TREMONT — Voters at the open town meeting Tuesday approved a $1.88 million municipal budget and $2.8 million for the Tremont Consolidated School with little discussion but did turn down passage of an amended harbor management ordinance after fishermen pointed out it would have unintended consequences.
About 70 voters attended the meeting, where 46 warrant articles were considered in less than two hours.
All school budget articles carried handily and with little discussion. A question asking voters if they wished to raise and appropriate an additional $1.34 million in local funds, an amount that exceeds the state’s essential programs and services model, carried 65-4 in a written ballot vote. An article to approve the total $2.8 million budget carried 67-0 in a hand count vote.
As approved, the Tremont school budget is $219,184 more than for this school year. Significant factors in the increase are an additional $90,000 needed for special education, the purchase of an $85,000 school bus and an extra $8,000 for heating oil.
The $1.88 million municipal budget approved for the 2017-2018 fiscal year is an increase of $24,700 or 1.3 percent. Like with the school, all budget articles carried easily and with little discussion.
The budget includes $606,000 for administration, an increase of $47,500; $525,825 for public works; $239,241 for protections; and $15,231 for eight community service agencies.
The budget for protections is an increase of $6,540 and includes money for law enforcement, the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department, the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Ambulance Service, animal control and emergency dispatching. The vote at the town elections Monday for the town to negotiate and enter into a contract with Southwest Harbor for law enforcement services beginning Jan. 1 led Town Manager Dana Reed to suggest amending the article to add $7,274 to cover any additional expenses. The law enforcement budget line is based on the contract the town now has with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Reed withdrew his suggestion after moderator Frank Gray pointed out that the wording of the article prohibited an amendment raising the requested amount.
It was Article 42, asking voters if they wanted to adopt an amended harbor management ordinance, which elicited the only protests of the night. The document was developed over 18 months and had gained the approval of both the Harbor Committee and the Board of Selectmen. Both recommended passage.
Reed noted some of the changes in the amended ordinance and then told voters that he learned that day that the wording of one section would prohibit fishing vessels from using the A Pool in Bass Harbor. On Wednesday, he described the mistake as the “unintended consequence” of making last-minute changes to the version going to voters. There was no intention to ban fishermen from the pool, he said.
At the open meeting, Stewart Murphy, a fisherman and, until Monday, a selectman, was the first to speak out. He asked voters to turn down the article, fix the problem wording and have it considered at a future special town meeting.
“Just vote this down tonight, that’s all I ask,” Murphy said.
Another fisherman, Dean Wass, agreed.
“I don’t see a need to vote this in now if it’s wrong,” he said.
Mel Atherton, chairman of the Harbor Committee, urged passage, saying the oversight could be fixed later.
“There are a lot of good, positive things in this ordinance,” Atherton said. “What’s wrong is one word, it’s a typo.”
After a voice vote was inconclusive, Gray called for a hand count. The article was voted down 41 to 19.
Voters did approve a new library ordinance, which formalizes the operations of the Bass Harbor Memorial Library, and an amended wharf and facilities ordinance.
The new wharf and facilities ordinance changes the two-tiered system of fees. Fees for nonresidents were higher than for residents, a situation town officials learned was counter to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations surrounding the federal dredging of Bass Harbor. The town is required to make the facility open to all on an equal basis.
“Basically, we can’t discriminate against nonresidents,” Reed told voters.
If the town were to continue the two-tiered system, it would be in violation of the federal dredging grant, and the town most likely would have to repay the multi-million dollars of federal money, Reed explained.
One fisherman who had been paying nonresident fees before moving to Tremont asked if the town was going to reimburse those who have been paying the extra money. Reed said he couldn’t say; the corps has not mentioned that possibility.
Voters also approved creation of a capital reserve fund for the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. The funds would be used for repairs and the expansion of the library.