American Flag Retirement Ceremony

Boy Scout Troop 401 will be conducting their annual American flag retirement ceremony tonight at the Sidney Town Office at 2986 Middle Rd. this evening, June 11th, at 6:00pm.

Flags made of cloth, in all sizes, will be accepted.

And for general information (and planning), Troop 401 usually hosts this ceremony on the Monday 2 weeks after Memorial Day.  I’ll try to post a little earlier next year! My apologies for the late note on this.

Hope to see you there!

Reverent Memorial Day

The Town of Sidney hosted its annual Memorial Day celebration on Monday, May 28, 2018.  Many town residents came out to honor loved ones, family, friends, and others who have given their lives in service or continue to serve their communities and the United States of America.

We were graced with the Messalonskee High School band, who performed wonderfully. And the BSA and GSA participated in the parade and afterward to serve goodies to parade goers. And I’ll have to ask the parade committee who the amazing group of men who performed A Cappella. Their voices were simply amazing.  The Sidney Historical Society was also passing out cards to Sidney residents asking for favorite and time honored recipes to contribute to their cookbook efforts. If you read this and want to learn more, just stop by the Sidney Town Office to get more info. The Sidney Memorial Day Parade Committee is also always looking for new volunteers. I think I was inducted this past weekend by our indefatigable Kristy Spears.

I had time this year to watch the whole ceremony and I got choked up over some of the prayers, the songs, and I shed a tear during Taps as I spent moment remembering all those in my family who have served and still do – and for all the people serving and lives given to protect the freedoms we hold so dear.

There was an interesting discussion that broke out as we watched and it was whether the term “Happy” was appropriate for what tends to be a more solemn, reverent, prayerful day. I am sure there are diverse opinions about this. As I thought about it, I thought perhaps “reverent” was a better adjective. Remembrance. Respect. Reflection. For the selfless service that our uniformed men and women and our veterans have given in protection of and love for our country.

Whooo – What a Busy Couple of Months

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months since the election in late March as I have gotten more settled into the Selectman position. I find myself taking a lot of notes during meetings – terminology I need to look up, ordinances/procedures/laws that I need to learn more about, general education around how roads are designated, built and maintained, understanding rights-of-way and easements. It’s all good work and I am still excited to be learning more about town management, land development, town services, community and citizenry, and so much more.

One of the things I find myself researching and learning more about recently is the balance between growing the community (adding more homes), absorbing people who want to live in Sidney or planning for better housing to provide better for our older population, and preserving the farmland, open spaces, privacy, beauty, and rural character of Sidney, which is what attracts people to our little town, tucked between Augusta and Waterville.

I am also gaining an appreciation for the subtle shifts in meaning and definitions of specific terms and phrases, and how they are used when describing a situation, process, procedure or establishment.

And I am gaining newfound respect for just how intricate and complicated it can be to do something as seemingly simple as putting a dock in for a boat for our Sidney First Responders.  Gating, security, signage, citizen protection, protection of property/assets (life vests, bouys, ropes, etc.), proper storage/coverage for the boat (to keep gauges and sensitive parts safe), making sure that the work is supported by local law enforcements/codes/regulations….not so simple at all.

This work really begins to teach you to take a step back, think before you speak, and consider may more angles and perspectives than you might be prone to do. And to be able to do that, you need to be aware and knowledgeable that those factors exist, let alone how to approach each one.

It’s a learning curve. But so far its manageable, its interesting, and its exciting to begin to understand all that goes on behind the scenes; all the work and commitment it takes on a day to day basis on the part of our town administration, road crews, transfer station employees, fire and rescue, school boards and administration, your selectmen, cemetery maintenance, animal control, and more to ensure that sleepy little Sidney remains the well-oiled, quiet, attractive town it is.

Officially a Selectwoman of Sidney, Maine

My official title is: Selectman, Assessor, and Overseer of the Poor.

The town meeting was lively and very well attended. I think I roughly calculated 80+ people.

The topics that got the most attention on the warrant were (1) raising $1,900 for Spectrum Generations, (2) raising $1,052 for Life Flight, and (3) a mass gathering ordinance for the town of Sidney for gatherings over 1,000 people. All 3 were rejected.  I felt personally close to 2 of those 3 articles.

Town meeting was concluded in 2.5 hours and there were a total of 40 articles on the warrant. Pretty efficient voting!

It was very interesting to meet more Sidney townsfolk and hear their points of view. Sidney is a fairly conservative group of folks who do not like being burdened with excess regulation.  (The mass gathering town ordinance lost in a landslide “no” vote.)  It also seemed to me that the folks of Sidney are also mostly in favor of supporting services that directly benefit Sidney residents. I truly wish more Sidney voters would turn up at town hall meetings – and I bet Spectrum Generations would have gotten their funding.

And at the end, as people were departing, I was officially sworn in as a Selectman. First official meeting is Monday, March 26th (and this time I can stay for the executive sessions!)

Auditing the Audit!

Well, tonight was a whole lot of number fun! Shifting dollars to and from surplus and escrow/reserve as well as “raise” and then making sure all the bottom budget line items sum correctly!  Good thing I love numbers 🙂

It seems that the auditor failed to read the town’s articles and allocations when preparing the audit, so, tonight, the dynamic and jocular team sorted out the sordid mess and the numbers at the town meeting will be correct. The poor budget committee is going to have to act fast, though, and approve/take note of the changes because the town report goes to print on Wednesday!

Tonight, as we dove headlong into numbers, I felt like part of the team. I saw more of the information in the folders (approving payroll and invoices) and got more information about what happens on 3/24. As soon as I put my hand on that bible I officially represent the town of Sidney!

Lots of good-hearted, playful-punch jokes tonight around the table. The numbers did it – made folks punchy 😉

An the funniest joke of the night – the auditors want to come in and teach the Board how to read the audit. I think we just did that for them. Perhaps we can teach them about how towns allocate funds instead.

And a word to the wise for those who would provide services to the Town. Don’t send the Board successive quotes where the prices are continually shifting upward, especially after the annual budget meeting. It makes one look quite shady…and it invites unfriendly scrutiny, especially from IT savvy folks who are coming on Board.

 

Sidney Annual Town Meeting is Mar. 24, 2018

Town meetings tend to be notoriously under-attended. Perhaps folks prefer not to spend hours of one of their Saturdays cooped up with other townsfolk? Or maybe people feel a little intimidated because they don’t know what happens at town meetings or how to participate?

I, for one, know I sometimes hesitate to speak up and ask a question about topics I may know little about. So I did a little Googling (something I am pretty good at) and I found this lovely Guide to Town Meetings on the Maine Municipal Association’s website.

The entire MMA website is a terrific resource for people who want to learn more local and state government – and even take classes on how to become a representative.

Don’t be intimidated to participate in your town government. I know many folks are skeptical or even jaded that their involvement doesn’t matter – but you couldn’t be more wrong. Not every idea, suggestion or argument you make will be followed and acted upon, of course, but if your voice is never heard, you never have that chance to make a difference  – and at the town level, these differences can have major impacts.

So…..when is your next Annual Town Meeting?  Go check out your town’s Facebook page and website. Maybe give the meeting a go this year!

Sidney Maine Annual Budget Meeting 2/17

Image result for annual budget meeting memeJust got back from a 3 hour annual budget meeting at the Sidney Town Hall. There were 5 folks there to present their requests for funding and, besides myself, I think there was one other townsperson there just for the sake of listening in.

I love numbers, and budgeting, so it was a pretty interesting meeting to me. And the chair of the budget committee, John (I’ll have to find his last name), was a humorous hoot. He’d make an excellent auctioneer, too.

I thought on the way home that it really is a shame that more Sidney residents don’t attend these annual meetings – and for years, I didn’t either. This thought is not meant to pass judgment on any Sidney resident. Folks are busy with young families, older families, and just life in general. I fell into that category for many years. And now, as my kids are older and more independent, I find I have more time, and desire, to participate.

A lot of important discussions take place. Discussions like deciding which charity requests for funding will be presented to the townsfolk of Sidney on March 24th at the Annual Town Meeting for voting. How much funding for new equipment, supplies, maintenance, etc. that our volunteer Fire & Rescue folks get. Thoughts and procedures for new town ordinances. Lots of things.

For Sidney, one particularly sensitive issue arises repeatedly. It becomes an emotional and administrative tug-of-war to support the vast number of charity donation and support requests that come through. Everyone needs more money. In our hearts most wish all could be funded. But they cannot. In most cases, support requests get a motion for $0 dollars from the Board of Selectmen with a request to raise the requested amount. This means it goes before the citizens of Sidney for a vote at the annual town meeting. A point was made at the budget meeting today that normally it’s the folks who need the services from said charities that show up at the meeting to vote…and no matter how many voters there are, majority wins.

Sidney has about 4,200 residents, a large portion which are eligible to vote. Only about 40 folks, roughly 1%, show up at the town meeting. And if they vote YES on a measure that will add $1-2 tax dollars to your bill to pay for raising that money, the majority of Sidney is left to simply accept the decision. Now, this is not to say that its not a good vote.

I would support paying $1 to $2 dollars extra on my tax bill to support charities that provide quantifiable/justifiable life-enhancing/life-saving services to our elder and disabled residents. Charities like Spectrum Generations and Life Flight. We are a small, rural town tucked between 2 larger towns and our taxes are one of the lowest in Maine, because we have no overhead services, no post office, no police department. Services provided by Spectrum Generations and Life Flight can sometimes make the difference between life and death. I would gladly pay a few extra dollars on my taxes to support such charities. I would not, however, like my taxes to be raised for a charity that doesn’t provide substantial benefit to my community, small as it is. And, fair point, there are folks in Sidney who have trouble paying their annual property taxes, let alone support charities by having their taxes raised.

I would encourage Sidney residents to participate in the annual budget meeting in February and the annual town meeting in March. Grab a cup of Joe from Annie’s Variety Store or the Middle Road General Store and schedule 3 hours of your time just a couple times a year to be a more informed resident.

We also need more women. There are NO women on the budget committee. There are women on the Select Board.

Rise up my Sidney brethren. Find some time here or there. Make your voice heard and use your vote to effect changes you want (or don’t want!) Take a look at the calendar on Sidney’s website and keep up to date on Sidney’s Facebook page.

I’ll be there with a smile ready to shake your hand and show you around 🙂