Approximately 70 residents attended the town meeting at Union Hall on Saturday and approved most of the 41 articles without much debate.

Two articles were an exception, sparking lively discussions among town residents. The first, whether to fully fund a request by Waldo Community Action Partners for $22,319, and the second, whether the town should purchase the Searsport Lions Club building.

Town Manager James Gillway said selectmen and the Budget Advisory Committee asked each agency requesting funds from the town to provide a list of what other municipalities in Waldo County contributed. He said it "helped formulate the decisions of both committees."

The funding request from WCAP for $19,706 from Searsport in 2018 was topped only by Belfast at $34,219. WCAP's requests in other towns in Waldo County varied, including $2,000 in Unity, $6,973 in Troy, $7,810 in Swanville and $243 in Islesboro, among others.

Selectman Dick Desmarais said, "Searsport is the second-highest donor … They say it's based on services for the town. I think they have to come up with a new funding formula because some of us are really getting whacked."

A WCAP representative at the meeting responded by saying, "We have to raise matching funding and seed funding from the communities that we serve. We are trying to find a fair and equitable way … we ask for 2½ percent of the value of services that we bring into a community. And what that means is we proportionally ask all communities for the same percentage of support."

He went on to say in 2018, the agency worked with approximately 800 individuals in Searsport with services totaling $788,213. "With that," he said, "we requested 2½ percent last year, which was $19,706.

"This year, $892,760 (in) services were used, and we applied the same 2½ percent, which then makes it $22,319."

One resident questioned the "large margin" between Searsport and neighboring Stockton Springs, which was asked to contribute just $7,440.

"I know your organization does a lot of good things to help people," she said. "However, I don't think there's that much difference between the needs of Searsport and Stockton Springs."

Gillway asked if Searsport was "paying extra" because of the Headstart program at the Searsport school. "Clearly we are very much higher than anyone else," he said. "And are there Headstart programs provided in other communities besides Belfast and Searsport?"

The WCAP spokesperson said there are Headstart programs in other towns and the services are treated in the same manner.

Desmarais requested a secret ballot, saying he did not want "anyone feeling intimidated."

After the ballots were tallied, 40 approved the requested $22,319, and 24 opposed it.

Other organizations, including the Searsport Historical Society, New Hope for Women, Sexual Assault Support Service, the Waldo County YMCA, Life Flight Foundation, Spectrum Generation, Hospice Volunteers of Waldo County, Searsport Beautification, Swan Lake Association, Maine Youth Alliance (Game Loft), Friends of Sears Island, Habitat for Humanity, Broadreach Community Services, Waldo County Woodshed and Head of the Bay Business Alliance all received requested amounts.

Mid-Coast Maine Community Action Partners did not receive the $1,000 it requested because no representative from the agency was present at the initial meeting to answer questions from town officials. That has been standard procedure in Searsport for several years.

The other big topic of discussion came when selectmen asked the town to approve spending $155,000 for the purchase of the Lions Club on Prospect Street, including $120,000 for the buildings, $10,000 for operations and $25,000 for improvements.

The building would have continued to be a rental property with revenue used to offset maintenance costs and any excess revenue earmarked for the recreation fund, according to the article.

Cheryl McFadden, a teacher and lobsterman who sells lobster rolls, said she needed a commercial kitchen for her fledgling business to be in compliance with state health code.

"It's not easy to find (a commercial kitchen)," McFadden said. "I rented from the Lions Club and it worked out great.

"If the town purchases the Lions Club building I would really like to continue my agreement with them to rent the kitchen," she said. "I think this is a tremendous opportunity for others to have easy access to a commercial kitchen to pursue a business."

Gillway said the organization "constantly has auctions and there are three (groups) that rent it on a regular basis." He also said there are plans for some improvements, because the maintenance had "fallen backwards a little bit." It was built for and by the community, Gillway said, and "we felt it is a resource that should remain with the community."

While only two residents voiced concern about the purchase, in the end, the article was narrowly defeated by a vote of 25 in favor to 30 opposed.

Several other items drew less intense discussion, including the Police Department budget, which jumped by $72,000, from $277,784 to $349,878.

Gillway said this year a new resource officer began working at the schools and also at the Police Department. Regional School Unit 20 shares the cost with the town.

Officer Chris McCrillis has done a very good job, Gillway said. "We have a guy at school who is a rock star. The kids all love him and they are all very well protected. Being chief as many years as I was, I wish I had done it."

Other big-ticket items voters approved included the Ambulance Department $230,781 (previously $225,119), the Public Works Highway Department $467,561 (previously $453,455) and the Road Maintenance Reserve amount of $275,000.

In elections, Mark Bradstreet was re-elected for his second three-year term as selectman with 87 votes, while Joshua McFarlin was voted in to the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors with 28 write-in votes. All Budget Advisory Committee members were re-elected.

At the meeting's close, Mary Brann and Lyn Calista, who co-chair the Historic Preservation Committee, recognized Chairman Marie Underwood, "who started the commission," for her commitment to the historic preservation of Searsport and the enrichment of its citizens."

Calista noted, "She always, always comes to town meeting. She did not come this year."

In appreciation for all her hard work, Brann and Calista had a bouquet of flowers, a gift certificate to Anglers Restaurant and a Certificate of Appreciation signed by the town manager, the Board of Selectmen, the librarian, the Historic Preservation Society, the Historical Society and the minister from the First Congregational Church.

"Marie is in the process of moving and will not be on our commission any longer," Calista said. "We wanted to recognize her for all her hard work."