News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 24, 2013
Penobscot Selectmen await audit figures to form budget

by Sharon Bray

Although they have the town’s Finance Committee recommendations for a budget for the coming year, the Board of Selectmen is waiting for more information before members agree on what to propose to voters at town meeting in March.

At their meeting January 15, selectmen talked about budget planning, but Chairman Paul Bowen said he needs to know how much surplus the town has before writing down his proposals.

Town Clerk Mary Ellen “Cupe” Gross said she will not have that information until the town audit is complete January 24.

Bowen brought up proposals made by Maine Governor Paul LePage that could have direct impact on Penobscot.

One LePage proposal would take excise taxes municipalities collected on commercial vehicles directly to Augusta starting in July if the legislature approves the plan. Gross gave an initial estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 usually paid in town. Selectman Harold Hatch said he thought it would be more like $50,000.

“Anything with a commercial plate” would include many of the town’s pickup trucks, noted Selectman Stanley Shorey.

The town has several contractors with commercially licensed equipment, Hatch added.

A second proposal would put an end to municipal revenue sharing, Bowen said. The town doesn’t spend the money “until a year after we get it” and has about $92,000 in that account now. The amount received is “linked to our county tax,” over which the town has no control, Bowen added.

Shorey brought out his box of old pictures as selectmen started to discuss the upcoming town report. He shared one taken of selectmen in 1909, and Gross said she would see what their printer could do with it.

The selectmen also talked about ways to acknowledge people who have died since the last report, coming to no conclusions.

Gross reminded Bowen that he has to write the selectmen’s annual report.

Bowen brought up a letter received “some time ago” from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. The coalition is planning a trip in September that includes bicycling from Blue Hill to Castine through Penobscot, according to Bowen. The riders, he said, will be between the ages of 40 and 65.

“They’ll have to have someone ride the road before they come,” said Hatch, noting poor conditions for cycling.

“They’re going to have traffic backed up,” Bowen stated. He listed problems with the narrow, winding road, including lack of breakdown lanes, depth of ditches, and limited line of sight.

Perhaps the fire department or county sheriff would help, selectmen speculated.