Questionnaire to tap residents' opinions
By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER — Local councilors are looking at every economic development opportunity to fill the gap left by the closing of the Dexter Shoe Co., even the possibility of a casino.
Councilor Doug Pooler suggested during a recent budget workshop that the town investigate how and if a casino would fit into the scheme of local economic development efforts.
Some Maine Indian tribes are exploring the idea of building a casino, but have been rebuffed by some southern Maine communities.
Dexter Town Manager Robert Simpson will develop a questionnaire that will be available to residents at the June primary election. If the majority of residents who fill out a questionnaire are in favor of a casino in town, then a nonbinding referendum question will be placed on the ballot for the general election in November, Simpson said Tuesday.
The nonbinding vote will take the pulse of the community on the issue but will not commit the town to anything, Simpson said. If residents express support for a casino in the nonbinding vote, the town manager said it basically "throws our hat in the ring." The vote, he said, will determine whether there is a groundswell of support or opposition for such a venture.
The workshop in which the suggestion surfaced is one of many being held by the council on the proposed budget. Going into the workshops, town officials had pared each account as much as possible but still found themselves short about $150,000 to hold down the tax rate. On top of that, the council learned in recent days that the Dexter Utilities District plans to petition the Public Utilities Commission for a water rate increase which, if approved, will raise the town's cost by $40,000. Most of that increase will be reflected in hydrant maintenance, Simpson said. This latest news increased the budget shortfall to about $200,000, he said.
Peter Mealey, treasurer of the utilities district, said Tuesday that the company plans to file for a rate increase of 40 percent plus to pay for the district's nearly $2 million improvement project. The district is involved in the first of five phases to replace pipes in the town's entire water system. Mealey said some of the pipes are 100 years old and are prone to breakage.
The rate increase will be for water only, according to Mealey. He said district trustees do not anticipate raising sewer rates at this time.
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