2017-06-02 / Community

News Briefs

LIQUOR LISTENING — Kennebunk will no longer conduct public hearings on the renewal of liquor licenses and special amusement permits.

At the May 23 selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Michael Pardue explained that because state law says a municipality “may hold a public hearing” on license renewals, rather than “shall,” Kennebunk could “streamline the process,” by eliminating public hearings.

Such license renewals will now be covered as part of the regular board meeting agenda, saving the town clerk’s office the effort of advertising for a public hearing.

Pardue did not say whether the town will require a formal request of hearing waiver from license renewal applicants.

The relevant section of Title 28-A of the Maine statutes says, “The municipal officers ... may hold a public hearing for the consideration of requests for renewal of licenses, except that when an applicant has held a license for the prior five years and a complaint has not been filed against the applicant within that time, the applicant may request a waiver of the hearing.”

Pardue said a public hearing will still be conducted if, after consulting with Town Clerk Merton Brown, it is determined that a fire department inspection and/or a history of police incidents warrants additional public scrutiny.

Pardue said that, even absent of a formal public hearing, residents would still be allowed to speak when selectmen consider approval of the license before sending it on to Augusta for a final OK from the Maine Bureau of Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

Although Title 28-A contains the same “may” language with regard to public hearings for new license applications, Pardue said first time requests will still be subject to a public hearing advertised in local newspapers.

For selectmen, the bottom line appeared to be a chance to eliminate an unnecessary drag on meeting time.

“In the last two years, I think there’s been maybe one comment on a license application,” Selectmen Shiloh Schulte said.

BICENTENNIAL BIRTHDAY — With Kennebunk’s 200th birthday coming up on June 24, 2020, selectmen have appointed a seven-member committee to plan and lead the bicentennial celebration. The town had a similar committee at one time, but all appointments expired several years ago, leaving the group effectively disbanded. Appointed to the new committee at the selectmen’s May 23 meeting were Angus Macaulay, Kathy Ostrander Roberts, Betsy MacDonald, Haven Andrews, Jr., Conrad Berdeen, Stephen Spofford, and Barbara Weeman. Spoffard and Ostrander Roberts are the current and past town historians, respectively.

Berdeen is now an Arundel resident, but was appointed based on his interest, along with his personal and family history in town.

Chamber of Commerce Director Laura Dolce and Cynthia Walker, director of the Brick Store Museum Director, were appointed as non-voting members, while Town Clerk Merton Brown and Town Events Coordinator Linda Johnson in an ex-officio capacity.

DEPARTMENT OVERVIEWS — After hearing from other department heads at its April 25 and May 9 meeting, the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen heard the last quarterly updates May 23, with presentation from Finance Director Joel Downs.

Downs said the town has collected 96 percent of its fiscal year 2017 tax assessment of $32 million, with “just 571” tax bills still unpaid. The town has, however, taken 35 properties for non-payment of taxes from prior years.

“The town legally owns those properties. However, we do work with the taxpayers and they make payments,” Downs said, citing a city hall preference to sell lots back to the previous owners for the price of the past due tax bill, especially when owner-occupied. “We have not evicted anyone in 17-plus years,” he said, adding that “more information” on what tax-acquired property remains on the books will appear on a selectboard agenda, “in the next couple of months.”

Downs also said Kennebunk has had a “very strong” year in excise tax collections, with the actual take running “about $350,000” ahead of budget projections of $1.98 million.

Ambulance billing is currently on track for the projected $850,000 in annual revenue. Recreation department revenue on program fees is expected to exceed its $620,000 annual projection by $5,000.

However, beach parking permit sales are down by about $9,000.

“I attribute that to the first beach permit being free,” Downs said, referencing a February decision by selectmen to eliminate the $2 permit fee. To better track free permits given, the vehicle stickers are now round, while the second and third parking permits sold to residents remain rectangular, Downs said. “That has confused many people,” he said.

Building permits fees are tracking $50,000 below fiscal year 2016, but selectmen accounted for a decrease when crafting the current annual budget, so revenue is only off $8,000 from projections, Down said.

The town operations budget is tracking to projections, with expenses “1 to 2 percent lower than budget” for all line items other than winter road maintenance.

That line saw a $150,000 deficit, due to heavy storms, a shortfall voters will be asked to cover in this year’s town meeting vote by drawing from Kennebunk’s undesignated fund balance.

Also in the red, the pay-as-you-throw system for solid waste removal is projected to lose about $80,000 for the year, with the sale of mandated trash bags falling short of the cost of curbside collection.

Downs said “our total money in the back right now” is $19.4 million, with $10.3 million in outstanding in bonded debt. That does not include $2.6 million in bonds approved by voters in June 2016, which have not yet been sold on the market.

In other wrap-up reports May 23, Town Assessor Dan Robinson said the mapping project of all tax lots in town was about 95 percent complete, and expected to go live on the town website May 31.

General Assistance Administrator Karen Winton said there were 31 deliveries for emergency home heating fuel from January though April. She also said six to 10 households were provided with food boxes each week and 82 homes, overall, with vouchers for perishable food items.

Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington. He can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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