Belmont breezes through town meeting articles

Resident accuses moderator, town officials of misconduct
By Ben Holbrook | Mar 21, 2013
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Residents in Belmont didn't waste any time as they moved through 20 articles in under an hour.

Belmont — Choosing a moderator was more hotly contested during Belmont’s town meeting Monday, March 18, than any article on the warrant after one resident accused town officials and other individuals of misconduct.

As the meeting began, residents nominated long-time moderator Lee Woodward. However, before the nominations could be closed, Richard Lenfest stood up and accused Woodward of engaging in misconduct with the town selectmen. Despite Lenfest’s concerns, Woodward was elected the moderator.

During election of the town officials, Lenfest moved to be allowed to make a presentation detailing the nature of the misconduct he believed officials were engaging in. However, Woodward ruled Lenfest out of order because the motion was not relevant to the article.

After the election, Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, briefly spoke to residents at the meeting about the proposed biennial state budget. Herbig handed out a breakdown of the impact of the budget, specifically as it relates to Belmont.

According to her calculations, Belmont would lose $50,054 in municipal revenue-sharing; $1,009 in excise tax; and the Regional School Unit 20 district would have to absorb an estimated share of $412,765 for teacher retirement.

Individually, homeowners would lose $100 in the homestead exemption benefit and $284 in the Circuit Breaker benefit.

Following Herbig's presentation, residents moved quickly through the 18 remaining articles with little or no discussion. Voters approved the compensation for town officials as recommended on the warrant, as well as compensation for the fire department members.

Residents authorized the Board of Selectmen to enter into contracts as necessary for garbage collection, recycling, plowing/sanding, septic disposal, cemetery/lawn maintenance, the animal shelter, legal/auditing and ambulance services.

The Board of Selectmen was authorized to sell and dispose of or keep any real estate acquired by the town for non-payment of taxes and to execute quitclaim deeds.

Articles seven through 12 were approved as one after Don Berry motioned to combine the items. Article 13 asked residents how much money they would raise or appropriate for general government accounts. Voters approved, as recommended on the warrant, a total budget of $122,435.

Before discussion began on article 14 asking residents how much they would raise or appropriate for public safety accounts, Fire Chief Ronald Harford II gave a brief presentation.

Harford said the department’s rescue vehicle is becoming costly to maintain because it responds to more calls than the fire trucks and is “on its way out.” Harford said the department spent almost $4,000 on the vehicle during the year, and he is in the process of looking at finding a replacement vehicle.

He said a rescue vehicle can be purchased for less than $15,000, and there are some vehicles for sale that are less than $10,000. However, the vehicles that are being sold for less than $10,000 are very popular because of budgetary constraints in many towns around the country, Harford explained.

He also briefly discussed some of the equipment the department has been able to purchase, such as portable LED lights that can be set up in a building while firefighters are cleaning up, and supports that can be used to stabilize a vehicle at the scene of an accident. Harford said the next item the department would like to purchase with proceeds from the annual golf tournament is a thermal imaging camera, as the one the department has now needs new batteries, which cost about $450, and is outdated.

Following his presentation, residents voted to approve a total budget of $43,773 for the public safety accounts.

Residents voted to approve a total budget of $247,214.85 for the Public Works accounts; $9,630 for health and welfare accounts; $2,000 for culture and recreation; $20,117 for unclassified accounts; and $2,000 for intergovernmental accounts.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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