KENNEBUNK, Maine — Two separate town meeting votes that had been scheduled for the coming weeks have been pushed back to a single date: Tuesday, July 14.
The Kennebunk Select Board voted unanimously Tuesday to reschedule the votes to coincide with the new date for the state primary set by Gov. Janet Mills as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. The state primary had previously been scheduled for June 9.
Nearby communities, including Kennebunkport, Arundel, Wells and Ogunquit, that have town meetings set for June 9 are still looking into whether and when they will be rescheduled.
Because Kennebunk delayed its annual town meeting — in which voters elect candidates to local offices and weigh in on proposed municipal and school budgets — by five weeks, from June 9 to July 14, the town’s current fiscal year will end about two weeks before voters have a chance to approve proposed budgets for the next fiscal year.
If a budget isn’t approved by the beginning of the new fiscal year, then Kennebunk will continue operating with the final budget figures approved for the preceding fiscal year until the a new budget is adopted, according to the town charter.
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Elected officials whose terms are set to expire before their replacements can be voted in will remain in their positions until the election, according to Town Clerk Merton Brown.
Before the decision to reschedule was made Tuesday, Selectperson Edward Karytko offered his support for rescheduling the meetings to July, as Brown recommended.
“I think having them both on the same day … makes a lot of sense because then we only have one town meeting, not two,” Karytko said. “It should save some money.”
In addition to electing candidates and addressing budgets, Kennebunk voters will decide whether to approve three zoning ordinance amendments to make way for testing of adult-use marijuana within the local Business Park Zoning District. If approved, the changes would pertain only to retail testing facilities and would not permit any retail stores, retail manufacturing or retail cultivation of marijuana within the town.
The town had originally planned to vote April 7 on the marijuana testing amendments. That vote was already postponed once, to May 14, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the special meeting will be held as part of the July 14 vote.
Laboratory Director Lorri Maling, of Nelson Analytical Lab on Route 1 in Kennebunk, requested the amendments earlier this year, as her company hopes to test marijuana for the state’s upcoming adult-use program.
Resident John Costin on Tuesday noted that the lab had agreed to cover the costs of the special election. Costin asked about the status of that funding, now that the election would be combined with another.
“I have tracked expenses that we have so far for that election, and I would just pass those on to the Route 1 business,” Brown replied. “That’s their expectation. It certainly would not be fair to charge them for the whole election, but certainly the portion that belongs to them.”
The select board originally set the earlier date of April 7 for the ordinance vote because the timing was in step with the state’s hope of having an approved adult-use testing facility in place ahead of the state’s adult-use marijuana program that was expected to be implemented later this year. Karytko and Select Board Chair Blake Baldwin both noted on Tuesday that an earliest possible date for the vote no longer mattered because the state has postponed the implementation due to the pandemic.
“The urgency of this has been relieved,” Baldwin said.
Brown told the select board that he currently has absentee ballots available for the marijuana ordinance question. In recent weeks, Brown has encouraged people to vote absentee, in order to maintain physical distance. Kennebunk residents who wish to request an absentee ballot may do so by calling (207) 604-1326.
Brown said that absentee ballots for the annual town meeting and state primary on July 14 will be available in early June.