A lack of specific salaries for the fire chief and animal control officer sparked discussion during the annual town meeting Saturday, March 16.

Residents were asked if they would raise $37,300 through taxation to pay town officials' salaries. After the article was motioned and seconded, residents asked why the animal control officer's and fire chief's salaries were not included.

First Selectman Jim Bennett explained that the Board of Selectmen determines the salaries for the animal control officer and fire chief. Bennett said the Board met with the fire chief and had agreed on a satisfactory amount.

A point was made that the town voted the previous year to give the fire chief a raise, but that the raise was then voted down by the selectmen at a later date. Bennett acknowledged that the issue of the raise should not have been on the warrant, but also noted that he received several comments from residents who were against the raise.

Bennett’s comment was quickly refuted by other residents, who said the people against the raise should have attended the town meeting and voted. Bennett was then asked how much money the fire chief will receive, to which he responded that the chief knows the amount, but did not go into further detail.

He noted that the animal control officer's salary is included in the animal welfare article, which recommended raising $2,000 through taxation.

Before more discussion continued on the issue, Moderator Don Berry interjected to remind residents that all comments should be directed to the moderator, and that personal debates would not be tolerated.

“I will not allow a match between two individuals, is that clear?” Berry said.

Bennett then directed residents to review Article 10 in their town report, which provided dollar figures for the fire department. However, residents questioned why the salary wasn’t clearly stated in the article, to which Bennett replied that he didn’t have to break down every detail in the budget.

A motion was then made to move the article to a vote, which passed. Following that vote, residents approved raising the $37,300 for town officials' salaries.

Residents also approved a $20,000 operating budget for the fire department. Of the $20,000, the town would raise $5,270 through taxation; appropriate $3,765 from Worthy Poor; and appropriate $10,965 from the Knox account.

While some residents were concerned the budget was too lean, Bennett said there were adequate funds to operate the department.

“This fire department, I can assure you, will be fine,” Bennett said.

Prior to the discussion regarding the fire department’s $20,000 operating budget, new Fire Chief Michael Dionne made a request for more volunteers, citing the dwindling roster of available firefighters. According to the annual town report, the fire department responded to 72 calls in 2012 with a roster of eight firefighters.

Residents also weighed in on funding for town road maintenance with questions directed to Bennett regarding whether the town has developed a road plan. The town roads budget request asked that $40,000 be appropriated from undesignated funds and $25,000 be raised through taxation, for a total of $65,000.

Bennett said the plan is on hold because of a lack of funding, and a suggestion was made to consult with selectmen in Unity, because the town was developing a road plan within its operating budget. Bennett responded that Unity has significantly more money than Thorndike.

A recommendation was made to spend more funds working on the roads and less on ditches before a vote was taken and residents approved the $65,000 in funding.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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