Permits, Contracts, and … Bats?

The Marion Board of Selectmen set up and knocked down a long list of agenda items on Tuesday night, but one in particular had attendees shuddering: a bat infestation at the Town House.

While Chair Jody Dickerson – who grew up across the street from the Town House – said Marion had faced the issue in the past, his calm words of reassurance couldn’t match Town Administrator Paul Dawson’s chilling tale of a Marion employee recently encountering a bat stuck in a printer and then getting bitten and/or scratched by the creature. The bat tested negative for rabies.

“We have a serious issue,” said Dawson, who said wildlife workers pegged the number of bats at “well over a hundred” in the attic above the Town House conference room, as well as in the basement. Dawson said that the estimate for bat removal is $3,900, while cleaning and disinfecting will add to the tab. “We will immediately notify the Finance Committee about this unexpected hit to the budget.”

Moving on to another serious issue, the Selectmen discussed with Dawson the town’s ambulance services billing possibly. Currently, the town writes off unfulfilled charges under $75 due from people who are difficult to track down. Dawson speculated whether the town should increase that threshold, as time is being wasted on collection.

“Despite our best efforts, we can’t find some of these people,” Dawson said. “And they’re not paying.”

Dawson estimated uncollected bills at $280,000 since 2008, while concurring with Dickerson that upward of 95% of ambulance bills are paid in full.

Selectman Steve Cushing was skeptical of allowing debtors off of the hook.

“Let’s take a look at it, rather than just cutting them loose,” he said. “That’s a lot of money. Let’s try to recoup some of it.”

The Selectmen and Dawson decided to explore small claims procedures to weigh the benefits of such a pursuit.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the Selectmen:

Approved a one-day all-alcohol license for the Aug. 11 VFW clambake and Aug. 17 VFW Walsh Cup fundraiser, while approving a one-day wine and malt license for the VFW at the Aug. 24 Town Party;

Denied a water abatement request at 23 Blueberry Way;

Approved an 80-hour carryover of vacation time for the Harbormaster;

Signed off on water commitments of $2,328.96 and $95.78;

Approved a $22,000 contract awarded to JJS Universal Construction for the Perry Hill Station Roof;

Okayed an amended timeline for the Future Generation Wind Power Purchase Agreement; and

Tabled a Parade Permit Request from the Better Future Project after Police Chief Lincoln Miller expressed concerns about the group’s proposed route.

By Shawn Badgley

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