GOULDSBORO — Following considerable debate at their Town Meeting June 26, Gouldsboro residents voted against demolishing a town-owned cabin on Jones Pond but approved an $8,000 donation to the Dorcas Library.
They also voted down a measure to institute term limits for selectmen and Planning Board members.
According to the meeting warrant, the Board of Selectmen and budget committee recommended demolishing a cabin at Jones Pond, a public recreation area located on the western side of the peninsula, south of Route 1. The property includes a picnic and swimming area, boat launch, playground and restrooms.
Dana Rice, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the cabin was beyond repair and uninhabitable, which live-in caretaker Ben Holmes disputed.
“I was never notified of this until about two and a half weeks ago,” said Holmes, adding he hoped he would be given more notice if he has to move out.
Town Manager Sherri Cox said Tuesday that in exchange for landscaping work, cleaning bathrooms, maintaining the playground, picking up trash and other tasks, Holmes is allowed to live in the cabin. He does not receive a stipend and pays all bills except electric.
When resident Benjamin Walter asked if Holmes would lose his job and his home, Rice said, “Depends on whether the article passes or not.”
“I think it’s highly inappropriate that this is even approached without notification of the caretaker whose home and livelihood is going to be affected,” Walter said.
Former Town Manager Eve Wilkinson said she was certain the town would give Holmes more than two weeks notice to move if the town votes to demolish the cabin.
During her 25-year tenure, she said, town crews often complained they couldn’t keep up with the maintenance and repairs the cabin needed.
“Basically, we have determined that the existing building needs to be demolished,” said Rice, adding that the selectmen have been discussing the issue for several years. “The building is in very, very bad condition.”
At one point, the selectmen considered replacing the building but decided against it, he said
“It is a cost-effective decision,” Rice said.
Holmes argued that having an on-site caretaker is the best way to limit vandalism.
But Rice said the selectmen believe the town can keep vandalism under control using police and volunteers.
Resident Jim Watson said the town should demolish the building but keep the caretaker.
Another resident, Dick Fisher, said he was “uncomfortable” with moving forward with the demolition without a plan for what to do with the property next.
On the matter of $8,000 in funding for Dorcas Library, residents debated whether the library was involved in political activity.
“There seems to be a 50-50 divide in politics in this country and a lot of people are not in favor of donating anything to the library because of partisan politics,” said Rice, adding, “You can throw tomatoes at me if you want to.”
Resident Katie Wheeler said the library hosted a candidate forum several years ago. The public was invited as were all of the candidates for selectman and Planning Board.
“There were people who disagreed with that and thought the library was being political. I call that public service,” she said, adding the library has not attempted to host a candidate forum since.
Rice said there have been protestors in front of the library.
“There have been protestors in front of the town office, too,” said one woman.
Before approving $8,000 in library funding, residents defeated a motion to reduce the allocation to $4,000, the amount which the selectmen had recommended. The budget committee recommended $6,000, which was the amount requested last year.
An article asking voters if they wished to limit elected municipal officials to two terms also led to some debate before being defeated.
Selectman Cheri Robinson said that before she was elected, she worked in the town office, where she heard a lot of people say there should be term limits.
“So I circulated this petition to let the townspeople vote on it,” she said.
Residents opposed to term limits said six years isn’t enough time to learn all the complexities of running a town. In addition, not enough people are interested in serving.
Not everyone agreed.
“Let’s change this up and get some new blood on the board,” said resident Jason Tracey. “We can never get rid of anybody.”
“You can vote them out when they come up for reelection,” countered resident Carol Dean.