Kingfield residents vote to add town manager position

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KINGFIELD – In a close contest, residents of Kingfield voted to move to a town manager form of government. On Tuesday, January 17, Kingfield officials held a special town meeting to vote on whether the residents would adopt the town manager form of government, or to keep the form of government Kingfield currently has in place: the select board with an administrative assistant. 

The first order of business was to elect a moderator to preside at the special town meeting. Select board chair Morgan Dunham nominated Kim Jordan as the moderator. There were no other nominations and Jordan was elected. 

After reading article two, regarding the proposed change in town government, Jordan opened up the floor for discussion. The only discussion was a question clarifying the ballots: a yes vote would change to a town manager and a no vote would keep the current form of government. Jordan then put out the vote to the public as to how to vote, with a majority in favor of a written ballot. The ballot box was then opened. 

There were 131 total votes, of those votes 70 were in favor, 60 opposed, and one ballot was blank. Voters have voted to adopt the town manager form of government, which will take effect at the annual town meeting in June. The special town meeting was then officially adjourned. 

The select board is expected to make an appointment to the town manager position without putting the position up for applications; in a previous meeting select board member Polly MacMichael said that the Maine Municipal Association recommended advertising for applications, but said it was not required.

Following the special town meeting, the select board held their regular meeting, with a light agenda. For new business, Marie Daigle, Chair of the Village Enhancement Committee (VEC), proposed a new art project concept. The committee needed board approval to move forward with the project as it would use TIF funds.

The committee’s proposal would have a commissioned artist or artists paint the two utility boxes that exist on Route 27. The committee would seek local Maine artists to design some type of artwork to paint on these utility boxes.

Daigle said, “The goal is to do a project that enhances our downtown historic district in a way that acknowledges the arts.”

The VEC’s project would plan to put out a public bid to artists with the stipulation that they are a Maine resident to submit different samples of their artwork. They would have a jury committee that would then award one or two artists to paint on these utility boxes.

The Village Enhancement Committee then asked the town board to approve the use of TIF funds at the total  cost of $1,000 per box. The town would hire the artist as a contractor to complete the work. Included within that sum would be a stipend of $300 going directly to their materials. The artist however would need to provide their own housing, meals, and transportation. The VEC estimated a small hourly rate for about 20 hours when figuring out how much to offer for the project. 

Daigle stated that the VEC has a well thought out way on how to collect submissions, as well as a timeline for receiving submissions to review at a committee meeting.  The VEC would like to have the project done by mid June 2023, weather permitted. 

Board member Walter Kilbreth asked Daigle, “How do you ensure that they use paint that will last?” adding that  he doesn’t want the art to be damaged by weather. Ashley Hopwood-Farrar, a VEC member,  stated that she had called Sign Works for a recommendation on the type of paint, and that it will be a requirement for the bid award. 

Board member Wade Browne asked if the town had funds in the VEC account to cover the cost, which would be a total of $2,000 for the two utility boxes.

Administrative Assistant Leanna Targett replied that this can be covered by the TIF funds set aside, as part of their TIF funds include a section for an arts district.

The board members voted unanimously in favor of the project. 

During the public hearing process, MacMicheal heard from the people that they would like a sign or way to indicate to people that there are board meetings and public events taking place. MacMicheal would like to take action on this and had asked Targett if that was possible to start up. Dunham replied that this was something she wanted to look into as well, and suggested that the town could use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds.

Browne added that they had looked into this previously, but location was a challenge. The main issue is finding a good place to put the sign where people can easily see it driving as well as walking, yet most space on main roads are taken up. 

Daigle spoke up, stating the VEC is looking for a smaller sign without any lighting, that would be placed in a spot that people visit frequently. They are considering the post office, not a spot where any businesses could advertise. MacMichael is picturing a sign with slide-on letters such as the informational sign in Carrabassett Valley near the airport. The VEC is now tasked with looking into public signage.

Claudia Diller, a Kingfield resident, shared a concern about back-lit signs in the town of Kingfield. Currently the town ordinances do not prohibit back-lit or interior-lit signs. The planning board has been reviewing ordinances, including the signage ordinance; Diller requested that the select board impose a moratorium on back-lit signage until the town votes on the revised ordinances, which will potentially take place at the annual town meeting in June.

MacMichael made a motion to start the process of a moratorium.  

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