The annual town meeting was punctuated with moments of levity — and reflection — June 16, as about 70 Stockton Springs residents tackled the 48-article warrant.

Early on, the community room of the Town Office took on a jovial mood as Volunteer of the Year Bob Brooks was recognized for his efforts, particularly on Sandy Point trails.

The presentation was followed by a moment of silence for 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy — allegedly severely abused by her mother and stepfather for months prior to her death — as well as the local first responders who discovered Marissa's body in late February.

Moderator Stu Marckoon, after thanking everyone for participating in the moment of silence, lightened the mood by suggesting anyone with a disagreement during town meeting should "take it out in the parking lot."

Residents had few questions about the municipal budget and mostly unanimously approved recommended amounts, though a few voted against some social service funding.

The first real discussion of the meeting came around the ambulance budget. A handful of residents wondered why the town should raise and appropriate more than $150,000 when it's been heard the ambulance is self-supporting.

Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell explained the ambulance does not always receive the full amount billed to insurance companies and does not raise enough money to support the service without funding from the town.

Ambulance Director Chas Hare said the costs vary, as well. A patient is billed only if they are taken in the ambulance; how much depends on distance and level of care, he said.

Several budget lines dropped this year, owing to contract changes and completed work. The town's budget for sanitation and recycling decreased by more than $16,500, prompting Marckoon, following a resident's question, to ask, "Yeah, how did you do that?"

O'Donnell said a switch in trash haulers resulted in the town's recycling going to Winterport, rather than straight to ecomaine in South Portland. However, she cautioned all of the savings could be lost if residents do not recycle properly. No longer will recycling in plastic bags be accepted, she said, as the plastic bags are considered contaminants in single-stream technology. The plastic bags clog the machines that separate glass, paper, metal  and cardboard, O'Donnell said.

"Ideally, (recyclables should be placed in) a trash can with a cover," she said.

For now, the hauler will simply not pick up recycling in plastic bags, O'Donnell said, in the hope it will train people. She said mailers with the information will be distributed with tax bills to inform all residents.

Marckoon was presented another opportunity to poke gentle fun at the town with a vote to establish a capital reserve account for the new fire station — and seed it with $100.

"And in the year 2820, you'll be able to afford to build a new station," he joked.

The account creates a place for money that's being raised by a group of volunteers. Fire Chief Vern Thompson said the current station is in rough shape, with leaks, loose walls and a chimney threatening to pull another wall down. He said it was well-built at the time — the 1960s — but soon will not allow the larger fire apparatus to fit.

"This is just a stepping stone to replace the fire house building," O'Donnell said.

Thompson added the department does not want to spend town money on a new station; no land has been selected, either.

"Down the road, we'll find something," he said. "We're just trying to plan ahead."

Changes to the way the town mails notices to abutters of properties drew some concern. An ordinance change, which was approved, allows the town to send notices first class instead of certified mail, which will save the town money, O'Donnell said.

Former Selectman Leslie Cosmano attempted to get support to reject another article, which she said contained serious errors. The town's subdivision ordinance requires maps that are 8,112 inches, Cosmano said, which works out to about 675 feet. O'Donnell suggested residents adopt the suggested changes and next year, correct the map size.

"It's been that way for a while now," she said. " … We're not actually going to require that."

Cosmano objected and said, "You can't pick and choose with ordinances to enforce!"

The interest rate for late taxes also drew debate among residents. The warrant suggested the highest rate allowed by the state, 8 percent. Resident Joe Greenier made a motion to reduce the interest rate to 5 percent, which was seconded.

"Why make a bad situation worse?" he asked.

Several other residents voiced support, noting if people can't pay their taxes, they surely cannot afford the higher interest rate, but the amendment failed with a 28-38 vote.

O'Donnell and Town Assessor Amber Poulin encouraged residents struggling to pay taxes to seek an abatement from the town. O'Donnell said sending two property tax bills per year was adopted in an effort to make paying taxes easier. However, Greenier noted two bills do not make paying easier when a property's value increases.

Poulin also pointed out Stockton Springs' mil rate is lower than both Belfast's and Searsport's.

A strip of land that crosses railroad tracks off Maple Street was accepted by the town from Midcoast Ventures LLC. O'Donnell said the road crossing the tracks will allow access to a planned subdivision and expected donation of land to the town. She said the state will be responsible for the safety of the railroad crossing and the town will not be required to maintain or plow the road. The road will be built to subdivision standards, O'Donnell said.

The meeting was adjourned just after 11 a.m.

Editor's note: The story has been corrected to reflect the accurate spelling of moderator Stu Marckoon's name.