Discussion of the election of municipal officers took up more than half of the annual town meeting March 20.

The meeting, which began at 10 a.m., lasted about four and a half hours, including a one-hour break for lunch at the Morrill Community Center. About 55 people attended the first half of the meeting, with about half that number returning to wrap up the meeting after lunch.

In total, residents approved a $398,628 budget, which is up about $20,000 from the current budget. After taking revenue and surplus into account, about $205,500 will be raised from taxes.

Townspeople made only minor changes to the budget proposed by selectmen, increasing the fire department budget by $3,000 and decreasing the amount for the Town Office building fund by half to $5,000. They also opted not to fund three social service requests.

More than two and a half hours of the town meeting were dedicated to electing municipal officers, which is done from the floor of the meeting.

According to moderator Ed Greeley, if more than one person is nominated for the job, residents must vote by written ballot and in a town of fewer than 4,000 people, for a winner to be determined that person has to get 50 percent of the votes, plus one.

During the election for the second selectman’s seat, current Selectman Ralph Wood and Tom Flacke were both nominated for the job, but when votes were tallied residents had to revote because neither had garnered the required number of votes. After the second vote, Wood was re-elected to the seat. He received 27 votes and Flacke collected 25.

Residents also had to vote by written ballot for the tax collector position, after Tax Collector Bill Vachon did not accept a nomination for re-election because he said he would not have the time to dedicate to the job.

Town Treasurer Janie Smith was nominated, as well as Town Clerk Lynn Doolan and Roger Rowlands.

Resident Jethro Pease said the treasurer is supposed to be the check-and-balance person for all accounts and he believed it would be a conflict of interest for Smith to also serve as the tax collector.

After much discussion and the vote, Rowlands was elected, receiving 26 votes; Doolan received 17 and Smith got four votes.

Other elections were:

  • Town clerk/excise tax collector: Lynn Doolan
  • Treasurer: Janie Smith
  • Fire chief: Pat Scribner
  • Board of road commissioners: John Peeler, Ralph Wood and Keith Thompson
  • Animal control officer: Sandra Peeler
  • Planning board: Tom Flacke and Lucky Skidgell (both three-year terms), Joyce Scott (alternate, one-year term)

It was voted to keep pay at the same levels as last year for all elected officials, except the tax collector’s pay was lowered by $600 to $8,400.

After many residents questioned the various responsibilities of town employees and why some employees perform much of their job at home rather than in the Town Office, a resident urged selectmen to create job descriptions because the discussions tend to get personal, which makes it uncomfortable for everyone. If job descriptions were in place, the resident said, there would be no question of what town officers should be doing and how.

Wood acknowledged that is something that should be addressed in the coming year.

“Hopefully, that’ll eliminate some of the problems we have,” he said.

Pease also asked where the town audit is, because he noticed a lot of errors, both mathematical and grammatical, in the Town Report and this is the second year the town report has not contained a report from the auditor. Peeler said the auditor visited the town Feb. 17, but that the town has not received a report back yet.

On a request from the fire chief, residents increased the fire department line by $3,000 to $18,540 after the chief said he forgot to take raises into account when calculating his budget.

During a discussion about whether to approve $5,000 toward a tax maps account, residents questioned how the new maps are coming. Two town officials reported having heard different things from the company working on the maps. Peeler said there were number of errors with the new maps and the company wouldn’t address the issues. Doolan said that when she talked to a representative of the company, they said if there were issues that were the company’s fault, the company had no problem holding a meeting with residents to fix the mistakes.

Lucky Skidgell asked if it was a problem for residents to come into the Town Office to look at tax maps. Bookkeeper Dawn Roberts said people are allowed to do that when a member of the board of assessors is in the office.

Peeler said he had no problem with people looking at the maps at any time or getting copies, but if they are requesting specific assessing information, he would prefer they talk to an assessor so incorrect information is not given.

Skidgell said the planning board is in the process of putting all tax maps online, as many other towns around do, because “to look at them in the past has not been that easy.”

Townspeople approved about $6,400 for social services. They chose not to provide funding to Belfast Children’s Center, Penobscot Bay Medical Center and Kno-Wal-Lin. A request from Crossroads Food Pantry was lowered from $1,900 to $500 after a representative from the pantry said they did not request that large an amount.

Other larger accounts approved were:

  • Incidentals: $150,000, up $50,000 because it was overdrawn in 2009
  • Town repairs and supplies: $60,000, up $10,000
  • Town roads and ways: $28,006, down from $50,000.
  • Trash pickup: $30,000, down from $35,000. Of that amount, $17,800 is raised from taxes, the rest from dump stickers.
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