Manchester residents will gather — in-person — to consider adopting marijuana cultivation rules and a proposal to convert town streetlights to more-efficient LED lighting at the annual Town Meeting on Thursday.
Converting the town’s roughly 100 streetlights to LED would cost about $41,000, but would also be expected to drastically reduce the town’s annual costs to light the streetlights, from around $18,000 a year to about $1,700 a year.
Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert said voters will be asked to approve the use of the $18,000 that would normally go toward the town’s light bill for streetlights, plus another $24,000, to switch the lights to LED. That money would be more than recouped within a few years in annual savings from the more efficient lights.
The town would use the same company Augusta and some other local municipalities have used to convert streetlights to the newer technology, Affinity LED Lighting.
The combined school, town and county budget totals $6.5 million, down by $78,000, or 1.1%, from the current year’s budget. While the town’s share of the Regional School Unit 38 budget is less this year, the town budget is about $2.03 million, which Gilbert said is up slightly.
He said the tax rate will likely be stable, remaining about where it is now, though the final number won’t be set until the town’s total current property value is assessed.
Up for approval is a $10,000 to upgrade the fire department’s emergency radio communication system. The warrant article proposes moving the system to a new, taller tower, on Beacon Road near the Manchester-Hallowell line. The tower was formerly used by the city of Augusta, but they gave it to Manchester to use for emergency communications.
The town now uses a radio frequency shared with Hallowell Fire Department, since Manchester had to stop using a radio frequency shared with the Lakes Region Mutual Aid Group — Fayette, Readfield, Wayne, Mount Vernon and Vienna — after Manchester left its longstanding mutual aid pact with the association last year.
Voters will also be asked if they approve of proposed new rules for marijuana cultivation facilities, which would be an addition to marijuana business rules approved in town previously. The additional rules would require any businesses cultivating marijuana in Manchester to get a license and meet the standards of the ordinance.
While many municipalities opted to use secret ballot votes for Town Meeting warrants — due to the coronavirus pandemic and state guidelines which seek to limit indoor public gatherings to 50 people or less — Manchester will have its usual open floor form of Town Meeting.
Gilbert said selectmen wanted to stick with Manchester’s usual Town Meeting format, which gives residents a chance to debate issues and ask questions, rather than switch to a secret ballot.
“We’re going to do social distancing, the seating will be setup so everyone will be 6 feet apart, and we’re going to require masks,” Gilbert said of the meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Manchester Elementary School
The meeting, which would normally take place in March, was moved to July due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Gilbert said the annual meeting usually draws fewer than 50 people.
Residents will be asked to make Smith Road, a roughly 700-foot-long dirt road off Puddledock Road, a town road. Gilbert said officials thought the road had been a town road for some 60 years, and the town has been plowing the road as if it were a town road. He said it was discovered the road may not be a town road when officials were looking at proposed paving projects.
There are no contested races for town positions in Tuesday’s elections, which are scheduled to take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the fire station.
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