property on April 1 will be included in the valuation.”
Fitzgerald said that generally during a revaluation, one-third of property owners see their tax bills drop, one-third stay the same, and one-third rises.
“I do think there will be some surprises for some folks, especially those on the water,” she said.
Fitzgerald said all questions should be directed to Tax Assessor Doug Guy.
Also Wednesday, a special town meeting was held and the town voted to accept $1.18 million in grant funds to upgrade the town’s sewage treatment plant.
“The facility was built back in the 1950s,” Fitzgerald said. “Basically, nothing has been done over the years except to replace parts as they fail.”
When there is a large amount of rain, which has happened many times this year, storm water surges into the facility and the overflow runs into the Machias River. “We just can’t handle it,” the manager said.
Part of the upgrade includes identifying and correcting areas of the town where storm water is entering the sewer system. Work already is under way on Court, Center and West streets.
The $1.18 million was provided by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and will be added to $2 million from a bond grant awarded two years ago, $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds received earlier this year, $1.5 million from U.S. Rural Development, and a $500,000 Rural Development loan at 2.75 percent interest.
Bids for the $5.5 million project will go out immediately, Fitzgerald said.
The upgrades will include new pumps and clarifiers as well as other equipment and will allow for double the capacity at the plant.
In other business, Fitzgerald said discussions of a regional airport site would force selectmen to make a decision.
“We have two options,” she said. “We can either pursue a regional airport with other Washington County communities, or we can improve our own airport.”
Fitzgerald said the Federal Aviation Agency would not approve two airports in proximity so if a regional airport is planned, the Machias Airport should be abandoned.
“This is going to be a tough decision for the board,” she said.
One possible location for a regional airport has been identified in Marshfield. “The Marshfield officials have agreed to entertain a plan,” she said.
A regional airport would have a 4,000-foot runway that could accommodate corporate jets. If a local solution is preferred, the Machias runway could be extended to 3,500 feet.
“There are a number of planes in Machias right now,” she said. “But we must decide to either improve the facility or let it go.”
She said the board likely will make a decision at its Aug. 26 meeting.