Woodland reschedules annual town meeting for July 9

1 month ago

WOODLAND, Maine – After several delays, Woodland has set its annual town meeting for Tuesday, July 9.

The Select Board opted to postpone the initial meeting after a resident pointed out that the budget warrants remained unsigned by the clerk and board. The board first scheduled the new meeting for June 20, but then decided to reschedule for undisclosed reasons.

At a regular board meeting Thursday, Chairperson Matt Cole said that the July 9 meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the town garage.

Resident Will Barnum asked if the board could provide him a copy of the expense and revenue budget from Feb. 1, 2023 to Jan. 31, 2024, the most recent fiscal year. The copy included in the June 12 budget meeting book does not specify certain months, Barnum said.

Cole said that the board would provide Barnum an updated copy. He and the board need to make adjustments to the book and will include an addendum listing the updates at the town meeting. Residents can still follow the original book, as the budget warrant articles for the town and school will not change, Cole said.

In other business, members of Woodland’s comprehensive plan committee revealed the results of a recent survey about town life.

WOODLAND, Maine — June 20, 2024 — Comprehensive plan committee member Lorraine Chamberlain (standing, right) announces the results of a recent town survey, while clerks Bridget Coats (left) and Carla Thibodeau look on. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

The committee is looking to update Woodland’s comprehensive plan, which has not changed since 1997, though the state encourages towns to update plans every 10 years. Committee members have said that an updated plan could help the town secure grants and better plan for community development.

Earlier this year, the committee mailed surveys to 505 residents. They received 205 surveys back, a 41-percent response rate, which is an “excellent” return rate for a town of Woodland’s size, said committee member Lorraine Chamberlain.

“The last town survey was in 1994 and we had a 40–percent response rate,” Chamberlain said.

When asked what they most like about living in Woodland, most residents ranked the following qualities in order from most to least favorite: scenery, Woodland Consolidated School, people [who live in Woodland], low traffic, taxes, no zoning, roads and town services available.

The survey also asked residents to rank what they dislike about Woodland. The results, from most to least disliked, were: the town’s roads, illegal dumping, taxes, a lack of services, no public transportation, no zoning, the school and rural lifestyle.

Sixty-six percent of residents said that Woodland should not consider becoming an unorganized territory and allowing the state to take over town services like road maintenance, tax collection and vehicle registration. Twenty-six percent of residents were in favor of unorganizing. 

Forty-five percent of residents favored having five members on the Select Board, instead of the current cap of three members. Twenty-four percent said they prefer to stick with three members, while five percent favored a seven-member board.

Most residents – 74 percent – said their biggest concern about the town is its leadership. Other major concerns were poor road conditions – 28 percent – and having lower taxes, 22 percent. Less than 10 percent of residents listed a lack of community events, code enforcement, unreliable internet, social media, illegal dumping, trash disposal, not being able to pay for town services online and closing the school as concerns they think town leaders should take up.

Sixty-six percent of residents said that the town’s internet access is not adequate enough for them to maintain a modern lifestyle, while 27 percent were satisfied with internet service.

WOODLAND, Maine — June 20, 2024 — Woodland’s new town clerk Carla Thibodeau (right) takes notes with deputy clerk Bridget Coats at the Select Board meeting Thursday. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Committee Chairperson David Hall said that many residents expressed confusion over questions about potentially building a community center and forming a recreation committee, making the survey results for those questions less reliable.

Seventy-nine percent said that Woodland does not need a community center for meetings, elections and other events, while 19 percent said yes. Fifty-seven percent were not in favor of starting a recreation committee, and 32 percent were.

In a related question, 29 percent of residents said they had no interest serving on town boards and committees, while 3 percent said they do have interest. Sixty-three percent did not respond to the question.

Many residents mistakenly believed that building a community center would be a major expense for the town, thus increasing local taxes, Hall said.

“We could get a grant [to fund the building of a center],” Hall said. “But we need a recreation committee and we need people willing to volunteer.”

Hall said that he owns land near Woodland’s ATV trail system that he would be willing to donate to the town for a community center. That type of building could serve as a clubhouse and park and ride for ATV and snowmobile riders, and as an event space for weddings, reunions and community functions, he noted.

Chamberlain suggested conducting another recreation survey during the annual town meeting July 9. Resident Gene Bradbury said that the Select Board could bring sign-up sheets for anyone interested in volunteering on a new recreation committee.

The board also voted unanimously to open the town office at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to align with when the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles opens.

Many times clerks have questions while registering new vehicles that require them to call the BMV, but they cannot do so before 8:30. Before the board’s vote, the town office opened at 8 a.m. every day, said Bridget Coats, the town’s tax collector, treasurer and deputy clerk.

Several residents noted that the 8 a.m. start time has been more convenient for residents who begin work in the morning, but that did not change the board’s vote.

On Wednesdays, the town office will open at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. Coats and Carla Thibodeau, who was recently hired as town clerk, will still come in at 8:30 a.m. to catch up on paperwork before the office opens, Cole said.

On all other days, the office will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cole also announced that, in addition to Thibodeau, the town has hired new employees in public works, Paul Coy and Walker Clark, who join highway foreman Paul Pelletier.

The next Select Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, July 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the town garage.