March 12, 2010

For town voices, time to be heard



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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer... Moderator Charles Huntress clarifies an amendment to a warrant article during Limington's town meeting on Saturday, March 7, 2009.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer... Tammy Pike casts her vote during Limington's town meeting on Saturday, March 7, 2009.

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Staff Writer

LIMINGTON — Like most Maine towns, Limington needs to rein in its spending to reflect a stumbling economy.

Joe Colby is just afraid the wrong people will be paying the price.

''Everybody's supposed to be getting cut,'' Colby said, ''but we're taking away from our kids.''

Colby, taking a break from Saturday's town meeting, was upset that soon he might be voting on cutting about $7,500 from youth sports programs, part of a general reduction in spending by the town.

Inside, about 75 people were working their way through a 72-article town meeting warrant. Outside, Colby was trying to accept that the economy would probably be costing the town a girls' basketball program and Senior Babe Ruth baseball league.

Colby said the athletic program's backers had asked for $12,500 for youth league activities and $9,000 for field maintenance. The warrant that the meeting was acting on Saturday called for $8,000 for the programs and $6,000 for field maintenance.

He said he was unaware that the selectmen had approved a warrant that calls for the cuts, and town meeting rules make it pretty difficult to change the amounts the selectmen put in the warrant.

Still, he likes that Limington still operates with a town meeting format.

''I like to hear the voice of the people in town and I kind of like to have opinions of the town myself,'' he said.

Mary Margaret Weirick agreed, even as she worried over the fate of $9,525 for repairs to the Moy-Mo-Da-Yo recreational area. Concerned that the article might face opposition, Weirick said, prompted her to attend her first town meeting since she moved back to Limington four years ago.

She said discussing town matters at a meeting is much better than simply putting various items on the ballot in a referendum.

''You can only get so much in a few sentences in a referendum,'' she said.

The budget dominated Limington's town meeting and that's likely to be the same at most town meetings across the state over the next few weeks, said Michael Starn, director of communications and educational services for the Maine Municipal Association.

''Everyone is clearly trying to hold the line on any type of property tax increase,'' Starn said.

Most towns are likely to cut back on road work, since that can be an expensive budget item, Starn said, and a few might have to lay off workers.

But few residents are likely to push for cuts at the meetings, he added, because the selectmen who prepare the warrants are expected to be mindful of the tax impact of what they put before the residents.

''They're being pretty tight-fisted about what they're asking the town to spend,'' he said.

In Limington, Saturday's town meeting took up most of the first real spring-like day of the year.

Sokokis Avenue, where the town's municipal offices are located, was lined with American flags and the tiny parking lot was filled to overflowing, even though only about 75 residents attended.

Turnout wasn't large but the discussion was wide-ranging.

For instance, a discussion about appropriating $329,000 for waste disposal and recycling led to complaints that the town's ''silver bullet'' container for recycling was too often full. The consensus seemed to be that residents who drop off their material for recycling before the weekend stand a better chance of being able to fit the papers and bottles in the container than if they wait until Saturday.

Residents were also reminded to make sure their garbage cans have tight-fitting lids for rainy weather, since cost can be pushed higher by water weight.

The warrant articles don't always provide detailed information, which prompted one resident to propose an amendment to make sure that road work goes out for bid. The amendment, quickly written out in longhand, was passed overwhelmingly.

Some others provide a rich amount of detail, however. An article calling for money for repairs to a fire engine noted that it was a 1991 Pierce Arrow that is ''expected to remain in service until 2021 and possibly longer.'' That will be the case, however, as long as residents approve $4,000 for ''replacement of a corroded radiator and front springs.''

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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Additional Photos

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer... Dennis Doughty listens to discussion about an amendment to a warrant article during Limington's town meeting on Saturday, March 7, 2009.


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