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Changing times

Searsmonters of a certain age looked around this week to find changes that many could not have imagined 10 or 20 years ago. The U.S. Senate, with substantial bipartisan support, passed the Respect for Marriage Act. If and when passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president, the new law (with safeguards for private religious convictions) will require all states to honor a marriage between two people that has been recognized by any state.

Much closer to home, our Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors on Nov. 28, by a vote of 5-3 (Searsmont’s representative Catherine Robbins-Halsted voted “yes”), approved a new policy to recognize and respect the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming students. According to superintendent of schools Mary Alice McLean, the policy is designed “to strengthen the bond between transgender students and their parents.”

Many people in town can go about with heads held higher because all of us, family, friends and neighbors, are just a bit more secure in our lives and loves.

Laurel Frye, shown here in the Town Office, is Searsmont’s new bookkeeper. Photo by Mickey Sirota

New face in town

Laurel Frye is Searsmont’s new bookkeeper. The quiet, very organized Maine native and Belfast resident, who traces her New England family back to the 1600s, started work in October.

She graduated from Camden High School, went to Iowa’s Luther College (“Go Norse!”) before returning to Maine, and she brings more than 35 years of experience to Searsmont. That includes more than 30 years with Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Magazine in Rockland, ending up as its finance person.

She likes the job. “I feel very welcomed here,” Laurel says. “I’m amazed at the time needed for the Town Office staff to do its work, and astounded by the backup detail kept by the town.

“It’s a challenge for me to move to a non-business environment, to understand municipal bookkeeping and its specialized software,” she added, “but I believe in balance.”

Laurel has family in Maine and is grateful for her parents and grandparents, all teachers, for teaching her to ask questions. “I am encouraged to ask them here, and am ready to ask them.”

Laurel is at her Town Office desk on Mondays, Wednesdays and part of Thursdays. Stop by, say “hello” and ask her about her dog. She loves dogs.

Town Office

The good news is that Searsmont has gotten word that its request for $150,000 in support for purchasing the McLellan Property has passed a major hurdle with state approval. The National Park Service, which funds the purchase program, still may take months for its review, but if they say “yes,” the town may get its 64 acres of recreation and conservation land at no cost to Searsmont when this money is added to Land for Maine Future’s $105,000 grant.

And the state is processing a final $2,500 for broadband expansion planning. All three grants are a reflection of the selectmen’s efforts to find money that helps every resident. Job well done.

Did you know that 2023 dog licenses can be paid for now, before the end-of-year deadline? Now you do. There are more than 300 furry friends still “un-renewed.”

Bits and pieces

The windstorm last week was a reminder that winter is coming, and that early winter weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Back in the day, Searsmonters remember Thanksgiving snowstorms that had cars stuck in driveways. The old joke about waiting 10 minutes for Maine weather to change is not much of a joke anymore. Now you keep your parka next to the raincoat next to the windbreaker, not knowing which one you will use on any given day.

Neighbors who had a window pane replaced recently complained that now they had to clean the rest of them. We sympathize.

Speaking of repairs, your correspondents are old enough to have a telephone land line, though it mostly gets robocalls and messages from a West Coast relative who never uses our cell number. When the hard line went dead last week, a phone call to the service number at Consolidated Communications had us talking to a nice woman in Minnesota. Darned if the repair guy showed up in just two days and fixed the thing.

Did you know they “follow the sound” from house to tree to the road your house is on and then all the way back to the switching shack at the town end of Moody Mountain Road? Never thought we would be saying nice things about the phone company, but there you are.