At our January meeting we were surprised by a challenge from sitting Select board member, Janice Crawford, who suggested our mission overstepped our charter limits. Ms. Crawford attended with a legal representative who suggested we review our mission and align it more closely with the Charter of 2007 which established the Water District. Later in the spring Ms. Crawford also made a FOAA request for our minutes through the history of the Water District. We fulfilled her recommendation by early summer but did not hear back from her regarding her complaint.
In March, Rick Knowlton, president of the Maine Water Co. attended our meeting by request of the chair to report on the current conditions of Fryeburg Water Company’s infrastructure and service to customers. He did not present the 2018 report as was expected, but referenced 2017 and highlighted recent upgrades as well as future changes related to road work on Main Street expected in 2020-21. The Trustees felt that Mr. Knowlton’s report suggested it would not be to our advantage to own the Water Company due to the increased expenses.
In April, the Trustees accepted the resignation of David West as he moved north to Chatham, NH, out of the district. We called for nominations for two empty seats and arranged elections for June. We discussed a ballot question about fluoridation following Mr. Knowlton’s report that it is a choice that district voters can make if we want it or not. We decided that asking the question might invite more interest and participation. A question was designed, but not added to the ballot in the end due to public concern at our May meeting. May was focussed on nominees for our ballot. We received two - Nora Schwarz and Jay Ahern. They got enough signatures to be printed on the ballot along with Tom Rebmann who was running again for a second term.
June elections went well, with a slightly lower turnout than previous years at around 80 ballots cast. Nora and Tom won their seats without dispute, but we had some difficulty determining the third winner when a poll worker questioned if Jay Ahern was not a registered voter if he could be elected. Upon review of the law, it was determined that for the Water District, a candidate need only be a resident of the district and not necessarily a registered voter in the district. These three candidates were sworn in by our Registrar, Debra Tait at our meeting on July 7, 2019. Officers elected at the July meeting were: Greg Huang-Dale, chair; Tom Rebmann, treasurer; Nora Schwarz, clerk; and Jay Ahern, secretary. We agreed to give the registrar a stipend for her dedication and services. New trustees were oriented to FOAA requirements and directed to key documents in our files.
In August Trustees discussed funding flow-monitoring technology for Wards Brook offered as an addition to the EGGI review. Since the town Select board was not willing to fund this we were asked if we wanted to. We determined the cost was high and the results would be unlikely to change outcomes. We also discussed upcoming Planning Board plans to review the zoning ordinances in Fryeburg. Two Trustees were able to attend and talk with Planning Board members about possible protections of aquifer land currently zoned industrial.
In September we held our first breakout sessions on 4 key issues for future planning - legal aid, fundraising, member / volunteer base development and a campaign to promote Fryeburg Tap Water. We had two small groups who focussed on two of these issues. The discussion was tabled and continued in October to include missing board members. The chair wrote our first article for local newsletter, Fryeburg Matters, which appeared in the October issue.
October also saw the beginning of dialogue with the Fryeburg Historical Society regarding a public access water point and pump at the stone trough located on their property along Portland Street. The chair met with FHS who showed great interest in the project and agreed to discuss an easement for the Water District to install and manage such a pump. Legal assistance was investigated and a lawyer found but no contract has been written yet.
The chair wrote a second article for Fryeburg Matters submitted in November, which was rejected for length. It will be resubmitted in the new year following board discussion. The lawyer who agreed to work on our easement project with FHS was contacted again in early December and is ready to start the process with us.
Greg Huang-Dale, chair