Dover-Foxcroft selectboard sets $21.50 mill rate
By Stuart Hedstrom, Staff Writer
DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Dover-Foxcroft Selectboard set a mill rate of $21.50 for the 2021-22 fiscal year during a July 26 meeting.
This figure represents a decrease of 10 cents per $1,000 valuation, or 0.5 percent from the previous fiscal year. Two years ago, the mill rate was also $21.50 per every $1,000 in assessed property.
The mill rate will fund a net Dover-Foxcroft assessment totaling $6,470,452, made up of about $9.8 million in total assessments minus nearly $2.2 million in revenues. The assessments include an approximate $6.1 million municipal appropriation, $2,864,500 for the RSU 68 spending plan and $544,539 in Piscataquis County tax.
The Dover-Foxcroft valuation is $326,965,949, an increase of a bit more than $22.5 million from the 2020-21 figure.
In other business, town officials learned more about a county broadband planning grant project from Piscataquis County Economic Development Council Executive Director John Shea — the council is the grant applicant — and consultant, Casco Bay Advisors of Gardiner President Brian Lippold.
Shea explained the PCEDC has been awarded a $30,000 broadband planning grant from the ConnectMaine Authority for a study to identify specific broadband issues in the region. Having documentation in place would aid in applying for larger sources of funding to rectify identified issues.
He said the Piscataquis County Commissioners showed support for the initiative by agreeing to cover about two-thirds of required matching monies — $19,890 in America Rescue Plan monies awarded to the county — during a June meeting. The county commissioners asked that the PCEDC request that the 18 organized municipalities in Piscataquis County contribute the remaining $10,110, divided proportionally, which would be $2,600 for the Dover-Foxcroft share.
“We’re doing this because it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities,” Shea said, as the grant will produce a study of the region and gap analysis that will be in place as grants and other monies are sought for broadband projects across Piscataquis County.
Lippold said the survey will cover all parts of Piscataquis County that have telephone service. “We’re going to drive every road, every driveway to see what infrastructure is out there today,” he said, mentioning crews were working earlier that day in an area north of Greenville.
The information will be used to produce GIS maps showing gap areas and other locations with service in place. The maps will help determine costs to extend broadband access.
“It’s really just a study to collect data to build a foundation of information,” Lippold said. He said with this in place, communities can use the information to negotiate with service providers.
“The state has almost $160 million to give out in competitive grants,” he said, saying there could be more with additional federal funds coming into Maine.
Selectboard Vice Chairperson Cindy Freeman Cyr wondered about timelines for grant applications.
“We are anticipating the next grant round will be in September,” Lippold said, with additional rounds in the next two years.
“I think COVID drove home how vital this infrastructure is for everybody,” he said. “This is a way to turn uneconomic projects into economic projects and give everyone access.”
After a lengthy discussion with members of the Dover Rovers ATV Club and the public about a proposed 1,400-foot extension of the current ATV access route on the Foxcroft Center Road through the end of the season, the board did not approve the extension by virtue of a 3-3 tie vote.
A motion containing the Foxcroft Center Road extension, as well as directing the town to work with the Dover Rovers ATV Club to develop a question on ATV access on public ways to be placed on the November referendum, had a 3-3 vote and therefore was not approved.
Currently there is a vacancy on the selectboard following Ernie Thomas’ resignation last month, and the open seat would be filled on the November ballot.
Another motion on just the Foxcroft Center Road extension also had a 3-3 vote. An ensuing motion on working with the ATV club to develop a referendum question was approved by a 6-0 vote.
Selectperson Gail D’Agostino commended the Dover Rovers ATV Club for its work. “I am thinking this should be put on the ballot and not left up to us,” she said, saying this decision was made based on various conversations with residents.
“I am opposed to it, whether it’s one property or 30,” she said, citing potential disruptions caused by ATVs.
“The more and better we communicate, I think the issues will be less severe,” Selectperson Jane Conroy said, saying that some landowners have indicated they felt out of the loop on potential ATC access expansion.
“The fundamental belief I have is people should be able to enjoy their homes,” Freeman Cyr said, saying this can be difficult with consistent ATV traffic. She said ATV access is a comprehensive issue and “making a decision as a whole community is a better idea for this.”
“It’s a no-win decision — no matter what decisions are made somebody is not going to be happy with us,” Selectperson Steve Grammont said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the selectboard had been meeting remotely, and a hybrid method with members present in the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Community Room and others attending via Zoom, at times over the last 16 months.
Town Manager Jack Clukey said special legislation passed in March 2020 allowed for remote municipal meetings. “That permission basically sunsets 30 days after the emergency declarations are over,” he said, which will happen as of July 30.
Maine communities can adopt their own remote policies to conduct meetings under certain circumstances, such as allowing board members to attend if they or a family member has a medical situation or are out of town for work.
“It seems to me it’s a good idea to keep that flexibility for us,” Freeman Cyr said, saying the hybrid format should also be extended to members of the public.
A motion was passed to have Clukey draft a remote meeting policy to be brought forward, potentially at the next meeting on Monday, Aug. 23, which would include a public hearing.
In his report, Clukey said the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department will replace its flagpole next to the building on East Main Street with a larger pole to be more visible from the road.
Clukey said the town’s federal funding request for the Lincoln Street bridge is still pending. The project is part of the initial federal budget proposal and the final budget proposal will be determined over the coming months.
The town manager said the bridge is on the North Street side of the road, going over a small stream near Modern Image Salon and Bob’s Farm, Home and Garden.
Nomination papers for the Nov. 2 special municipal election to fill the selectboard vacancy — the term runs through June 30, 2023 — will be available on Monday, Aug. 9, Clukey said. The filing deadline is Sept. 20.