For the second year in a row, Thorndike residents voted in three new selectmen at their annual meeting. They again voted down funding for a new salt and sand shed, but opted into the state’s recreational marijuana law.

There seemed to be two clear camps among the more than 100 residents seated in the fire station’s parking lot, where the nearly three-hour meeting was held Aug. 22. The meeting was initially canceled in March, then rescheduled for August because of the coronavirus.

Another round of new selectmen

Sheriff Jeff Trafton lost the first selectman’s seat he was originally seeking by three votes to Doreen Berry. When results were announced, there were audible gasps from some of the 100-plus residents present. One resident was heard to say, “(Expletive) Thorndike, they do things their own way,” after the announcement.

Trafton was then voted into the second selectman’s seat over Greg Fulzetta, drawing applause from some residents. Former Selectman Bob Carter won the third selectman seat over incumbent Josh Ard by eight votes.

Carter was a selectman for the term before the recent Board of Selectmen, but decided not to accept the position when nominated last year, he said.

He chose to accept the nomination this year after being approached by several residents asking him to run again. He does not think residents wanted as many changes as the new selectmen made after they were elected last year.

Ard was disappointed to lose to Carter, but said that is the way town politics go sometimes, adding that everyone should have a chance to participate in town government. He will still remain active in the community, he said.

Berry said she sought election because she wants to offer residents more pricing and design options for the salt and sand shed. It is the first item she hopes to take on as a new selectman.

Residents voted to stagger selectman term lengths for each seat on a three-year basis, which Ard said will allow for better continuity when the town votes in new selectmen, and will allow for campaigning before the town meeting so people know who is running beforehand. But one resident opposed to the staggered terms said he was concerned the town could be stuck with a lazy selectman for three years.

Salt and sand shed funding fails again

Residents voted down funding to build a new salt and sand shed. Before the vote, Ard announced a new $215,000 quote from Iron House Structure based in New Hampshire.

He said the company has built similar structures in Maine, including the shed in Freedom, which he said is up to state code. It would be only another $50,000 to pay off the remaining balance to purchase the new shed’s site and to construct a smaller shed for residential access to salt and sand, according to Ard.

Ard said it was important to get that quote in front of residents, despite how the vote went, so they know there is a cheaper option than the initial $400,000 budget presented to residents.

But Carter said he would rather look into a stronger structure that was designed by an engineering firm to last the town longer, which would probably cost more than $400,000.

At a July public hearing, many residents felt $400,000 was too high for a shed. Carter thinks if residents know what they are getting for the higher price, then they might support spending more money on the structure.

This year’s town warrant asked residents if they wanted to spend up to $400,000 on a new shed, but selectmen announced to the town that someone could make a motion to lower that amount to the quote price Ard discussed.

The shed has been out of state compliance for over 30 years and lack of action on the issue has been a point of contention among residents in the town. Salt at the previous site was leaking into a nearby stream, causing pollution.

The state gave the town until fall 2020 to build a new shed in compliance or face fines. That deadline has been pushed back a year because of the coronavirus. Ard said he was hoping to put the issue to bed, but is happy he and the selectmen he served with were able to put a structure in place to address an issue that has plagued the town since before he was born.

Marijuana vote approved after tense discussion

Despite a previous straw vote at a public hearing that resulted in residents voting against opting into the recreational marijuana law, those at the meeting voted to opt into the system.

Former Selectman Michael Mayer said selectmen put it on the warrant because the public hearing was not well attended and they wanted to give more residents the opportunity to vote on the issue. He said a straw vote is not legally binding.

One resident said he preferred the town not opt into the legislation yet until the state has rolled out the legislation. Ard said he supported opting in so those interested in retail sale, cultivation or testing can begin once it is approved by the state.

Ard thinks a lot of crucial and important changes were enacted at the meeting and is satisfied that allowing marijuana and staggering selectmen terms were approved. He thinks it is a sign that residents will continue to support the changes he helped enact to promote a sense of community in the town.