Oxford questions tax abatements

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Oxford Board of Selectmen Chairman Floyd Thayer reviews information at the December 6 board meeting about a NOAA grant designed to restore endangered fish to the Little Androscoggin River.

OXFORD – The Board of Selectmen approved four abatements amounting in total to more than $2,000 at its December 6 meeting to correct problems including an error in ownership and acreage of two lots that were split; assessing an outbuilding to the incorrect lot and two requests for abatements on businesses that had closed prior to the April 1 cutoff date.

The approval was given unanimously, but not without questions from the board about the number of abatement requests. Asselin said the assessor only works two days a month and is as thorough as possible in that amount of time. Further conversation about the issue is expected to be had.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved moving forward with a pre-application and to a $30,000 match for a NOAA fisheries community-based restoration grant.

The grant is intended to support habitat restoration projects that would recover threatened and endangered species of fish and sustain and help rebuild fish stocks in the Little Androscoggin River by such methods as building fish ladders.

Steve Heinz from Trout Unlimited presented information on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) grant program saying the river could support the reemergence of species such as the Atlantic salmon that was once abundant in the Little Androscoggin.

NOAA is anticipating up to $6 million will be available in fiscal 2019 to support selected awards. Cost sharing is not mandatory but typically provides more incentive to the agency to award a grant, said Heinz.

“There’s no fish passage” he said of the river. “Oxford has a golden opportunity. The timing is right.”

Heinz said he would provide in-kind services in the form of grant writing with Town Manager Butch Asselin.

The pre-application is due in early January. If the town is asked to proceed to a full application, that will be due in April, he said.

Selectman Scott Hunter questioned the possibility of hiring a police officer to fill a vacancy on the Oxford Police Department who is currently working in another governmental agency and is looking to come to the Oxford department. He said he was approached by two people about the possibility.

The unidentified member of an area County Sheriff’s office is an Oxford resident and has four years prior experience, Because the officer is academy trained, the town would only have to pay $6,000 to the county sheriff’s department he or she would be leaving for the prorated costs of academy training.

Asselin said there is $6,000 available in the budget should the officer hiring move forward. Captain Ricky Jack said the person would be thoroughly vetted if the decision is made to move forward with any new hires.

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