Madawaska discusses new ordinances at annual town meeting
MADAWASKA– Approximately 40 people came to the town meeting held at the Madawaska High School on June 19, at 7 p.m.
During the meeting, Walter Desrosiers, who residents elected that evening to the school board for a three-year term, asked about the status of the Twin Rivers tax abatement request. Board of Selectmen Chairman Don Chasse said that until the town’s agent examines the information Twin Rivers is providing and meets with the selectmen to discuss his analysis, they were unable to answer any questions about the probability of whether the town will honor the mill’s request.
When asked about a time frame for examining the abatement request and responding to it, Chasse replied, “Sooner rather than later.”
The enactment of new town ordinances motivated the majority of the questions from audience members and discussion during the meeting. Town administrators and the selectmen recommended a medical marijuana ordinance, a fireworks ordinance, a new sewer ordinance, and a new traffic ordinance.
The audience questions whether the medical marijuana ordinance would require the town to allow a dispensary within town boundaries. Town Manager Christine Therrien said that the ordinance would permit the town to regulate any dispensary within the town’s boundaries as residents see fit, such as determining where it could locate, and to have control over under what conditions the town would issue permits for the proposed business. In addition, the proposed ordinance would allow the town to levy fines or to retract operating permits if town regulatory agencies found violations.
Therrien explained that the purpose of the ordinance is designed to address future facility applications.
“It could be an issue we face tomorrow. Let’s get some guidelines before someone comes knocking on our door.”
Residents approved the medical marijuana ordinance. They refrained from questioning the fireworks ordinance.
The majority of discussion Tuesday evening centered on the new sewer ordinance. Therrien said pressure from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to prevent raw sewage from discharging into the St. John River from the treatment plant during heavy rain events motivated the proposed sewer ordinance. The town had a combination stormwater and sewer system prior to 1977, the date of the first town sewer ordinance, and a lot of stormwater still drains into the sewer system from roof gutters, cellar drains, and through cracks in an aging piping and catch basin infrastructure.
Therrien said the new treatment plant monitoring system clearly shows an increase in volume coming after a heavy rain event, thereby indicating that there is surface water, or stormwater, infiltration.
The MDEP is requiring the town to close its discharge points, which are essentially vents in the system, to prevent the treatment plant from being overwhelmed. Therefore, the volume of water entering the treatment plant must be reduced, or flow through the sewer system after the discharge points are plugged may start backing up into people’s houses during these heavy rain events.
The town is replacing piping and old catch basins, and is requiring residents to remove roof gutters and plug cellar drains that drain to the sewer system.
The town is choosing to regulate the removal of roof gutters more vigorously than the plugging of cellar drains, with the understanding that plugging a cellar drain is a more complicated affair than removing a roof gutter. Any resident who chooses to retain the roof gutters faces a $200 annual fee; any resident who chooses to retain the cellar drain faces a $25 fee. Or, the residents can sign waivers associated with maintenance of their cellar drains which releases them from the requirement to pay the $25 fee.
Therrien clarified that cellar drains have been illegal since 1977 and the town is not responsible for the sewer system backing up into an illegal sewer drain. The town will deposit money from the fees into an account used for maintenance and repair of the sewer system.
Chasse said the billing system for the fees would provide a tracking system for the residents who contribute to the sewer fund.
Therrien added that fees for use of the sewer system would increase at an undetermined point in the future once the loaning agency sets loan repayment terms for the town.
After comments about inaccuracies in the proposed traffic ordinance, an audience member motioned to table approval of the ordinance until the board has a chance to revisit it. Residents approved the motion. Therrien said she would present the revised ordinance for approval at the upcoming regular town budget approval meeting.
Audience members also questioned the bicycle registration requirement in the updated traffic ordinance. Retired Police Chief Ron Pelletier said the intent of the registration policy was to help the police return found bikes to their proper owners.
Therrien and Chasse also led the recognition and honoring of several recently retired and soon-to-be-retired town employees, such as Fire Chief Norman Cyr, whose last day is on June 30, ex-Police Chief Ron Pelletier, who retired this past year, and Rachel Roy and Rennette Madore, secretaries at the town office. Audience members gave Cyr a standing ovation.
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