Thorndike residents passed a restrictive wind energy ordinance with a sparse show of hands at the annual town meeting March 20. Residents also voted to draw on surplus to soften the blow of what Selectman James Bennett said could be a major tax increase.

Like recently approved wind ordinances in Jackson and Dixmont, Thorndike’s new wind ordinance imposes a mile setback from the nearest residence. Unlike neighboring Jackson, the ordinance has generated little controversy.

A ridge running through Thorndike, Jackson and Dixmont has been eyed over the past two years for potential wind development. But according to representatives of the three developers that have expressed interest at one time or another — Citizens Wind, Competitive Energy Service and Ra Power — the ordinances in Dixmont and Jackson proved prohibitive enough that all three developers have since backed out of the region.

A request to change the wording of an article on the warrant relating to the compensation of volunteer firefighters drew conversation and ultimately a paper ballot vote.

Fire Chief Peter Quimby recommended changing the wording of the article to describe the firefighters as employees of the “Fire Department” instead of the “Fire Company.”

Thorndike has both. The latter was incorporated in the 1950s to provide firefighting manpower and comprises all of the volunteer firefighters in the town, who are considered “members,” rather than employees. The fire chief is the sole employee of the Thorndike Volunteer Fire Department.

Quimby wanted the language changed to in order to keep the administration related to firefighting under the umbrella of the town government for tax purposes.

Bennett said he and Town Clerk Kari Hunt had solicited opinions from the IRS, Maine Municipal Association and the town attorney. MMA had recommended the Fire Company be named in reference to the $200 per firefighter allotted by the town for up to 10 volunteer firefighters.

One resident asked what would happen if the town changed the wording against the recommendation of the town attorney, to which Bennett replied, “You’ll be on your own, I guess.”

The question went to a paper ballot and was defeated before being passed by a show of hands using the original language, which included both the fire department and fire company.

Citing a loss of municipal revenue-sharing, Bennett requested that the town pay for $50,000 worth of road work with money from surplus instead of raising the money through taxes as the article on the warrant recommended.

Bennett said the town would face a major tax increase if it didn’t fund some portion of the budget from surplus. Later Bennett said he hoped drawing from surplus to offset the tax rate would be a temporary measure.

Thorndike has a $394,000 undesignated funds balance (surplus), of which, Bennett noted, $139,000 was in the form of uncollected taxes.

Bennett and fellow Selectmen Steven Fitton and Gerald Berry were all re-elected and assigned road commissioner duties.

A request to tack $9,000 onto a line for municipal building improvement to repair the roof of the Town Office was shot down. The original article, which set aside $2,500 for repairs was increased to $3,500 because, Bennett said, $1,000 had been taken from that account during the previous year to repair a broken garage door at the fire station.

Republican Peter Sheff and Democrat Helen Sahadi each introduced themselves as candidates for House District 45, representing Burnham, Freedom, Knox, Montville, Palermo, Thorndike, Troy and Unity. The seat is currently held by John Piotti, who is running for state Senate. Sheff faces two opponents in the Republican primary election. Among Democrats, Sahadi has no competition.

County Treasurer David Parkman, who is up for re-election, informed Thorndike residents that despite a lower county tax rate this year, an increase in the valuation of the town meant Thorndike would be paying more to the county than last year. Parkman described the county as being in good shape fiscally, compared with when he started eight years ago. At that time, Parkman said, he had to borrow money within his first week in office.

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