June 1, 2010

Richmond may take library, state park

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

RICHMOND -- Proposals for the town to take control of Umberhine Public Library and Peacock Beach State Park go before voters Wednesday at Town Meeting.

TOWN MEETING

Richmond’s annual Town Meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Richmond High School.

As they decide the fate of 45 warrant articles, voters will also be asked if they:

* approve of a $2.4 million municipal budget, which is up approximately 2 percent;

* wish to enact a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries;

* want to contribute toward the purchase of a boat to help eliminate milfoil from Pleasant Pond; and

* agree to allow property owners to pay taxes in monthly installments.

The meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Richmond High School.

Umberhine Public Library is currently owned by a nonprofit library association, overseen by a board of trustees. The operations budget of the library has historically been primarily funded by the town. Last year, the town contributed $30,000 for operations.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said library trustees approached selectmen this year and asked if the town would consider taking over the library.

The proposal would give the town title to the library's former -- and decrepit -- abandoned home at 86 Main St. The library has currently run out of rented space at 164 Main St., since the 86 Main St. building was deemed uinhabitable with no functioning furnace, mold and leaks.

Library officials have raised about $300,000 to build a new library at the 86 Main St. site, as well as a $300,000 commitment that taxpayers pledged for the project at Town Meeting in 2008 if certain conditions are met.

The state, Anderson said, does not intend to open Peacock Beach State Park, on Pleasant Pond.

However, the state Department of Conservation has offered to enter into a 25-year agreement with the town, which would be responsible for operating and maintaining it. Voters will decide whether to endorse that offer.

Anderson said the town likely wouldn't staff the park regularly, other than having public works mow and maintain it.

The state has had agreements with other municipalities for years giving them more control over parks, while saving the state the cost of staffing.

Voters will also be asked whether the town should consider a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

"It's been a topic of conversation and the board is looking for guidance, if townspeople believe it's an item that warrants review," Anderson said of medical marijuana dispensaries. "We have not been approached by someone who wants to open one here. We're not looking to eliminate those options, we're just trying to be a little more proactive."

Numerous warrant articles deal with the town's proposed $2.4 million budget, which is about 2 percent higher than the current year's.

Anderson said the increase is attributable to fixed costs and includes no new staff additions.

The increased budget, according to Anderson, will likely result in a tax rate increase of about 25 cents for every $1,000 of property value, increasing the property tax rate from $11.75 per $1,000 to about $12 per $1,000.

A proposal to create a tax club would allow property owners to pay their taxes in 12 equal, interest-free installments. If a payment is missed, however, interest would be charged.

"The tax club came from selectmen thinking of ways to help ease the burden of taxpayers," Anderson said.

An article, of which selectmen recommend discussion, asks if the town should appropriate $5,000 toward a group purchase of a pontoon boat with a pump to suck up variable-leaf milfoil, for removing milfoil from Pleasant Pond.

The article states Richmond would contribute the funds towards the purchase, by the Four Towns Watershed Association, only if Gardiner, West Gardiner and Litchfield, which all have land on Pleasant Pond, make a similar contribution.

Officials also recommend discussion of a $12,000 request from Shepherd of Faith food pantry, which provides free food to residents in need.

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

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