Highway spending sparks debate before it’s OK’d

Voters spent nearly an hour haggling over highway department spending before finally approving a $428,000 budget during a lengthy town meeting Saturday at the Garret Schenk School.

The spending includes $90,000 for an excavator and trailer to haul it and $60,000 for roof repairs and a heating system.

Resident Brian Nelson called highway expenditures “too hefty with no industry in the town” to support it.

Road Commissioner William Lynds said the excavator would save the town money over time. He said upcoming bridge and culvert work would require having the equipment on hand.

Former Selectman Douglas Cahill disagreed, providing estimates that he said illustrated it was about $10-an-hour cheaper to rent an excavator.

Initially, the excavator request was for $100,000. But after several votes on ways to amend the article – votes that required residents to separate to opposites sides of the room and then, finally, resort to written ballots – Lynds proposed spending only $90,000 and it passed, 43 to 42 by another written ballot.

Fire Department officials were not so lucky.

Voters eventually turned down a $130,000 request to buy a new truck.

A proposal to have waste haulers – thus individual customers – take over the cost of solid waste disposal and save taxpayers $100,000 in tipping fees, failed.

– Morning Sentinel


Residents reduce budget, consider closing school

Residents shaved a little more money than expected from the budget at the annual town meeting, on the way to electing a new selectman to the three-member board.

Proposed spending on the 26-article warrant came in Saturday at $466,638 – already down $121,572 from last year – but voters agreed to take another $10,000 from spending on winter roads.

On a motion by Selectman Melvin Blaisdell, spending for the winter roads account was reduced from $125,000 to $115,000.

Voters also approved $75,000 for summer roads and $15,000 for equipment, with any unspent balance to be returned to the highway equipment fund.

Road Commissioner Myron C. Moody Jr., who was re-elected, unopposed, also announced that the state has agreed to resurface the West Ridge Road this year at no direct cost to the town.

Voters also agreed to take up to $175,000 from the town’s surplus account to keep the tax rate at $16.50 for every $1,000 in property value.

In other voting, taxpayers agreed to raise $55,000 for disposal of recyclables and solid waste. Blaisdell noted that the town took in $26,000 from recycled items, including metals, newspapers, cardboard and plastics.

Selectmen also said that none of the town officials will be taking a pay increase this year to keep costs down.

The future of the Cornville Elementary School also was on the minds of residents as they discussed spending for the recreation department and for the Cornville school fund.

They raised $4,800 for recreation and $1,000 to add to the principal for the school fund.

The school board voted on Thursday to consider closing the elementary school as a cost-saving measure.

Residents are invited to attend a meeting of the Cornville Parents, Teachers and Friends for a brain-storming session on the possible closing at 6 p.m. Monday at the school.

Residents also gave a round of applause Saturday for longtime Selectman Laurence Amazeen, who turns 95 this week.

Michael Gould edged Samuel Jencks Jr. 87-49 for a seat on the Board of Selectmen, left vacant by retiring Selectman Carroll Gould, Michael’s uncle. The term is for three years.

– Morning Sentinel


Race ends in tie;another vote restricts trucks

Town officials had to schedule a run-off election for next month, after a dead heat in the only contested race at Saturday’s annual town meeting.

Selectman Scott LeHay said Ruth Blake and Amanda Morrill, both candidates for tax collector, each received 58 votes. Karen Gassert received 16 votes.

The special election will be held April 13 at the town office. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Town Clerk Bonny Baker said before the meeting that residents raised $535,775 from taxation last year to run the town. This year, she said, that number would be down almost 12 percent to $472,500 if all the spending articles were passed as written Saturday, which they were.

But services are not being cut, Baker said. Just over $115,000 will be carried forward from last year, and other town surplus accounts are being used to offset taxation.

Total spending for this year comes in at $942,205, up about 9 percent from the current $862,331.

The big issue Saturday, LeHay said, was an article to adopt a town ordinance that would ban heavy trucks on posted roads. The ordinance will apply this summer, when Route 201A will be closed from North Anson up to Solon to replace a bridge.

Work is scheduled to begin in July and the road is to be closed for about a month.

Town officials are worried about trucks using secondary roads during the time Route 201A is closed. Voters passed the measure, but left the door open to possible special permits or waivers for local truckers who rely on town roads to get to work.

– Morning Sentinel


No cut in salaries for selectmen, no raise for clerk

Residents wrestled with town salaries, elected a new road commissioner and adopted a business-friendly site plan ordinance during town meeting Saturday.

In a 5 1⁄2-hour session marked by debate over spending, voters raised about $710,000, almost the same as last year.

Voters approved taking $40,000 from surplus.

Residents spent 45 minutes wrangling over town salaries. A motion to cut $6,000 from the total of $50,000 by cutting the pay of the three selectmen by $2,000 each was defeated in a 77-64 vote by secret ballot.

 Resident Leonard Bornstein maintained the town was paying its selectmen much more than other area towns.
“The highest was $4,100 and the lowest was $1,950,” Bornstein said.

But Selectman Maynard Webster said his board, who are paid $7,000 each, also do assessing, a task that he said is contracted out in other communities.

 In a separate article, voters turned down pay increases totaling $2,100 requested by town clerk and tax collector Rose Mary Eller. Eller asked for the raise because she is receiving less money in agency fees due to Internet registration and other accounting changes.

Under her recommended plan, she would be paid salaries for the two positions and all agency revenues would be added to the town coffers. Selectmen recommended against Eller’s request. She is paid a total of $21,900 for the two jobs.

 Voters did agree to raise the pay of Code Enforcement Officer Jim Fleming by $1,000 to $8,500.

 In the only contested race for town offices, Kevin Brann defeated incumbent Don Lowe for road commissioner, 87-70. Lowe had defeated Brann, who was then the incumbent road chief, in a similar vote three years ago.

Selectman Larrry Donald, Treasurer Scott Pratt, school board director Bill Reid and Eller were re-elected unopposed.

After some discussion, residents approved a new site plan review ordinance that Fleming, and others said would be more flexible and beneficial to local businesses.

– Morning Sentinel


Residents reject review of property, work on easement

Residents trimmed $12,500 from the proposed budget and passed 36 of 37 articles at Saturday’s town meeting at the Town Office.

That put the town’s proposed budget for this year at $806,066, an 18 percent reduction from last year.

The one article voters defeated was a proposal for the town to resume maintenance of the Ross Hill Road easement. It was one of two articles to draw more than 30 minutes of discussion in the three-hour, 15-minute meeting.

Resident Jason Gould said he opposed spending money on the maintenance, and feared it could get out of hand. “Then we’re on the hook,” Gould said.

Other residents suggested that if the town had extra money to maintain the easement, that money would be better spent on the fire department or raising the salaries of town employees. The article was defeated, 62-35.

The bulk of Saturday’s budget reduction came when voters amended an article asking residents to pay $9,500 for a quarterly property review. The town has not had properties assessed since 2003, and residents at the meeting feared their values and taxes would go up.

Ultimately, after a long discussion, residents voted to strike the $9,500 from the budget.

“I thought it was important (to have the review),” Town Manager Rhonda Stark said. “They kept talking about the values, but there’s missing properties out there that aren’t being taxed.… We are doing what we can with the staff that we have, but when we only have two full-time staff members, that’s not much of a staff there to be out checking for properties.”

During the meeting, Stark said the budget for town insurance coverage could be reduced by $3,000, and residents passed a motion to that effect.

– Morning Sentinel


Voters approve ordinance on adult entertainment

Voters adopted an adult entertainment ordinance, re-elected their road commissioner and passed a budget that is about $13,000 more than last year’s during town meeting.

The adult entertainment ordinance drew probably the most debate of the day, with some voters arguing there was no reason for the regulations and others calling it “insurance for the future.”

James MacLean, owner of the Solon Hotel, called the ordinance proposed by a citizen “a knee-jerk reaction to a nonexistent problem.”

  MacLean said not only is there no threat to Solon, but an ordinance is just one more law tearing at the constitutional rights of businessmen. “What’s next?” he asked, wondering aloud if it would be signs and other similar improvements.

Resident Richard Kromer said the ordinance, modeled after one in Vassalboro, was “just like buying insurance.”
Michael Golden agreed: “If you don’t have (an ordinance) on the books, you can’t do anything about it if a problem arises.” He said Vassalboro would have “saved a huge amount of money” if it had an ordinance in place.

An attempt by Marilyn Rogers to cut about $8,000 in increases in town road care failed. She proposed keeping the amounts the same as last year, $78,000 for winter roads and $72,000 for summer roads.

 However, after Elaine Aloes, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, explained changes in scheduled work, voters approved the increases to $81,000 and $77,000 respectively.

 In other debate, former selectman Daniel Keegan asked to cut increases for selectman, saying he was “disappointed” they would ask for a raise “when 39 percent of the citizens in Solon are on Social Security and none got a raise last year, this year, nor are they likely to get one next year – I don’t feel it’s fair.”

Voters disagreed and approved the $2,500 worth of raises.

 Moderator Philip Roy, calling in the election “a squeaker,” announced that 14-year incumbent Road Commissioner Ronald Giguere defeated his opponent Trent A. Cates, 126-81, in the only contest of the day.

– Morning Sentinel


Townspeople mix saving with support for fire department

Town voters trimmed 3.5 percent from the budget presented to them on Saturday.

In a 57-article warrant, voters supported spending $533,138, although town officials had requested $552,090 for the coming fiscal year.

The town meeting began with 301 voters casting their ballots on Friday.

Incumbent selectman Milton Baston was re-elected to a three-year term.

Incumbent James Burrill’s bid for re-election was overturned by challenger Rupert Pratt. Rebecca Croteau, who defeated Pratt in last year’s bid for a selectman’s seat, resigned shortly after election results were announced.

“We had a good meeting, and we got a lot accomplished today,” Baston said.

“We’ll elect another selectman in June, and I think we will have several excellent candidates.” 

Write-in candidate William Birden will serve on the budget committee. Lois Barker will continue as town clerk, and interim fire chief Duayne Boyd will head the town’s volunteer fire department.

The Saturday morning meeting, moderated by Roger Lambert, drew about 65 voters, as well as students and candidates for state and county offices.

The budget does not include next year’s school spending, but higher property valuations, according to school board director Mike Pond, could increase Strong’s commitment by $218,000.

“That could mean about 3 mils of property tax increase for Strong taxpayers,” he said. “We’re making up for a shortfall from the state, and that doesn’t include increases in salaries, insurance and things like that.”

Pond urged the audience to think about ways to cut costs without closing any of the four elementary schools in the district.

“Strong has one of the best schools in the state,” resident Perry Ellsworth said. “But we have to look out for what’s best for the kids in the whole district. The schools are important to each community.”

Only one contested article, a request to appropriate $5,000 to pay for insurance for recently retired road foreman Robert Boyd, was settled by a paper ballot vote. Thirty-four voters favored the expenditure, and 30 opposed the article.

Taxpayers supported the fire department and newly elected fire chief, Duayne Boyd. They approved $16,500 for the fire equipment account and $10,000 for its payroll account.

Another $20,000 was set aside for the firetruck reserve account.

Selectmen funded outside agencies, including the Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce and Salem Economic Ministry, but taxpayers often cut requested amounts by half.

– Morning Sentinel


Town voters defeat proposal to improve section of road

Voters approved all but one of the 47 items on the town meeting warrant Saturday, including a municipal budget of $257,280 for 2010.

Residents rejected a proposal to resume maintenance of the section of Starbird Corner Road from the current school bus turnaround to Dead River Road. Selectmen added the item to the warrant with the idea that it would reduce emergency response time to some areas of town, said Town Clerk Melanie Page.

Leroy Letourneau, chairman of the selectmen, estimated it would cost $134,000 to build up that stretch of road so it could be used by emergency vehicles. Page said some residents had driven various routes and found the road improvement would cut only 20 seconds of response time, which they didn’t feel was worth the additional cost to the town.

Ninety-four registered voters turned out. They re-elected Page as clerk, Letourneau as selectman for a three-year term, George Bernier as tax collector and treasurer for one year, Wendell Card Jr. as road commissioner for one year, and Doug Rollins and Lauren Leclerc to the Planning Board for three years. All of the candidates were unopposed.

– Emma Bouthillette, Staff Writer


After debate, voters OK funding for youth, recreation

Residents approved 60 warrant articles focusing on the municipal budget and amendments to town ordinances during town meeting.

Sixty-five to 70 residents came and went during the two-hour meeting, said Town Manager Charlie Noonan. They approved a municipal budget of $2.4 million for 2010, a $45,000 decrease from last year.

Residents debated the recommended funds for the town’s youth athletics expense account and parks and recreation.

Noonan said there were conflicting recommendations from the selectmen and the budget committee for each line item, with the budget panel recommending less money for each account.

Ultimately, residents went with the selectmen’s recommendation of $8,495 for youth athletics and $13,200 for parks and recreation, he said.

Residents also appointed 11 members to the budget committee: Tim Doyle, Gile Courtemanche, Arthur Lawrence, Phil Moreau, Holly Ewing, Maurice Levasseur, Alden Peterson, Bruce Tufts, Steve Goulet, Dan Moreau and Brenda Theriault.

On Friday, voters elected Ron Grant and Don Bedford to the Board of Selectmen for three-year terms and Diana Morgan to represent Greene on the School Administrative District 52 Board of Directors.

– Emma Bouthillette, Staff Writer


Residents accept $767,449 budget, elect town officials

About 50 residents turned out Saturday to approve a $767,449 municipal budget and pass a number of articles to amend local ordinances.

All articles were passed as written, except for one regarding the capital improvement certificate of deposit. Residents reduced the proposed $20,000 allocation to $10,000, and passed the article as amended.

On Friday, 310 residents elected a number of officials by secret ballot.

Michael Singleton, chairman of the selectmen, was re-elected for a three-year term, Greg Sawyer was elected road commissioner for a three-year term, Grace Gilpatrick was elected to represent Hiram on the School Administrative District 55 Board of Directors, Christine Sprague was elected to the planning board for a two-year term, Dianne Jewett was chosen Soldier Memorial Library trustee for a four-year term and Judith Ramsey and Sally Williams were elected alternate library trustees for five-year terms.

Additional planning board members for one-year, three-year and five-year terms were not determined as of Saturday.

– Emma Bouthillette, Staff Writer


Fire department gets more funds than recommended

Residents at town meeting passed all 49 warrant articles, with only one amendment.

Selectmen and members of the budget committee recommended just over $113,000 be allocated for the Limerick Fire Department and EMS for supplies and expenses. After some debate, an amendment to appropriate $130,000 was approved by residents.

A total figure for the municipal budget and any anticipated tax adjustments was not available Saturday.

On Friday, 274 ballots were cast to elect the following officials, Dean Lepage was elected selectman for a three-year term. Ronnie Oliver and Frank Carroll III, a write-in candidate, were elected to the planning board for three-year terms. Douglas Odom and Shelly Burbank were elected trustees for the Limerick Library for three-year terms.

Other write-in winners included Dominic Vermette for the RSU 57 Board of Directors, Glen Wagner as a trustee for the Limerick Sewerage District and for the Limerick Water District, all for three-year terms.

Residents also approved one of three ordinances concerning local roadways, allowing the town to maintain sub-standard roads during winter. The other two ordinances regarding private roads and private driveways were rejected.

– Emma Bouthillette, Staff Writer


Budget increaseapproved; likely to raise taxes

About 75 residents who gathered for town meeting Saturday approved a $1.1 million municipal budget for 2010, which Selectman Raymond Webb said is about $200,000 more than last year’s budget.

Webb said the increase will most likely raise property taxes, but the rate won’t be determined until the School Administrative District 6 budget is approved.

Of the 69 articles on the warrant, three regarding the Moy-Mo-Da-Yo Recreational Area prompted the most debate, Webb said, but all three passed.

The first will allow the excise tax on boats and the revenue from operation of facilities in the recreational area around Pequawket Lake, including the camp and beach, to be used for maintenance and improvements. Last year, those funds totaled $9,923.

Residents also approved $9,500 for the Moy-Mo-Day-Yo capital accumulation account, for any additional repairs or improvements to the recreational area.

The last article, which was voted down in 2009, will limit selective tree cutting in the area to conserve the forest at Moy-Mo-Day-Yo.

On Friday, voters elected town officials and a school board representative.

In voting for three-year terms, Darryl Hubbard was elected selectman; Patricia Ramsdell was elected town clerk, tax collector and treasurer; Michael Nevells was elected road commissioner; Debra Black, Anne Dunbar and write-in candidate Sylvio Langevin were elected to the planning board; and write-in candidate Debra Black was elected to represent Limington on the SAD 6 board.

In addition, write-in candidate Diane Qualey was elected as a trustee to the Davis Memorial Library for a five-year term. Howard Allen, Dorothy Spiller and Joe Colby were elected to the Moy-Mo-Da-Yo Recreational Area oversight committee.

– Emma Bouthillette, Staff Writer

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