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Statutorily Required Municipal Services and Functions

This list represents a general review of services and functions which municipal governments are required by law to maintain. It is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of all relevant State and federal law or agency rules. It does not account for services and obligations required by contract, local vote, charter, ordinance, or those that result from the application of State agency rules.

Prepared by Michael L. Stultz and the Legal Services Department of Maine Municipal Association, Augusta, Maine. Telephone: 800-452-8786.

Schools and Education

1) Education. Implement and administer public education, 20-A M.R.S.A. § 2; Maine Const. Art. VIII § 1. School units must raise funds to support public education, and provide primary and secondary education in accordance with the purposes, policies, goals and objectives of State law. 20-A M.R.S.A. § 4501 et seq.

2) No Child Left Behind. Federally required annual student assessment. 20 USC Chapter 70.

3) Learning Results. State required assessment. 20-A M.R.S.A. § 6201 et seq.
4) Special Education. Federally required programs for students with special needs. 20 USC Chapter 33.

Roads and Public Works

1) Must maintain public roads. Must keep town ways maintained so as to be safe and convenient for motor vehicle travel. 23 M.R.S.A. § 3651.

a. Sidewalks existing within the right-of-way of a town way must be maintained against defects. Moriarty v. City of Lewiston, 57 A. 790, 98 Me. 482 (1904); Morgan v. City of Lewiston, 40 A. 54, 91 Me. 566 (1898)).

b. Must remove roadside brush, trees and grass that pose any road safety problem. 23 M.R.S.A. § 2702.

c. Must remove snow and ice in the town way within a reasonable period of time. 23 M.R.S.A. §3655. This includes removal from state-aid highways. 23 M.R.S.A. § 1003.

d. Must prevent damage to private water supplies as a result of construction, reconstruction or maintenance of public highways. 23 M.R.S.A. § 3659.

2) Drains, ditches and culverts. Municipalities may install, but discretion may become obligation if installation is necessary to maintain road in safe and convenient status. Once established, the municipality must maintain them. 23 M.R.S.A. § 3251; 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3401 et seq.

3) Driveways and culverts. If a property owner applies for and receives a culvert permit, the municipality must install the culvert(s) where private driveways connect to a town way (at the owner’s expense). Once culverts are installed, the town must maintain them. 23 M.R.S.A. § 705. Municipalities are responsible for the permitting of new entrances on highways in urban compact zones. 23 M.R.S.A. § 704.

4) Highway defects. Must correct defects in the road where there has been twenty-four hour notice, or can be held liable for resulting damages. 14 M.R.S.A. § 8104-A; 23 M.R.S.A. §3655.

5) Public works. A registered professional engineer is required for any public works project exceeding a cost of $100,000, or if the work creates an undue risk to public safety or welfare. 32 M.R.S.A. § 1254.

6) Roads in compact areas. Urban compact municipalities must maintain roads within the compact area. 23 M.R.S.A. § 754.

7) Street excavation. Municipalities must serve notice upon owners of property abutting a street or highway, and upon others, directing water and conduit connections prior to paving and repairing. 23 M.R.S.A. § 3351 et seq.

Land Use and Environmental Protection

1) Board of appeals. If a municipality establishes a zoning ordinance, it must create a board of appeals. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4353.

2) Publication of proposed zoning changes. Notice must be published before adopting a new or amending an existing zoning ordinance or zoning map. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4352.

3) Sewers and drains. Where a public drain has been constructed, and a person has paid to connect to it, the municipality must maintain the drain. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3403.

4) Shoreland zoning. Must have zoning and land use controls for areas within 250 feet of normal high water line. 38 M.R.S.A. § 438-A.

5) Site Location of Development Act. DEP may designate municipalities as a reviewing authority. Once so designated, municipalities must administer permits for projects requiring review under the Act. 38 M.R.S.A. § 489-A.

6) Subdivision. Subdivision review is required. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4401.

7) Waste management. Municipalities must provide solid waste disposal services for domestic and commercial solid waste generated within the municipality. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1305. (It is unclear whether “services” means having a facility available in the town or whether it means providing a service to remove trash.)

a. Septage/sludge. Each municipality shall provide for the disposal of all refuse, effluent, sludge and any other materials from septic tanks and cesspools. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1305.

b. Transfer stations. For those municipalities having transfer stations, they are required to comply with DEP regulations for the operation of transfer stations and solid waste storage. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1305; Rules of DEP Chapter 402.

c. Closure of municipal landfills. Municipalities must close designated “open landfills” as determined by DEP. Closed municipal landfills require biannual groundwater testing and monitoring. 42 USC Chapter 82; 38 M.R.S.A. § 1310-C et seq.

d. Recycling. Must meet recycling goals as set by State. 38 M.R.S.A. §§ 2132 and 2133.

8) Wastewater treatment facilities. Municipalities with wastewater treatment facilities constructed in whole or in part with State funding must accept wastewater from watercraft sewage pump-out facilities. 38 M.R.S.A. § 414-B.

9) Water pollution prevention and control. Municipalities must comply with federal law concerning pollutant and effluent controls necessary to manage water pollution. 33 USC Chapter 26; 38 M.R.S.A. § c. 3. Municipalities must comply with storm water management and of storm water systems regulations.

10) Wharves and fish weirs. Municipalities must examine and hold public hearings upon any application to build or extend any wharf, fish weir or trap in tidewaters within the municipal border. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1022.

Public Safety and Health

1) Animal control. Municipalities must enforce the animal welfare laws. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3941 et seq.

a. Appoint an animal control officer. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3947.

b. Issue dog licenses. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3942.

c. Control dogs at large and animals that are a source of complaint. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3948.

d. Issue municipal warrants. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3943.

e. Posting of law concerning dog licenses and municipal duties. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3941.

2) Building inspection. Every municipality with greater than 2,000 inhabitants must appoint a building inspector (optional for municipalities with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants). 25 M.R.S.A. § 2351.

3) Emergency Management. Must prepare and keep a disaster emergency plan. 37-B M.R.S.A. §§ 781-786.

4) Fire protection. It is not clear whether fire protection is required under Maine law, but it is provided in most municipalities. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3151 et seq.

a. General requirements.

i. Automotive Equipment. Automotive fire equipment purchased with public money must comply with National Fire Protection, Pamphlet 1901, standards.

ii. Equipment and Buildings. Firefighters must be equipped with minimum safety equipment, and it must be maintained. 26 M.R.S.A. § 2104.

iii. Training. Firefighters must complete a training program. 26 M.R.S.A. § 2101 et seq.

5) Fire Ward/Inspector. Must be elected if no organized fire department in the municipality. 25 M.R.S.A. § 2391.

6) Forest Fire control and costs. Municipalities are responsible in the first instance for fighting fires and paying for some of the costs incurred in controlling forest fires. 12 M.R.S.A. § 9201 et seq.

7) Harbor Master.

a. If requested, municipal officers shall appoint to oversee administration and enforcement of mooring privileges for boats and vessels. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1.

b. Where boats and lighters are used to carry stone, sand or gravel, the municipal officers shall appoint an inspector to ensure compliance with requirements for marking such boats and lighters. 38 M.R.S.A. § 121.

8) Law enforcement and police protection. Municipalities are not required to provide police protection. Where provided, specific requirements arise. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2671 et seq.

a. Police officers. A full-time law enforcement officer must complete basic training requirements at the Criminal Justice Academy. 25 M.R.S.A. § 2804-C.

b. Disposal of lost, stolen or unclaimed property. Must keep private property in an attempt to locate the owner. 25 M.R.S.A. § 3501 et seq.

9) Occupational health requirements. Local government must comply with the OSHA of 1970 as well as similar State requirements to ensure working conditions reasonably free from health hazards or safety threats. OSHA of 1970 [Complete OSH Act Version ] ; 26 M.R.S.A. § 561 et seq.

10) Plumbing inspection. Must ensure plumbing complies with State and local regulations.  Must appoint a plumbing inspector. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4221.

11) Port Warden. By petition, 10 or more citizens can request and municipal officers must appoint a port warden. 38 M.R.S.A. § 41.

12) Public Health. Report, prevent and suppress diseases and conditions dangerous to public health.  Must appoint a health officer. 22 M.R.S.A. § 451.

13) Subsurface wastewater systems. Municipalities shall serve an order to remedy once receiving notice of malfunctioning subsurface wastewater disposal systems. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3428.

Licensing and Permitting and Economic Regulations

1) ATV registration. As agents for the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, municipalities must provide the service of registering ATVs. 12 M.R.S.A. § 13002,13003.

2) Alcohol. Assuming local option approval, municipal officers must act on applications for on-premises liquor licenses. 28-A M.R.S.A. § 653.

a. Bottle Clubs. Municipal officers must act on applications for permission to operate a bottle club or to transfer location thereof. 28-A M.R.S.A. § 161-B

b. Special amusements. Must issue permit for live music, dancing or entertainment at businesses licensed for on-premises consumption of alcohol. 28-A M.R.S.A. § 1054

3) Automobiles. Municipalities must collect the excise tax, and may be appointed by the Secretary of State to receive applications for new or renewed drivers licenses and motor vehicle registrations. 36 M.R.S.A. § 1487 and 29-A M.R.S.A. § 201.

4) Beano and Bingo. Municipal officers must review applications for permission to operate beano and bingo amusements. 17 M.R.S.A. § 313.

5) Birth/Marriage/Death recording/certificates. Municipal clerk must record and issue birth, marriage and death certificates. 19-A M.R.S.A. §§ 652 and 654 and 22 M.R.S.A. § 2702.

6) Bowling alleys, shooting galleries, pool, and bagatelle and billiard rooms. Municipalities are responsible for licensing to operate bowling alleys, shooting galleries, pool bagatelle and billiards rooms. 8 M.R.S.A. §§ 1 and 2.

7) Building code. Local building inspectors or code enforcement officers must ensure compliance with relevant state and local building standards. 30-A M.R.S.A. §4101-4104

8) Building Permits. A municipal reviewing authority must review and approve all new multi-family housing accommodations before occupancy is permitted. 5 M.R.S.A. § 4582-B.

9) Cable TV franchises. Municipalities must honor existing contracts, are required to issue new franchise agreements or to renew same, and must regulate cable operator’s compliance with such agreements. 30-A M.R.S.A. §§ 3008 and 3010.

10) Closing-out sales/going out of business. Municipal officers must license. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3781 et seq.

11) Concealed weapons. Municipalities must issue permits. If there is no chief of police, can request Chief of State Police to issue permits. 25 M.R.S.A. § 2002-A et seq.

12) Conversion of seasonal dwelling. Municipal Plumbing Inspector must issue permit before a seasonal dwelling in the shoreland zone can be converted to a year-round or principal dwelling. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4215.

13) Dogs and dog kennels. Municipalities must issue dog licenses and kennel licenses. 7 M.R.S.A. §§ 3921, et seq., and 3931-A, et seq.

14) Driveway entrances. Municipality must authorize ingress and egress to property inside an urban compact municipality on state highways and state-aid highways. 23 M.R.S.A. § 704.

15) Electrical installations. If an electrical inspector has been appointed, he or she must enforce state and local electrical installation laws. 30-A M.R.S.A. §4152-4154; 4161-4163; 4171-4174.

16) Engines. Municipalities must issue permits before a steam engine can be erected in a town. 17 M.R.S.A. § 2795.

17) Fishing/hunting/trapping. Municipal clerks, as agents for IF&W, are responsible for issuing permits for fishing, hunting or trapping. 12 M.R.S.A. § 10801.

18) Games of chance. Municipal officers sign application. 17 M.R.S.A. § 333.

19) Health. Local Health Officer shall receive and report to DHHS any facts that relate to communicable diseases within the municipality and shall evaluate all claims of public health threats. 22 M.R.S.A. §454.

20) Innkeeper/tavern keeper/lodging house. Municipalities must issue permits before innkeepers, tavern keepers or lodging houses can operate. 30-A M.R.S.A. §§ 3811-3814.

21) Junkyards. Must license and police junkyards and automobile recycling and graveyard operations. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3751 et seq.

22) Lunch wagons. Municipalities must issue licenses to any reputable person maintaining a vehicle for the sale of food. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3931.

23) Mobile homes and over limit vehicles. Municipalities must issue permits before mobile homes can be moved over public roads, and before over limit vehicles can travel on public roads. 29-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1002 and 2382.

24) Moorings. Harbor Masters must assign moorings (usually through a permit process). 38 M.R.S.A. §3.

25) Off-track betting. Municipality must approve off-track facility where pari-mutuel wagering will occur. 8 M.R.S.A. § 275-D(5).

26) Pawnbrokers. Municipalities must license pawnbrokers. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3961.

27) Pinball machines. Municipalities must license those individuals wishing to keep pinball machines for public patronage. 8 M.R.S.A. § 441.

28) Plumbing. Municipalities, through the local plumbing inspector, must permit and oversee plumbing. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4201 et seq.

29) Poles and wires. The municipal officers or their designees must issue permits to those wishing to construct telephone, electric, or cable TV wires, gas or oil pipelines, or water, sewer or steam conduits, along a public way that is a city street or town way or a state or state-aid highway in the compact areas as defined in 23 M.R.S.A. § 754. 35-A M.R.S.A. § 2501 et seq.

30) Public exhibitions. Must license exhibitions of images, pageantry, sleight of hand tricks, puppet shows, circus, traveling amusement shows, feats of balancing, wire dancing, personal agility, dexterity or theatrical performances. 8 M.R.S.A. §§ 501-502.

31) Roller skating rinks. Municipalities must license roller skating rinks. 8 M.R.S.A. § 601 et seq.

32) Shoreland zoning. Municipalities shall control the issuance of permits required under the shoreland zoning ordinance, and shall collect all fees required, investigate violations and keep a record of all essential transactions regarding the shoreland zone. 38 M.R.S.A. §438-A; 441(3)

33) Site location of development. If the DEP has delegated its review authority to the municipality pursuant to 38 M.R.S.A. §489-A, the planning board (or municipal officers if none) shall review all development involving “structures” between three and seven acres in size.

34) Snowmobile registration. As agents for the Commissioner of IF & W, municipalities are responsible for registering snowmobiles. 12 M.R.S.A. § 13104.

35) Subdivision review. The municipal planning board (or municipal officers, if none) must review all lot divisions meeting the state law definition of “subdivisions." 30-A M.R.S.A. §4403.

36) Watercraft. Must consider permit applications from anyone wishing to bring into or maintain in the harbor any derelict watercraft for salvage, or anyone abandoning any watercraft in the harbor. 38 M.R.S.A. § 9.

37) Wharves, weirs, piers and pilings. Any person wishing to build or extend any wharf, weir, pier or trap in tidewaters must apply to the municipal officers for a license. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1022.

Administration and General Government

1) Accounts for dog and kennel licenses. Municipalities must maintain separate accounts for the fees collected for dog and kennel licenses and also for court fines collected by the municipality. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3945.

2) Americans with Disabilities Act. Comprehensive requirements concerning persons with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government services. US Code, 5 M.R.S.A. § 4551 et seq., and 25 M.R.S.A. § 2701 et seq.

3) Assessment and taxes. Must assess and collect taxes. Requirements contained in Titles 36 and 30-A of the Statutes of Maine.

a. Real property.

b. Excise taxes.

c. Personal property taxes.

4) Annual Meeting. Annual Meeting required at which moderator, selectmen and school committee elected. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2525.

5) Annual report. Must publish an annual report. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2801.

6) Burying grounds. Must care for ancient burying grounds and veterans’ graves in public burying grounds. 13 M.R.S.A. § 1101 and 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2901.

7) Conditional gifts. A conditional gift received must be complied with perpetually and may benefit from money raised to carry the conditions into effect. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 5654.

8) Elections. Municipalities carry election responsibilities under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 621-A et seq. for federal, state, SAD, caucus and county elections.

9) Labor and human resource requirements and issues.

a. Fair Labor Standards Act. Municipalities must adhere to federal and State requirements establishing minimum wages, overtime pay, and regulations regarding child labor and record keeping. 29 USC § 201 et seq. and 26 M.R.S.A. ch. 7.

b. Family and Medical Leave Act. Municipalities must guarantee unpaid leave for personal and family reasons. 29 USC § 2601 et seq.; 26 M.R.S.A. § 843 et seq. FMLA regulations 29 CFR Part 825.

c. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act. Municipalities cannot discriminate against members of the military in hiring and retention practices. 38 USC, Chapter 43, Sections 4301-4333,USERRA regulations 20 CFR Part 1002.

d. Workplace training.

i. Sexual harassment training. 26 M.R.S.A. § 807.

ii. Video display terminal education and training. 26 M.R.S.A. § 252.

10) Freedom of Access Act. Must provide public access to public records and notice of meetings. 1 M.R.S.A. § 408 and 409(1).

11) General Assistance. Municipalities are required to provide assistance in meeting basic necessities. 22 M.R.S.A. § 4305.

12) Municipal annual solid waste report. Municipalities must report to DEP any material produced by a municipal solid waste processing facility. 38 M.R.S.A. § 1304-C.

13) Municipal officials required by Maine law (see also MMA’s Municipal Officers Manual for further detail):

a. Animal Control Officer. 7 M.R.S.A. § 3947.

b. Assessor. 36 M.R.S.A. § 327(3) and 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2526(5).

c. Board of Appeals (if zoning ordinance enacted). 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2691(2)(A).

d. Building Inspector (in towns with populations over 2,000). 25 M.R.S.A. § 2351.

e. Civil Emergency Preparedness Agency Director. 37-B M.R.S.A. § 782(1).

f. Clerk. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2525(2).

g. Election (Ballot) Clerks. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2528(8) and 21-A M.R.S.A. § 503(3).

h. Excise Tax Collector. 36 M.R.S.A. § 1487(1).

i Fence Viewers (if services requested). 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2953.

j. Fire Inspector. 25 M.R.S.A. § 2391.

k. Fire Chief. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3153.

l. Forest Fire Warden. 12 M.R.S.A. § 8902.

m. GA Fair Hearing Authority. 22 M.R.S.A. § 4322.

n. Harbor Master (if services requested). 38 M.R.S.A. § 1.

o. Health Officer. 22 M.R.S.A. § 451.

p. Local Sealer. 10 M.R.S.A. § 2451.

q. Moderator. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2521(1).

r. Municipal Officers. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2521 (selectmen or councilors).

s. Overseers of the Poor. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2526(4) and 22 M.R.S.A. § 4301(12).

t. Plumbing Inspector. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4221.

u. Registrar of Voters. 21-A M.R.S.A. § 101.

v. Road Commissioners. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2526(7).

w. School Board Committee. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2525(1); 20-A M.R.S.A. § 2302; 20-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1251 and 1651.

x. School Superintendent. 20-A M.R.S.A. § 1051.

y. Shellfish Warden. Required if a municipality enacts a shellfish conservation ordinance. 12 M.R.S.A. § 6671(8).

z. Tax Collector. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2525(2).

aa. Treasurer. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2525(2).

14) National Voter Registration Act. Processing and registration of voters. 42 USC Chapter 20; 21-A M.R.S.A. § 180 et seq.

15) Post audit of accounts. Arrange annual post audit of town accounts by Department of Audit or qualified CPA. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 5823.

16) Recycled goods procurement. Review procurement procedures to ensure against discrimination in use of recycled goods, supplies, equipment and materials. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 5656(1).

17) Records keeping.

a. Must maintain denials and all conditional approvals for licenses, certificates, approvals or other types of permits. 1 M.R.S.A. § 407.

b. Must maintain record of decisions involving dismissal or refusal to renew contract of a public official, employee or appointee. 1 M.R.S.A. § 407.

c. Must maintain records of final employee disciplinary action. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2702(1)(B)(5).

d. Records preservation. Local government records must be maintained and stored as required by Maine law and as directed by the State Archivist. The volume of records can be quite large, particularly with respect to the records handled by the offices of the clerk, treasurer, tax collector and assessor. 5 M.R.S.A. § 95-B.

18) Revenue receipts and disbursements. Municipal treasurer necessary to receive and record all revenues and disbursements. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 5601 et seq.

19) Town equipment. Municipalities must maintain equipment, vehicles and machinery. 14 M.R.S.A. § 8104-A.

20) Town buildings. Municipalities must maintain town owned buildings. 14 M.R.S.A. § 8104-A.

Date of last revision: 04/08

This packet is designed to provide general information and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice for specific situations. The statutes and other information herein are only current as of the date of publication.


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