May 20, 2018
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Newport rejects $1.1 million in infrastructure spending

Christopher Cousins | BDN
Christopher Cousins | BDN
Newport residents at a special town meeting Wednesday evening voted overwhelmingly against purchasing a parcel of land at 13 Grogan Ave. which could have been used for the construction of a new public works garage. The approximately 225 residents also rejected a proposal to buy land on Moosehead Trail for a public recreation area.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — Residents at a special town meeting Wednesday night slammed the door on more than $1.1 million in infrastructure spending.

The turnout was heavy, with approximately 225 voters showing up at the Newport Recreation Center, but the meeting was short. The debates on all the questions posed had hardly a chance to begin before motions were made to dispense with talk and vote.

The most discussion was over a proposal to purchase a parcel of property at 13 Grogan Ave. for the purchase of a new public works garage. The town has long been considering options to replace or substantially repair the aging building on Water Street. Those discussions sped up recently when the owner of the Grogan Avenue parcel gave the town first-refusal rights with a price tag of $155,000. But townspeople opted to slow the process down so all options can be explored. Some argued that the town already owns land in the industrial park and at the former landfill and that renovating the current facility might be a better option.

“We don’t have to spend the money,” said resident George Phelps, who garnered applause for his comments. “We can live with the existing building until we can make some decisions.”

With the failure of that question came the failure of the next, which would have authorized the borrowing of $500,000 for site improvements on Grogan Avenue. Both questions garnered only a handful of supporters.

The final measure would have allowed the town to enter a 10-year purchase agreement for 6.8 acres and buildings at 139 Moosehead Trail for a total cost of $450,000. The property was proposed to be used for recreation such as a park, trail access for ATVs and snowmobiles, or a marina and boat launch facility on Sebasticook Lake.

Resident Ed McLaughlin said Newport is already rich with recreational facilities and warned that the cost of owning the property could balloon.

“I just don’t see this as a high priority,” he said. Nor did the rest of the voters, all but about five of whom rejected the proposal.

During a regular selectmen’s meeting before the town meeting, Town Manager James Ricker announced that Newport has received a grant through the Maine Department of Transportation to build approximately 900 feet of new sidewalk on Elm Street beginning at the Elm Street Trailer Park and continuing northward. The total project will cost in the neighborhood of $47,000, of which the town will be responsible for 25 percent. Ricker said details, such as exact dollar figures and a timeline, are yet to be worked out.

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