Dover-Foxcroft town meeting to be conducted solely at July 14 referendum
DOVER-FOXCROFT — Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the Dover-Foxcroft annual town meeting process will consist solely of a vote at the polls on Tuesday, July 14. In years past decisions on the municipal budget have been made with an in-person town meeting in the gymnasium at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building, with items approved that day then moved to referendum for final approval.
During a June 8 selectboard meeting conducted via Zoom Town Manager Jack Clukey said during a public hearing on the budget the week before those participating “talked about still trying to have a process for our town meeting.”
He said the next day the office of Gov. Janet Mills clarified the town meeting process, with gatherings of more than 50 people prohibited during the month of June. Clukey said a pair of options were presented, to have a traditional town meeting with social distancing protocols in place or to conduct the town business via referendum.
In some years the annual town meeting, which is held on a Saturday morning in late April, has attracted less than 50 attendees but it is difficult to know the attendance figures in advance. With the exception of current building tenants, the gym is also closed to the public and plans are to keep the space as such until July 14.
“We in fact are going to have our town meeting for budget approval using the process the Governor has made available,” Clukey said shortly before the selectboard passed a motion for the sole referendum method.
The board also scheduled a final public hearing on the town meeting warrant as part of the next meeting on Monday, June 22 — which will be conducted remotely using Zoom.
When citizens head to the polls the second Tuesday of July they also will be voting on four land use items, as the selectboard approved the certification of the text of these four items. Last last month the planning board gave its approval to the four questions, including amendments to the land use ordinance itself, amendments pertaining to the regulation of solar energy systems, a vacant and abandoned building ordinance and amendments pertaining to the regulation of mega land uses.
Information on the town meeting warrant and land use ordinance items is available on the municipal website at dover-foxcroft.org.
In his report, Clukey discussed how the town office reopened to the public at the start of the month. “We have been open to the public for a week, I think it’s gone extremely well,” he said. “The amount of people coming through, it’s been steady but I don’t think it’s been overcrowded.”
“I believe we have got a good plan and I will credit (Finance Director Dave Johnson) and all the people in the front office,” Clukey said.
“The presence of somebody cleaning all the time makes people feel comfortable,” Johnson said about a step taken with the Morton Avenue Municipal Building reopened. He said in the last week-plus about $15,000 in excise taxes collected per day has been the average.
During open session, Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr inquired about how the use of the municipal beach on Sebec Lake has been going since this space was opened up (with a limit of 50 beachgoers in place and social distancing protocols).
“I went down there this afternoon and no one was there,” Clukey said. “Around 4:30 it was empty.”
“I haven’t heard any issues about large numbers of people,” he added.
Selectperson Jane Conroy asked if there were any issues in town the Friday before when President Donald Trump visited neighboring Guilford to tour Puritan Medical Products. Leading up the day there had been posts on social media about protests taking place in Dover-Foxcroft instead of the community up Route 15 to coincide with the President being in the region.
“None that I’m aware of,” Clukey responded.