THORNDIKE — Montville voters decided not to approve two citizen-initiated articles on the Town Warrant regarding making the fire chief an elected position and to elect town officials by ballot at the March 23 annual town meeting.

There was a half-hour break during the roughly 3-hour session, which drew about 100 voters to the Mount View school complex where it was held.

A resident requested that an article be placed on the Town Warrant changing the fire chief and road commissioner to be elected positions starting at the next town meeting, according to the Select Board.

Resident John Billings spoke in favor of the article because they are positions that directly impact residents and he felt that voters should be able to decide who is in those roles. Another resident also spoke in favor of the article, stating that one of the reasons why she moved to a small town was to have influence over those kinds of decisions.

Several other residents, including several emergency responders, spoke against the article, stating that it could lead to high turnover in the Fire Department and could lead to someone being elected out of popularity, instead of being appointed by the Select Board for their experience.

Montville Volunteer Fire Chief John York said at the meeting that he successfully petitioned the town to make the fire chief an appointed position for those same reasons. He thought it was important for a fire chief to be able to be removed if found to be unfit for the job.

One member of the Fire Department said if an unqualified person is elected to the chief’s position it could lead to several Fire Department members walking away. Currently, members vote on who they think should be the chief and then that person is recommended to the Select Board.

Ultimately, residents overwhelmingly voted the article down, 71-23.

Voters also withdrew two citizen-initiated articles that would have accepted the secret ballot process outlined under state statutes to elect town officials. Many thought there was not enough information on the articles given to people before the meeting.

The town held a hearing April 11 on the warrant articles. Some people said they were unable to attend that meeting, while another resident who did attend the meeting said information shared still did not clear up some confusion she had about the articles.

Another resident moved to take the articles off the warrant and have them revisited at next year’s meeting after residents can get more information.

The resident who proposed the articles spoke in favor of them, stating that it is a better process for electing officials. She said it would give more people a chance to participate in elections, in case they cannot make it to town meeting to vote. There are also opportunities for people to seek an absentee ballot.

Select Board member Sharon Hibbard said officials consulted with Maine Municipal Association and confirmed that the articles were legal. An overwhelming majority of residents voted the articles down by a raise of hands.

Residents voted to raise $818,338.95 from taxes this year, a 17.6% increase compared to the $695,961.01 raised at last year’s meeting.

Jodie Martin was reelected to be the town clerk. Cathy Roberts and Sharon Hibbard were reelected to the Select Board. Doug Thomas was elected to the Select Board. Terry Fischer was reelected to be town treasurer and tax collector.

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