LUBEC, Maine — A proposal to spend $965,107 to construct a new public works building and a new sand/salt shed was roundly rejected Tuesday evening at a special town meeting in Lubec.
More than 120 registered Lubec voters filled the bays of the Washington County community’s fire station for an hour of discussion and debate and a lengthy, paper-ballot voting process. When the votes were counted, the proposal was rejected, 83-38.
Moderator Harold Bailey fielded remarks from about a dozen voters and from Town Administrator John Sutherland and two members of the Board of Selectmen. Only one voter who spoke favored the project, citing concerns about the deteriorating condition of the existing sand/salt shed and the effect blowing sand is having on the health of those who live near the facility.
When asked if the project and the $550,000 in bonds that would have to be issued to help fund it would increase local property taxes, Sutherland said that a 3 percent tax hike was likely, a response greeted with groans from project opponents.
More than one speaker characterized the project as a luxury the town can’t afford, pointing out that Lubec has other unmet public works needs. Among them was Ralf Multhopp, a Lubec resident for almost 10 years. His comments elicited applause.
“We are all aware that the town of Lubec has many serious problems,” he said. “We have ditches and sewers that are inoperable, sidewalks that are impassible, abandoned and burned-out buildings, and a school that is 50 percent unoccupied that we have to heat at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. We are not addressing those problems.”
Michael Scrivani, vice chairman of the board, told voters that planning for the proposed project had been under way for three years, scolding critics for not getting involved sooner to help shape a workable and affordable solution to what everyone seemed to agree is a problem.
“I guess the committee will have to reconvene,” Sutherland said after the vote when asked what the town’s next step will be.