Two articles that were expected to generate a fair amount of discussion at the annual Searsport Town Meeting Saturday, March 9 — one seeking funding for a new north fire station and another asking voters to retain ownership of the land on which the station would be built — will not be considered until a special town meeting this summer.

Article 34 asked residents to authorize selectmen to apply up to $400,000 from funds drawn down from the 2012 Maine State Retirement account and borrow the remaining money to cover the estimated $762,000 coat of constructing the new, four-bay fire station at 619 Mt. Ephraim Road. Town Manager James Gillway explained the Maine State Retirement account was created after the state discovered it still had possession of monies the town had contributed on behalf of employees who were enrolled in the program. That's because, Gillway said, when the employees withdrew their portions of the retirement contributions, the state erroneously failed release the money the town contributed.

"We took that money back and put it into an interest-bearing account," said Gillway.

The next article, Article 35, asked residents to allow the town to retain ownership of the parcel where the fire station would have been built.

Voters initially passed a motion to suspend debate and move the two articles to the end of the warrant after firefighters were paged out on and emergency call during the meeting, but resident Rex Kelley took exception to that vote.

Kelley said he had a birthday party he planned to attend in the afternoon and would not likely be present for the vote. He then made a motion to postpone consideration of both articles until a special town meeting that would be held in the summer. That motion passed by a margin of 58-38.

Both articles were on the warrant this year, Gillway said, because when voters agreed to purchase the land at the 2011 meeting the vote hinged on the idea that a proposal for a new station would come before voters in two years. The article seeking permission to retain ownership of the land this year, said Gillway, was put on the warrant in the event residents voted down funding for the new station.

Once the article was moved and seconded, the discussion on Article 34 began when resident Phyllis Sommer made the motion that the vote be carried out by secret ballot. That motion passed easily.

A.J. Koch, who is a firefighter and co-chairman of the North Searsport Fire Station Committee, explained that the committee has worked for more than two years to come up with a design that will fit the department's needs for the next 50 years, while also being mindful of the project's impact on the taxpayers.

The old building has served the town well, said Koch, but the growing needs of the community and the increasing size of modern fire trucks and general public safety equipment, have rendered the building obsolete and cramped for space.

The size and scope of the building plan, said Koch, means the town won't have to consider expanding the space any time soon.

"We've done the town a lot of service by proposing a building this big," he said.

Koch also stated he did not feel it was a good idea to wait on the project because in the last year alone the cost of the building itself went up by about $50,000.

"And construction costs will go up too," he said.

Gillway said the town is in "the best of times and the worst of times" in terms of financing and getting the structure built. Interest rates for borrowing are at record low rates, but as Koch said, the cost of construction continues to rise.

"When the project started I was skeptical," said Gillway of the fire station planning process.

But because the existing land where the current station sits is surrounded by wetland and a septic system, the town has no choice but to build the new structure onto the new land.

"This is the right time and I'm supporting the motion," said Gillway.

Resident Harlan McLaughlin said residents are already struggling to pay their property taxes and the added expense of covering a new construction loan would add to that hardship. He also encouraged residents to "wait and see what the future brings before we decide on this."

"We need it, and I'm for it, but not now," he said.

In other news, residents:

• Agreed to expend up to $600,000 to fully fund repairs to the town wharf while continuing its effort to obtain a Small Harbor Improvement Program grant to cover half the cost;

• Approved proposed changes to the Ordinance for the Establishment and Administration of a Municipal Fire Department, specifically the section that formerly gave the town manager the responsibility of appointing a fire chief. The new language specifies the Board of Selectmen would appoint the fire chief, and;

• Adopted a Changeable Signs Ordinance that will allow business owners to display illuminated signs on which the message is permitted to change at 20 second intervals.