May 07, 2021

Houlton Town Council approves 1991 annual audit

HOULTON — The Houlton Town Council approved the town’s 1991 annual audit Monday night.

The action had been postponed from two weeks earlier after councilors balked at approving it without first seeing it.

At the March 9 meeting, Town Manager R. Lewis Bone did not have copies of the audit available for the council because he said he was trying to cut back on paper usage.

He did have copies of the audit in the town office, but councilors said that did not give them the opportunity to review the document before they voted.

During Monday’s discussion of the audit, Bone said the town’s surplus funds “had fallen to a drastic low.”

He said the account was down to about $245,000 compared to $445,000 last year. He added, however, that the town was not heavily in debt and he was not very worried about the account at the present time.

Another area of concern was that accounts receivable had risen from $310,000 in 1990 to $419,000 in 1991.

Of particular concern was $100,000 in that account for ambulance service. Billing for that service is handled for the town by Houlton Regional Hospital for an annual fee.

David Gates of the accounting firm Gardner, Briggs and Gates, which did the audit, said the town had to decide what it was going to do with the accounts the hospital had not collected.

“We should get on them to start collecting … ,” he said. “If they’re not doing the job, maybe we should take it back.”

The council tabled until April 13, action to appoint the firm of Hatfield Randall Associates Inc. of Houlton to provide engineering services for the Cary Library renovations project.

Bone had requested that the firm be allowed to begin preliminary studies of the facility in order to determine how much would be needed for the project. The project would be included as part of a $2 million bond issue package expected to be put before voters in November.

Some members of the council were reluctant to spend any money before the bond issue was passed.

“I just can’t pick a figure out of the clear blue sky and just put it on the bond issue,” Bone said. “We’d have egg all over our face if we put down $100,000 and it costs $300,000 to get it done.”

The council also approved the sale of a parcel of land on Riverside Street to the Aroostook Mental Health Center for its offer of $1,000.

The agency has purchased other property near the site and plans to construct an office building and group home. The land approved for purchase Monday has been held by the town for more than 20 years as tax acquired property, and is surrounded by the AMHC property. It will be used for parking.

The land was sold under the closed bid procedure outlined in the town’s charter. Under that procedure the sale was not announced to the public for bids.

Philip Wyman, a property owner in the area, protested the move and said taxpayers in Houlton should have been given an opportunity to bid on the property.

“Something has gone very wrong with the system when people who pay the bills, the taxpayers, are not given the opportunity to bid on the property,” he said.

In other business the council:

Agreed to consider at its next meeting a request from the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals for three-month moratorium on applications for zoning variances in the North Street residential zone. The request was made to allow the two boards time to work on a zone change for the area.

Voted to proclaim April as recycling month in the town.

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