Mar 12, 2023

Town ballot asks for $50K to close gap for emergency communications upgrades

Posted by J.W. Oliver | Jun 6, 2023 | Government & Politics

In addition to the budget referendum for Maine School Administrative District 75, Harpswell voters will see a town ballot with one question on June 13.

The ballot asks if voters will allow the town to transfer $50,000 from "unassigned fund balance," or surplus, to improve the town's emergency communications system.

The town plans to spend $104,671 to install emergency communications equipment on the tower at Mitchell Field. The $50,000 from the June referendum and an equipment reserve with a balance of $55,087 will cover this cost.

The town has also hired a contractor to build a new emergency communications tower at the Orr's Island Fire Station, replacing a damaged tower that was removed in November 2022.

A $300,000 bond will cover most of the cost to build the tower and outfit it with the necessary equipment. The total cost comes to $307,613, according to a memo from Town Administrator Kristi Eiane. The balance of $7,613 will come from the town's contingency fund.

Town officials have said the new tower on Orr's Island and the new equipment on both towers will improve radio communications between emergency services in Harpswell and the county's 911 dispatch center in Windham.

"This radio equipment is costing a lot more than we ever expected, but it's going to be an incredible system," Eiane told the Select Board on May 25.

"I think this is an instance where we’ve pieced things together over the years for this communications equipment and we are going to get more of a state-of-the-art, up-to-date system," Eiane told the board.

The Select Board held a public hearing on the ballot Thursday, June 1.

The big-ticket item at the June polls will be the budget validation referendum for MSAD 75. The single question asks if voters will grant final approval for the budget adopted in a town meeting-style vote on May 18.

The budget totals $52.8 million, an increase of about $3.2 million or 6.5%. Harpswell's share comes to $10,027,134, an increase of $790,342 or 8.6%.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Harpswell Community School. Voters may request absentee ballots until 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 8.