Five minutes into a discussion at the Burnham town meeting, Saturday, March 19, over whether a roadway dead-ending at the Almeida property should be adopted as a town road, Selectman George Robison dropped a bomb. Looking back through the tax cards for all the properties in the vicinity, he had been able to find all of them but one.

The news appeared to stun Joseph Almeida, who had been arguing that his mother Frances — the owner of the property, also present at the meeting — had paid road frontage taxes on the property for the last 16 years. This tax status would have appeared on the missing card, he said.

The discussion of the roadway — referred to as Country Lane on the town meeting warrant — came late in the four-hour-long town meeting. At points, the proceedings, under first-time moderator John Berryman, almost descended into chaos, as older residents with memories of the road’s past status put their memories to the test against an incomplete set of hard-copy documents — the product of Robison’s research on the property — including deeds and references to maps dating back nearly 100 years. None of it appeared to be conclusive.

Joseph Almeida claimed the town adopted the road in 1993, but Robison claimed no knowledge of that action. There were also conflicting views of what constituted a statute of limitations, either requiring the town to accept the road or protecting the town from having to adopt it, with some residents citing statutes from memory and others applying common sense with varying degrees of precision.

Robison maintained that only a judge could definitively rule on the status of the road, unless, he said, the town were to agree to adopt it. The official town position appeared to be not to adopt the road. Robison argued the position on legal grounds, but others raised practical arguments against accepting Country Lane, including the cost of bringing it up to town road ordinance standards.

But not taking the road would likely cost money, too, as suggested by a request in the warrant for $10,000 for legal fees related to the road.

Residents rejected the request for the town to accept the road from the Almeidas by a show of hands vote. Joseph Almeida got up after the vote and walked slowly to the front of the room, pausing to address the 45 people assembled there, before leaving the building.

“$10,000 is not going to be enough,” he said. “We’re going to be asking for the taxes she paid for 16 years.”

Robison, who argued against adopting the road, ultimately voted with the Almeidas. Later he explained his vote, saying he believed it would end up costing the town more than $10,000 in legal fees to get a judicial determination on the status of the road.

In municipal elections, residents re-elected Selectman Bruce Cook, who narrowly defeated perennial challenger Brent Chase by a vote of 44-37. Town Clerk Carolyn Hamel, Treasurer Arlene Miles, Road Commissioner Roger Huff, Sexton Carleton Croft and representative to the MSAD 53 school board Barbara Basford were each re-elected without challenge. Hilda Flood was elected along with three prior members to the town committee to advise on disposing of tax acquired property, replacing Wayne Mitchell who was not present at the meeting.

In other business, Burnam residents:

• Adopted a wind energy development ordinance without much discussion. The ordinance was described by Robison as a combination of the state’s model ordinance and the Montville wind ordinance. The document also contains provisions allowing for small-scale turbines for personal use, according to a representative of the committee that drafted the ordinance.

• Voted to raise $75,000 for the town’s transfer station. Residents voiced concern there is no oversight at the facility and many non-residents are dumping at the station.

• Discussed recycling options. Currently the town rents three dumpsters from Bolsters, located around town, where residents can bring recycling. Recycling is not required in Burnham. Several residents expressed an interest in scrapping the recycling program altogether. Others suggested switching to curbside pick-up.

• Sparred over contributions to Pittsfield Public Library, ultimately approving the $900 request. Under the current arrangement Burnham gives a fixed amount of money to the library then receives refunds of the $25 library card fee according to how many residents buy cards. Some residents thought the town should get to use the library for free. Others thought a flat rate would be fair, though Robison said there was previously a flat rate that had increased from year to year without any option for the town to negotiate. He said he would ask again.

• Voted to raise money for care of town cemeteries and veterans’ graves this year instead of taking it from surplus as the town has done in past years. The amount was $7,500. The amount expended in 2010 was $5,483.03.

• Passed over an article to raise money to expand the now-full Mount Cemetery, due to lack of a recommendation from the budget committee or information from abutting land owners.

• Voted to raise $12,000 toward the goal of upgrading the town’s comprehensive plan. The plan, which affects state aid to the town, must be submitted to the state by the end of 2012.

• Rejected, by a vote of 15-11, an easement deed offered by Katherine Kadlewicz-Quatrale at 140 Morgan Road to create a turnaround for plow trucks and school buses.

Several residents questioned whether Kadlewicz-Quatrale had the authority to grant the easement, on grounds that the land had not been surveyed.

Others expressed concern that selectmen had already spent money on the turnaround in anticipation of receiving the easement at the town meeting. Robison said he had consulted with Maine Municipal Association before spending the money, which VillageSoup later learned amounted to $96 for a load of gravel. A subsequent article, passed over because it was contingent upon acceptance of the easement, asked for $12,000 to improve the turnaround.

Trucks have previously turned around in the driveway of Diane and Corey Gallant, but Diane Gallant said Saturday she gated the drive after the town failed to respond to numerous requests to repair damage left by the vehicles. The town apparently wanted an easement before investing in repairs but the Gallants, Diane said, were advised that an easement would hurt their property value.

Robison said the gravel turnaround at the Kadlewicz-Quatrale property might fall within the town’s right of way and could likely be used for another year without improvements, but the “no” vote appeared to leave the town without a long-term plan for a turnaround.