LIBERTY — Residents gave the Select Board a thumbs-up to purchase two rescue boats for a cost of over $64,000 at a special town meeting Oct. 18. According to the warrant article, the funds will come from recently auctioned town properties.

Approximately 40 people attended the Monday night meeting and all articles eventually were passed.

Regarding the purchase of the rescue boats, Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie said one vessel is aluminum and costs $47,000, while the second is an inflatable craft with a 50-horsepower engine costing approximately $18,000. Both boats, he said, can carry 10 people.

Many times, when working a fire, he said, a boat shuttles manpower and equipment back and forth. “We can’t keep a boat out there to work a fire. The second boat would allow us to shuttle manpower out there, but keep a boat actively fighting whatever fire we have.”

The closest similar boat is in the town of China, 35 minutes away, he said. So far this year, the department’s current boat has been called to recover a body and to rescue two boats from Lake St. George. “We are at a point where these incidents are happening far more frequently than they have in the past,” Gillespie said.

Over the course of a year the Fire Department typically gets seven to 10 calls on the water, he noted, “This year we are at nine.”

With the current boat, Gillespie said, the department is able to get to the scene quickly, but when carrying additional gear or towing another boat, they can only go about 5 miles per hour. The boat they are currently using, he said, is a 1970s vintage with a 25-horsepower engine.

“At times it becomes comical with two or three people and all our equipment and basically, you can’t see ‘Liberty Fire’ on the side of the boat because we are weighed down so much,” he said.

Under other articles, several people questioned why the Select Board would want to “solicit, accept, and award” three-year bids for mowing and snow plowing, while continuing a three-year snow plowing contract from fall of 2020 through spring of 2023, which was approved in June.

Board member Andre Blanchard said the town has to give “explicit consent at a town meeting to authorize this Select Board to sign that contract on their behalf,” which apparently was not done at the June meeting.

“That is why it is a continuance. It is because we are asking for approval now, because we should have done that at the last town meeting,” he said.

Carrie Peavey, a former Select Board member, said “… Why is it that you didn’t notice this in the past? All of the sudden this becomes a grave concern when the town has always historically been fine with a three-year contract.”

Blanchard responded that the board was bringing the issue up now so that the town could be in compliance with the law. “If we continue, we are not following Maine law when we are signing multi-year contracts,” he said. “We could get in trouble and be sued.

“It doesn’t matter what we have done historically, if the law says the town has to get express consent from the legislative body, which is the town meeting, that is why we are bringing it in compliance with Maine law.”

Elise Brown, emergency management director for the town, said in her experience from coming to town meetings, “There are times we find out there are guidelines that we missed or need to improve upon — I don’t see this as any different. … We are just trying to fix a clerical error more than anything.” She remembered a time when the Select Board did not keep meeting minutes.

Blanchard said the town did approve the amount to be spent at the June town meeting, but did not authorize the board to sign the contract. “That’s what we are doing right now.”

One resident asked if there was any intent by the board to change the contract in any way from the one approved earlier in the year. Select Board member Melinda Steeves said everything would remain the same.

The article was ultimately approved. Also approved, $11,584 from revenues received from the sale of auctioned town properties will be used to supplement the $339,503 Maine Municipal Bond Bank loan to refinance the town’s existing fire truck lease-purchase agreement. Voters also approved awarding additional American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition.

Steeves said the county awarded the town $20,000, while additional federal ARPA funds totaling $102,000 will be paid out in two installments — half this year and half next year.