Residents decided not to approve a letter in support of a carbon pricing bill that would charge fossil fuel producers a fee for their carbon emissions on behalf of the town at town meeting March 13. The roughly 50 residents in attendance approved a $10,000 increase in the Fire Department’s budget to buy gear for an influx of new members.

Residents appeared split on the decision that resulted in a 19-16 vote against the letter. It requested that the extra funds paid by fossil fuel companies be redistributed to citizens.

Some residents feared that the pricing would result in their paying extra at the gas station or to heat their homes. A few of them asked that the measure be voted on by town ballot to get a broader sense of residents' opinions.

A resident supporting the letter said the dividends paid out would help soften any cost increases fossil fuel companies might impose on consumers because of the carbon pricing. Another resident was doubtful that a town ballot would receive much more participation than the annual meeting.

One resident was concerned that the lithium in batteries used to store energy from solar fields would be just as bad for the environment as the greenhouse gasses released by burning fossil fuels. Another resident countered that lithium from the batteries is not released into the atmosphere.

Many of the residents who opposed the letter thought measures to address climate change should come from decisions individual citizens make, not statewide legislation. Another resident reminded people that the nationwide expansion of electricity and transportation infrastructure into rural areas was completed through government action.

A resident pointed out that the proposal is only to send a letter that will not enact change in itself. “This bill is telling legislatures to just wake up and do something.”

In other business, residents voted to raise the Fire Department's budget by $10,000 compared to last year. The department increased its membership from 5 to 21 over the course of 2020 and has several new female members who need gear that fits them better, Chief Roger Komandt said.

Air tanks set to expire this year also must be replaced, he said. At $860 per tank, he can only afford to buy four new tanks with the increased budget, but he is applying for funding from Maine Municipal Association that will cover half the cost of an air tank, which, if awarded, will allow him to buy eight tanks.

The chief moved to the town in April last year after the pandemic hit, he said. He has experience as a trained firefighter and took over for the previous chief late last year. He was shocked when he joined the department to see how much gear and equipment needed to be updated.

He and the previous chief started a community outreach program last summer that resulted in the increase in membership, he said. “I think it had to do a lot with people just wanting to help people,” he said.

Residents also passed a local food and community self-governance ordinance, which gives residents the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods. It recognizes that citizens have the right to govern themselves.

Residents voted to raise $972,167 for municipal appropriations, which is a $40,416 increase from last year’s town budget of $931,751. Darryl McKenney was reelected a town assessor, Stephen Childs was reelected road commissioner, Ellen Snowdon Hatch was reelected general assistance administrator, Robert Kurek was reelected selectman and William Sugg III was reelected Regional School Unit 12 board member.