Greenville: No taxes will fund trail grooming

Posted May 07, 2010, at 11:15 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:59 a.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Unless selectmen vote to do otherwise next week, there will be no request for funding from property taxes on this year’s annual June 1 town meeting warrant to help fund snowmobile trail grooming.

Selectmen voted at a board meeting Wednesday not to include an article on the warrant for a local contribution, but may reconsider the article at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, in the town office, when they complete the town meeting warrant.

The town is completing a one-year contract with Laurie and John Waitkus of Greenville ITS Trail Grooming for maintenance of the Interconnected Trail System for 2009-2010. To fulfill that contact a $28,700 appropriation from property taxes was approved by residents at last year’s town meeting. It was expected that residents would be asked again for the same contribution.

Selectman Alan McBrierty, who said he had nothing against snowmobiling and recognized it was important to the local economy, was adamant that no property taxes be used to fund trail grooming next year. “How can we justify $28,000 for recreation” when town officials are taking away other municipal services, he asked Wednesday. McBrierty said property taxpayers should not be paying for trail grooming; rather, it should be the users. Other board members agreed with McBrierty.

The selectmen were not opposed to continuing the trail grooming program using state funds but they did ask Greenville Town Manager John Simko to consult with the town’s attorney regarding the trail groomer agreement.

That agreement allowed the Waitkuses to purchase the town’s Piston Bully trail groomer by making annual payments to the town equal to the annual debt service of about $22,000 paid by the town on the outstanding loan. The town pays the annual debt service through the state trail grooming reimbursement program and maintains the insurance on the machine.

Over the years, the town has gone from a group of volunteers grooming the trails in 1996 with machines purchased by the town to contracting in 2007 with the Waitkuses, who hired local people to groom the trails and make trail improvements. Under their operation, the trails were lauded by visitors and locals alike, but the good work came with a hefty price. The couple ended up paying $64,402 their first year from their own pockets to augment the local donations from businesses and the state grant. The grooming cost $96,369 that year while the revenues amounted to $31,967. Those revenues included a state grant of $25,215 from snowmobile registrations and donations from businesses and the public.

When the couple said they could not continue to absorb the extra cost, residents last year kicked in with the $28,700 contribution.

Without the local appropriation next year, the Waitkuses may or may not be able to enter into another contract with the town, Simko said.

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