2017-06-23 / Front Page

K’port voters sail through meeting

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Kennebunkport native Wayne Adams, now a resident of Kennebunk, who works by day as an attorney at the firm of Bergen Parkinson, moderates the annual town meeting in Kennebunkport, attended by 66 residents on Saturday, June 17, at Kennebunkport Consolidated School. (Duke Harrington photo) Kennebunkport native Wayne Adams, now a resident of Kennebunk, who works by day as an attorney at the firm of Bergen Parkinson, moderates the annual town meeting in Kennebunkport, attended by 66 residents on Saturday, June 17, at Kennebunkport Consolidated School. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — The 2017 annual town meeting in Kennebunkport was one for the record books, at least according to meeting moderator Wayne Adams.

A Kennebunkport native now living in Kennebunk, Adams, who works during the week as an attorney for the firm Bergen Parkinson, has run town meetings for more than 30 years, manning the gavel in both of the Kennebunks, as well as Ogunquit.

“I moderated in Ogunquit and they did away with town meeting. Then I moderated in Kennebunk and they did away with town meeting. So, it’s a dying occupation, I think. But direct democracy still lives in Kennebunkport,” Adams said, after Saturday’s session, held at Kennebunkport Consolidated School, in which 66 voters adopted a $7.12 million municipal budget.

What made the meeting stand out in Adam’s experience, however, is that the entire June 17 vote passed, from the call to order to the motion for adjournment, in less than 35 minutes.

“This is the only meeting I’ve ever had in which there wasn’t even one question,” Adams said. “But that indicates that everybody had done their job, the selectmen and the budget board, in preparation. And the townspeople, too. Time was, people did not attend selectmen’s meetings during the year, and they weren’t able to watch them online. They came to one meeting per year and they wanted all of their questions answered then and there.

“It’s funny, these things used to last all day,” Adams continued. “They used to actually break for lunch and the ladies would provide fish chowder. The first year I moderated in Kennebunkport we finished at quarter of 12, and they actually got mad at me.”

Stuart Barwise, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the June 17 meeting actually was par for the course, at least in recent years.

“The town with the leadership of Laurie [Smith, the town manager] and department heads does a really good job of preparing a budget,” he said, immediately following the closing gavel. “The advance communication, and the public conversation leading up to these [annual town meetings] really allows for a smooth and streamlined process.

“It also helps that we did no have a whole lot on the warrant that was controversial this year,” Barwise said. “But overall I would say that Kennebunkport does a really good job of executing its town meeting in a way that people come into it well informed and they take care of business.”

In pre-meeting voting June 13, Selectman Ed Hutchins and school board member Maureen King were returned to office, each having run unopposed. That ballot also included the school budget vote and a statewide bond question, as well as three local referendum questions.

With about 15 percent of the town’s 2,763 registered voters turning out at the polls, a clear majority — 78.2 percent — found nothing objectionable in a new shellfish ordinance, adopting it 317-88.

The only changes to existing rules were to remove a requirement that the town’s shellfish warden be a resident of Kennebunkport, and to amend language to make it abundantly clear that harvesting shellfish in a closed area is a no-no punishable under state law.

A similar set of voters backed a shellfish-related change in the administrative code, voting 300-112 (72.8 percent in favor) to remove a requirement that the chairman of the town’s shellfish conservation committee, when serving as shellfish warden, be a resident of Kennebunkport.

Finally, voters adopted a new lock box ordinance, 315-100 (75.9 percent in favor).

The new rule will compel the owner certain structures built after Oct. 1 to install a box containing a key to the main entrance and/or driveway gate, to be used by the fire and rescue department to access the property in case of an emergency.

The rule will apply to all commercial and industrial buildings, all residential homes protected by an automatic fire alarm system or suppression system, and to any property with a security gate.

Qualifying structures built before October 1 will also have to install a key lock box after making additions of improvements to the property valued at more than $20,000.

According to Smith’s annual report, the $7.1 million municipal budget adopted by voters is up $403,145 (6 percent) over current spending. After accounting for revenue from things like excise taxes, the increase in the amount to be raised in property taxes comes to 1.84 percent.

Although the final assessment will not be final until August, it’s expected the new budget will ad 5-cents per $1,000 or property valuation to the town’s portion of local tax bills.

About 92 percent of the increase came from six line items, including $100,000 in anticipated added legal fees related to Goose Rocks Beach, and extra $114,067 for employee benefits (due mostly to hikes in health insurance premiums), $58,080 in base salary increases, $45,000 to cover increased costs of a new dispatch contract with the York Police Department, $30,000 for contingency funding in preparation for appealing flood maps drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $23,070 for increased workers compensation costs.

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

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