The town of Buxton has challenged other Maine towns and cities to contribute money to aid Katrina victims, as Buxton’s selectmen are asking residents to dip into the town’s surplus account for a donation.

“It’s not a competition. It’s an act of goodwill,” said Cliff Emery, chairman of the Buxton Board of Selectmen.

In a letter this month to 491 Maine communities, Buxton selectmen asked towns and cities to send donations to the Maine Communities Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. The letter was signed by the town’s five selectmen, who are Robert Libby, Carol Sanborn, Daniel Collomy, Jean Harmon and Emery.

“You remember the ice storm of 1998 and all the outside help that we got. Well, now it’s our turn. We would like to have 100 percent participation from all Maine Communities,” the letter read.

Buxton voters are being asked at a special town meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, whether they want to contribute a sum not-to-exceed $2,000 from the “undesignated surplus” account. A spokesman at town hall said the Buxton surplus exceeds $2 million.

Four communities had already contributed $450 to the Katrina relief effort this week. Several others have called to report checks are in the mail or they are conducting fundraisers to contribute.

Buxton set Friday, Oct. 14, as a target date to complete the challenge to other towns. “They’re starting to trickle in,” Emery said of the contributions.

Emery said Buxton would not publicize amounts other communities contribute. The challenge urged other towns and cities to give, but Buxton didn’t ask for any specific amounts.

“I didn’t go about it that way,” Emery said. “I don’t want the other towns to feel they have to give a certain amount.”

Buxton resident Dan Warren, who regularly attends meetings at town hall, favors the town’s drive to help the victims of Katrina. “In January of 1998, we were mauled in the ice storm. We got a lot of helping hands in dollars and cents,” Warren said. “It wouldn’t hurt us any to help other folks.”

Another resident, Dennis Sweatt, said the devastation left by Katrina is a “sad situation.” However, Sweatt is worried about the welfare of Buxton’s elderly, who likely will be slammed by spiraling home heating costs this winter. He said he felt if Buxton has $2,000 to aid hurricane victims then he would urge the town to provide assistance for some of the town’s elderly people on fixed incomes.

“There are senior citizens who are going to be cold this winter,” he said. “Charity begins at home.”

Sweatt, who is a member of Buxton’s taxpayer association, said the group hadn’t discussed the proposal to use money from the undesignated surplus account for a contribution in the Katrina relief effort.

In the Katrina relief effort, Buxton has established an account at the Buxton branch of the Sanford Institution for Savings, which will hold all donations until the end of the drive. The money will then be given to the American Red Cross with the money earmarked for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Checks should be payable to Maine Cares Relief Fund and sent to the town of Buxton, 185 Portland Road, Buxton, 04093.

The challenge letter urged all Maine communities to contribute what each felt it could afford and each that contributes will receive a personalized “thank you” note. “Try not to be that odd town out. Please give generously, as our help is needed desperately,” the selectmen wrote in their challenge.

For more information, call the town of Buxton at 929-5191.

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