Machias selectmen commit to zero tax increase

Posted April 15, 2011, at 4:55 p.m.
Last modified April 15, 2011, at 5:23 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Members of Machias’ Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen have nearly completed budget preparations, Town Manager Chris Loughlin said Friday, and they will be able to meet their goal of a zero tax rate increase.

“We are going to come out dead even,” Loughlin said, referring to the bottom line of the proposed budget. One more meeting will finalize the package that will go to voters at the June 15 town meeting. That final review will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the town office.

Loughlin said the school budget also will remain stable.

Part of the budget package will be a $400,000 loan for paving and road reconstruction, sidewalk repairs and — if enough money can be saved on the other projects — the removal of the nodes on Route 1 downtown.

Loughlin said West Kennebec Road hasn’t seen major maintenance in over 30 years and parts of Water and North streets also will be priorities for construction or paving. Reconstruction of Center Street is also at the top of the list, he said.

“There are places where you are actually driving on the sidewalk by the church,” he said. “It’s all in the wrong place.”

If there is enough money left after paving and reconstruction, Loughlin said, the town may be able to remove the nodes along the downtown section of Route 1 that impede parking.

The town also will purchase a new ambulance to replace one that is limping along with high maintenance costs. Recently, when the ambulance was transporting a patient to a Bangor hospital, a wheel fell off. The town has $40,000 in an ambulance reserve fund and will borrow the rest of the money required.

A new police cruiser will also be purchased through a loan for around $28,000. At a recent budget meeting, Police Chief Grady Dwelley asked that the committee approve the purchase of a refurbished 2009 cruiser with 71,000 miles and an unlimited mileage warranty. He said the town’s two cruisers — a 2006 with 148,000 miles, and a 2009 — are no longer under warranty and are piling up maintenance bills. He said the ability to rotate between two vehicles has saved the town money but that it is time to replace the 2006 cruiser.

Loughlin said board and committee members felt that purchasing a new cruiser was a better choice.

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