PALERMO — The annual town meeting was held Saturday, March 12. Sixty registered voters dealt with 35 articles, all of which passed, some with amendments. Voters approved a 2022 budget of $1,373,484, excluding amounts for the schools and the county, an increase of 14.2% from the 2021 budget of $1,202,167.

The significant differences between 2021 and 2022 include the addition of an ambulance service contract with Liberty ($68,000), a new item this year, and increases for roads ($480,000, up $27,000 up from $453,000 in 2021), wages ($130,810, up $25,710 from $105,100 in 2021), and the Fire Department ( $81,094, up $24,559 from $56,535 in 2021), plus 2021 overages of $22,000, a one-time expense.

Howard Tuttle, superintendent for Regional School Unit 12, will be at the Town Office April 7 at 5:30 p.m. to speak about the school budget.

By consent of those present, the article about partnering with Liberty Ambulance Service was moved to the top of the agenda. After a lengthy discussion, which included thoughtful questions and comments from town residents and informational statements from Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie and Palermo Fire Chief Roger Komandt, the article was approved with two opposed.

As the two fire chiefs explained, there are several key benefits of partnership with Liberty Ambulance Service. First, response times will be significantly reduced in comparison with the town’s current provider, Delta Ambulance. Not only will the ambulance be dispatched, but paramedics outfitted with the medications and supplies needed can be called to the scene directly and start treatment before the ambulance arrives.

Second, service levels will be increased. Currently, Palermo has two licensed paramedics; however, they can only operate at the EMT level when being dispatched from Palermo. The partnership with Liberty allows them to work at the paramedic level, and Palermo now has access to an additional three paramedics from Liberty. While there is not always a paramedic on duty, residents’ level of service will be significantly increased, the chiefs said.

Third, the cost to the town will be minimal: $68,000 per year to cover provider wages. Liberty will provide in-house coverage at the station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two providers seven days a week and a stipend for on-call nighttime coverage. All other costs (equipment, medications, training) are covered by insurance billables.

A lengthy discussion was had on paving and repaving roads. After reviewing the increasing cost of asphalt because of rising petroleum prices, and the coming year’s project list, Road Commissioner Steve Childs asked the Select Board during its most recent meeting to increase the $210,000 request published in the warrant to $271,000. After discussion, and the request was voted down. The original request of $210,000 (no change from 2021) was approved.

Select Board member Bob Kurek, who also chairs the Southwest Waldo County Broadband Coalition, provided an update on SWCBC’s activities. The project’s goal is to provide affordable, reliable broadband to all residents. The coalition is considering four ways of going forward, including a regional utility. The regional utility is Kurek’s preference, because towns can get federal funds and would own the utility; owning the utility would create a revenue stream to pay down debt; and the service could be provided without affecting the tax base. The other three options are a public/private partnership, a contract with an ISP, or fixed wireless broadband from a provider like Red Zone. More information can be found at swwaldobroadband.org.

As part of the article on contributions to town organizations and programs, Hunter Christiansen, a seventh grader from China who attends the Palermo Consolidated School, made a heartfelt speech in favor of one-time additional funding for the Heritage Tour, an eighth grade class trip to Washington, D.C., and various other points of interest. The 2019/2020 trip was canceled because of COVID, and the school returned the $2,800 that was not used. Hunter asked that the funds be reinstated so those who missed the trip could attend this year. The request was approved.

Tax Assessor Darryl McKenney moved to modify the proposed $150,000 appropriation of unassigned funds to $200,000 to reduce the 2022 tax rate. The higher amount was approved.

The meeting opened with remarks from three political candidates. Newly reelected Select Board member Pam Swift is running as a Democrat and Katrina Smith as a Republican for state House District 62, including Palermo, plus the Kennebec County towns of China and Windsor and the Lincoln County towns of Hibberts Gore and Somerville. And Waldo County Chief Deputy Jason Trundy is running to succeed the retiring Jeff Trafton as sheriff.

Results of the election were announced. A total of 76 votes were cast; each of the four candidates ran unopposed. Elected officials include Blake Brown, assessor (70 votes), Steve Childs, road commissioner (67 votes), Pam Swift, Select Board member (70 votes) and Miriam Keller, general assistance officer (75 votes).

Chris Diesch is The Republican Journal’s town columnist for Palermo.

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