Residents asserted their democratic authority repeatedly during Liberty's annual town meeting March 24, with several written ballot votes and numerous amendments to the warrant.

The first amendment was suggested to new proposed Town Office hours ― a resident proposed keeping hours for each Saturday rather than the first and fourth. Town Clerk Gail Philippi noted the hours have been the same for 17 years and while the hours will change, the days the municipal office is open remain the same, with the exception of Saturday. Residents objected to changing the hours without the input of seasonal residents of town who need to register boats. Philippi said she would look into electronic registration for boats because adding more days would result in one person staffing the office on Saturdays based on the proposed budget and availability of personnel.

“Don't tell anybody this, but I will meet people there (if the Town Office is closed),” she said.

Philippi cited the recommendation for two people to be working at the same time for safety reasons; later in the conversation, former Deputy Town Clerk Danielle Blake noted there have been few times when she has felt unsafe.

“Aside from safety, it's customer service,” Blake said, adding often clerks are on the phone while helping someone at the counter.

Selectman Carrie Peavey said the staffing level is based on recommendations from Maine Municipal Association.

“It wasn't just something that was thought up spur of the moment,” she said.

The amendment failed and the new hours were approved as proposed: Mondays and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m., Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the first and fourth Saturdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Immediately following, elections took place and saw the “excessively devoted” ― according to her husband, who nominated her ― Philippi retain her position as town clerk despite an offer from Melanie Ripley to take on the duties for less annual salary. The written ballot vote showed Philippi with 69 votes to Ripley's six. Long-time Treasurer Betsey Davis left her position after 40 years and Hannah Hatfield was chosen to take her place. Fire Chief Bill Gillespie and Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds were re-elected.

There was a three-way competition to represent Regional School Unit 3 on the Board of Directors between incumbent Richard Frost, whose three-year term ends June 30, and Betty Lou Davis and Richard Light. Frost, too, retained his position with 39 votes, while Davis garnered 27 votes and Light received 11 votes via written ballot.

Residents again left their seats to deposit slips in the ballot box for second selectman. Incumbent Carrie Peavey faced a challenge from former Selectman Steve Chapin but ultimately was re-elected to the board with 69 votes to Chapin's 17.

Budget Committee membership also proved contentious. Longtime member Dan McGovern's departure created a vacancy in the seven-member advisory committee. Two people ― Judy Fuller and Joan Tax ― were nominated for the position. After some discussion, Fuller was approved to replace McGovern.

Then, an amendment was made to the committee to include Tax and eliminate incumbent Melanie Ripley, but later was withdrawn after vigorous objections. Peavey suggested increasing membership on the committee to eight, an amendment later approved.

Voters continued to amend the ballot with the very next article, adding $500 each to the yearly stipend for Gillespie and Reynolds. While it was suggested the extra $1,000 come from the increased animal control officer compensation line, it later was approved to raise it from taxation and keep the ACO pay at the proposed level.

“Bill (Gillespie) and I chase most of the animals anyway,” Reynolds said.

Town officials encouraged residents to approve the $3,800 sought by ACO Heidi Blood for her services, stating how difficult it is to secure an ACO. One resident said her experience with a stray kitten and Blood was exceptional, with Blood coming to her home three times in one day including “after hours” to take the animal to the shelter.

A proposal for a town-wide revaluation met with resistance. Selectmen argued the revaluation is needed to put the whole town on a level playing field and to capture some value that may have been overlooked with a natural gas pipeline and other utilities. It has been 35 years since the last official assessment, First Selectman Melinda Steeves said.

“This puts us all on fair and even ground,” she said.

Residents also objected to the wording of the article, which they said appeared to favor a particular company. Steeves said that was not the intention. An amendment was added to the article to require a sealed bid process, which passed, and the amended article also was approved.

Social service agency requests saw some discussion as well, but residents ultimately approved the recommendation of selectmen and the budget committee, a total of $12,662. Reynolds said she supports the work of Waldo County Woodshed, which requested $500 from Liberty, but wondered why the town doesn't make use of its own wood lots for those in need of firewood. Another resident pointed out the Woodshed not only harvests and cuts the wood, but also dries and delivers it. Reynolds followed up, asking selectmen what is being done with the wood lots. Steeves said there are no plans in place but in the past the town has harvested wood from the properties; or residents could approve selling the land.

The last amendment of the day was to the article related to the due date of taxes. Last year, residents approved payments in two installments but the wording this year read “immediately upon commitment.” To rectify the oversight, residents approved an amendment that the first payment is due 30 days after commitment and the second installment no later than the first week of May.

The last two items on the warrant ― to elect positions vacated during the town meeting and to approve exceeding the state cap on property taxes ― were passed-by. Selectmen noted the approved budget, including the amendments approved during the meeting, falls below the LD 1 cap.

Before the official start of the meeting, five people seeking political office addressed residents. Rep. Erin Herbig and fellow Democrat Joe Greenier both are seeking the primary nomination for Senate District 11, all of Waldo County. Speakers also included Jayne Crosby Giles, a Republican, who also is seeking the position but is unopposed in the June primary; Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, who is seeking re-election in House District 96 (includes Liberty); and Sheriff Jeff Trafton, who is also seeking re-election.

The meeting adjourned at 12:40 p.m., 3 1/2 hours after it began.