Residents debate funding for service agencies; establish fire truck replacement fund
Troy — Residents debated at some length how much money to give to various service organizations, with some lobbying for more money and others arguing that even a slight increase in the town's budget could overly burden those who are already struggling to pay their taxes.
Rick Montana was re-elected to a three-year term as a selectman, assessor and overseer of the poor, and Steve Piper as a trustee of the Forest Area for a three-year term.
Montana writes in the selectmen's report that this will be his final term.
Article 18 asked residents how much money they would vote to raise and or allocate for seven agencies that provide services to the town. Those agencies include New Hope for Women, Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area, Midcoast Community Action, Broadreach, Spectrum Generations, The Game Loft and Kennebec Behavioral Health.
In total, the organizations asked for $2,420 from the town. However, the budget committee and selectmen recommended giving a total of $1,510.
That sparked some spirited debate about whether the difference between the requested amount and the recommended funding — $910 — would break the town's budget. Some town officials pointed out that there are people in town, particularly those on a fixed income, for whom even a $50 increase in their tax bill could have a significant impact.
An amendment was made to approve the full amount requested. Before voting, selectmen said they “agonize” over the requested amounts, while also pointing out that residents can give private donations to the organizations.
When taken to a vote, the amendment failed, with seven in favor to 11 opposed. Residents then approved 10 in favor to four opposed to give $1,510 to the organizations, as recommended.
Residents also approved during the meeting a request to raise and appropriate $5,000 to establish a new account for replacing a fire truck. Money contributed to the account will help the town in the event it finds a good deal on a used truck, town officials noted, or if a grant is secured that requires matching funds.
Last year the Fire Department applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to purchase a new truck but the town did not receive any money. However, the department did secure a grant to purchase new air tanks and associated gear.
In addition, the department was able to purchase a used rescue truck that will also function as a brush truck.
After approving the money, residents were encouraged to join the Fire Department because more volunteers are needed.
Before adjourning the meeting, attendees authorized selectmen to exercise a "put option" to recoup the town's equity — about $2,000 — in Penobscot Energy Recovery Co.'s plant. The town last year voted to begin sending its trash to Fiberight's soon-to-be-built Hampden facility in 2018.
The budget committee noted in a report that the town's budget increased about $11,000, mostly related to buying salt and sand, which was deferred from last year.