LINCOLNVILLE — Select Board members in Lincolnville are wondering why they have received a bill from Camden for a dam agent stipend when no work has been done on dams, and no conversation over the last two years about maintenance or plans has taken place.
“The board has disinclined to extend any of our taxpayer dollars without being included in a conversation,” said Lincolnville Select Board Chair Ladleah Dunn, at a regularly scheduled July 12 Lincolnville Select Board meeting.
The five-minute discussion came at the tail end of the meeting, when Dunn provided historical background on the invoice for newer board members.
In early June 2019, former Lincolnville Selectman David Barrows, who died in September 2020, wrote to Camden Select Board members Marc Ratner and Taylor Benzie, liaisons then to the Camden Megunticook Dams Committee, which was overseeing matters of the East and West dams on Megunticook Lake.
On behalf of Lincolnville, Barrows was seeking a meeting of the two towns to discuss any future dam reconstruction or modifications.
Lincolnville and Camden share the financial responsibility of the East and West dams, which lie at the lower end of Megunticook Lake and the Megunticook Lake watershed.
Traditionally, the cost of routine upkeep and repair of the two dams has been divided between the two towns, with Camden paying two-thirds and Lincolnville one-third, which the latter raises at annual town meeting.
In his letter, Barrows cited Camden’s thoughts about the dams, particularly Lincolnville’s understanding that Camden may have been planning to borrow funds for dam projects, which would then possibly entail Lincolnville financially pitching in.
In Camden’s 2019 annual report, Town Manager Audra Caler noted the potential assessment of five dams on the Megunticook River as part of the town’s broader look at the Montgomery Dam, near the Camden Harbor, and fish passages.
“In light of what is being contemplated by the Town of Camden, the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen believes that it is the appropriate time for our communities to work together to reexamine the roles and responsibilities of the Town of Camden’s Megunticook Dams Advisory Committee, how future dam work plans are established and approved, the timing of budget requests, the method and timing of billing, operations v. repairs/maintenance v. capital expenditures, cost shari, resolution of differences, etc.,” wrote Barrows.
Later, in August 2019, Lincolnville received a reply from Camden Town Manager Audra Caler, who wrote that Camden welcomed the opportunity to work together to, “better plan for the significant capital investment these dams will require in the upcoming years as they reach the end of their useable life.”
She said that the age of both dams, and associated costs to keep them structurally sound, compelled Camden to take a closer look at them and suggested a meeting with board representatives from both towns, as well as Lincolnville Town Administrator David Kinney, and Caler.
Caler informed Barrows that: “The goal of looking at fish passage is intended to ultimately be a benefit and not a liability or added cost to taxpayers.”
In late September 2019, Barrows responded to Caler, saying Lincolnville looked forward to talking with Camden, adding that Lincolnville’s board was more concerned about long term policies, and how a work plan would be funded and accomplished.
He also said that the Lincolnville Select Board first wanted to meet jointly with the Camden Select Board to, “review past practices, examine the current policy and establish a framework for an arrangement moving forward.”
The conversation then ended, with no more communication on the issue, until an invoice was received July 1 by Lincolnville from Camden, requesting payment of $1,386 for a dam agent stipend fee, which spanned July 2020 through June 2021. The $1,386 represented one third of a total Camden expenditure of $4,200 for the dam agent stipend.
Camden had not sent a bill to Lincolnville over the past four to five years, said Dunn, at the July 12 meeting.
But, she explained to the newer board members, that Lincolnville had asked Camden in 2019 to have a conversation prior to invoicing the town.
Since the last correspondence in September 2019, Lincolnville has, “received nothing from Camden accepting or inviting us to have that conversation,” said Dunn.
The town did, however, receive the recent invoice for the stipend paid to Camden’s dam agent.
The Lincolnville Select Board agreed July 12 to re-extend the invitation for a discussion about the dams and Lincolnville’s role in planning for any changes, but board members were opposed to sending money without decision makers in Lincolnville being involved.
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