Veterans’ Memorial overseer stepping down

Stuart Hedstrom
Staff Writer

MILO — During an Aug. 18 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Interim Town Manager Damien Pickel told the board that Ron Knowles is looking to conclude his involvement in the town’s Veterans’ Memorial.

“I have been at it for eight years and it’s been a passion of mine but it’s time to give it up,” Knowles told the selectmen, after being asked by Pickel to attend following conversations between the two. Knowles said the memorial now has 363 pavers in place, with room for more, and he said he has made between 50 and 60 three-hour trips to Madison to pick up these markers.

“I think they need to consider where they are going to go with the memorial,” Knowles said about a successor. “It would be my preference if you do find a person to take over it would be a veteran.”

“It is a lot of work to maintain it,” Knowles said, saying the town crew at the adjacent Evergreen Cemetery already has a full schedule.

He said the Veterans’ Memorial bank account has about $1,500, with these funds intended to replace the site flags as they wear with time. “This town should be very thankful there is not one solitary penny going into the project other than the land itself,” Knowles said. All the proceeds were raised privately, such as through jamborees, and without the use of town monies.

Knowles said he would not be stepping down in the immediate future, but wanted town officials to be thinking long-term  about the Veterans’ Memorial.

“I know you do it out of the loyalty and love you have for people like you who served,” Pickel said in thanking Knowles, saying Knowles does not work at the memorial for the individual recognition. Pickel and Knowles will sit down more to plan and Pickel said a veteran who understands all the related site protocols would be an ideal candidate to succeed Knowles.

The meeting began with a public hearing on the proposed building and land use ordinance. Pickel said the session was the second of three public hearings on the 36-page document, after which the selectmen are scheduled to make a decision on the adoption of the ordinance.

A question was raised on how a board vote on the ordinance fits within the town charter. Charter revisions were OKed at the 2011 annual town meeting, but the voting tallies from four years prior were well under the legal threshold of 30 percent turnout from the preceding gubernatorial election that may be required for a change in a town charter. The 2011 article was approved 76-11, but 30 percent of the 2010 poll numbers would equal approximately 300 residents.

Pickel said he would look into the question and report back to the board before any action on the building and land use ordinance is taken.

Responding to another question, Pickel said if the ordinance were to pass, in his opinion, there would be more work involved and a full-time code enforcement officer may be needed.

“It’s something we will have to look into, absolutely,” Selectman Peter Hamlin said.

Town Treasurer Robin Larson said Milo was recently presented with $2,030 from the Maine Municipal Association for the community’s efforts to keep insurance-related incidents down. “There is certain criteria you meet on that,” Larson said.

In his report, Pickel provided updates on several initiatives he has been involved in both as interim town manager and as chief of police. He said a summer breakfast program for the Derby section of Milo has provided healthy meals over the summer for children in 10 families and will continue to fill in the gaps when the students are not attending classes.

“It’s not really a town thing, it’s more of a grassroots local thing I am hoping to get more people involved in,” Pickel said, with similar programs a possibility for other Milo neighborhoods.

Pickel said he is working with the Piscataquis Public Health Council and Mayo Regional Hospital “in the hopes of getting a drug treatment program here in Milo.” He said the discussions have looked at the treatments being provided through outpatient counseling.

“I would rather give them help than lock up them,” Pickel said.

During a special town meeting last month, the selectmen were authorized to look into a commercial railroad property on B&A Avenue and Pickel said this investigation continues. He said State Rep. Norm Higgins (R-Dover-Foxcroft) and State Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) have been involved in discussing the parcel with the Department of Environmental Protection on past testings and meetings have been held with railroad companies with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council also taking part.

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