water trustees

Fryeburg Water District Trustees met Monday night at the American Legion building. From left: Nels Liljedahl, Scot Montgomery, Nickie Sekera and Greg Huang-Dale. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

FRYEBURG, Maine — Fryeburg Water District trustees say they are planning to hold their own public hearing on the town's proposed tax increment financing district. They also plan to write an open letter in opposition to the proposed TIF district unless it can be proven to be safe for the town's aquifer. 

Tax increment financing, according to the Fryeburg Economic Development Committee, is where property taxes on the value of development within a defined area are used to fund economic development and projects such as road improvements and sewer lines.

The proposed TIF would roughly cover the town’s industrial zone in the area of Porter Road and Eastern Slope Regional Airport.

Selectmen recently said they will ask voters’ permission to sell some of the airport’s surplus land, which Nestle might need for a proposed bottling plant project for its subsidiary Poland Spring. Town residents are to vote on the TIF and airport land Oct. 12.

At the first hearing for the TIF, on Aug. 29, a resident who committee Chair Janice Crawford and Police Chief Joshua Potvin said was out of order was escorted from the room.

A second public hearing, set for Sept. 21 at 6 p.m., will be run by town moderator Peter Malia, who will take questions and comments from registered voters in the audience.

The Fryeburg Business Association also is hosting a public meeting on the TIF at the American Legion on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m., with a question-and-answer session to follow

In addition, at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday, water district trustees decided they want to have their own TIF hearing at the American Legion hall on Sept. 25 at 6 p.m.

At Monday’s meeting, water trustee Nels Liljedahl brought the hearing suggestion to the board, adding that it came from resident Sherri Billings.

“She thought it would be good to have a meeting where you can make comments without being escorted out by the police,” said Liljedahl, adding, “Public comments appreciated.”

Planning board member Edy Kizaki, who was seated in the audience, remarked,“Part of building community is including people even if you don’t agree with them.”

Trustees felt that Bill Harriman, the man who was removed from the first hearing, had a right to speak.

Potvin said he’s been fielding a lot of questions about removing Harriman.

“We should all certainly honor the rights of free speech, however, simply put, the First Amendment does not permit anyone to disrupt a public meeting,” Potvin said. “A person/group may be charged with or arrest for ‘criminal trespass’ when they remain in any place in defiance of a lawful order to leave given by law enforcement or other authorized person.”

On Monday, four of five trustees (Tom Rebmann was absent) agreed to sign an open letter to selectmen saying they oppose the TIF.

Trustee Scot Montgomery said: “Unless there is a significant change in their first proposal, there is no way we can support it because there is not enough information.”

Liljedahl said, “When I saw at that meeting the industrial zone is pretty much right over the Wards Brook aquifer, it made me think, ‘Is this where we want to have industry?’”

Trustees believe TIF projects like sewer lines are a benefit for Nestle but not so much for the town. They also agreed that the town should hold off on the TIF, at least until a 12-year-old water study can be updated.

A fundraising effort is afoot to raise $34,000 for such a study. Trustees said the proposed study should have been done a couple of years ago.

Trustee Nickie Sekera said residents might want to change the zoning ordinance after the study is done.

Chairman Greg Huang-Dale said he would oppose the TIF proposal so long as the proposed district is over the aquifer but would be open to learning more at the upcoming hearing.

“Can we still listen to the opposition? Of course,” said Huang-Dale. “I don’t think by us making our statement (against the TIF) it should discourage people from coming in and telling us what they think.”

Huang-Dale said the town wouldn’t have the authority operate a sewer system because that would fall under the trustees’ jurisdiction.

He said if a sewer system is built it should be there to serve the public, not to allow for industry to grow.

Trustees also questioned Crawford’s statements that a sewer line could run from the TIF zone through Fryeburg and west to North Conway.

Huang-Dale said North Conway Water Precinct Superintendent David Bernier said connecting Fryeburg to North Conway was a non-starter.

Reached Tuesday, Bernier said the precinct commissioners had instructed him to work with Fryeburg authorities to look into the possibility.

Bartlett also is thinking of hooking into North Conway, he said and that North Conway might not have the capacity to handle both Bartlett and Fryeburg.

An engineering study would need to be done to determine how much it would cost to connect to Fryeburg. Bernier said such a project would have to make financial sense and be approve by regulators in Maine and New Hampshire as well as voters.

“The deciding  factor is money,” said Bernier.

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