By Colin Ellis
The Forecaster news story
FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday night appropriated more than $200,000 from various accounts to preserve four remote parcels of land.
The council also continued a discussion on the possibility of affordable senior housing in the old Plummer School.
Councilors voted 5-2 to purchase nearly 100 acres bordering the North Falmouth Community Forest for just over $214,000. Vice Chairman Russell Anderson and Councilor Charlie McBrady were the minority.
Town Manager Nathan Poore said the town had received grants from the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation program and the Land for Maine’s Future program to help pay for the acquisitions.
But the LMF funds have not been released by the state, and it is not clear if or when they will be released. Poore said once the funds are released, the town will be reimbursed.
He added that if the town does not use the $231,800 grant award from the U.S. Forest Service by the end of the fiscal year, it will lose the funding. Poore said the town must “bridge the gap” without the LMF funding. He also said the property owners want to close immediately.
The funds will come from three separate accounts, two of which the council voted to drain: $177,500 from the Open Space Reserve Account, and more than $19,000 came from the seldom-used Parks Acquisition Reserve Account, which was mostly drained because of the recent purchase of Hurricane Valley Farm parcel.
More than $17,000 would also come from the town’s unassigned fund balance.
Initially the order called for $25,000 from the unassigned fund balance in order to leave some money in the open space reserve account, but the council instead opted to use as little from this fund as possible.
Anderson said while Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to delay the LMF funding is “close to being an abuse of power,” he isn’t in favor of the land purchase.
“I don’t feel right kicking in $200,000 of taxpayer money,” he said.
McBrady said he was concerned the LMF funding won’t happen.
Council Charmain David Goldberg said while $214,000 is a lot of money that must be handled “with all due caution,” this is “a project staring us in the face.”