New town clerk and selectman replace Steeves, Krueger

By Stephanie Grinnell | Apr 07, 2012
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell A count of votes at Liberty town meeting March 31.

Liberty — Residents of the town of Liberty elected a new town clerk and a selectman during town meeting March 31, replacing long-time Town Clerk Warren "Bud" Steeves as well as Selectman John Krueger. Both men made the choice to retire following decades-long service to the town.

Steeves and Krueger were each recognized during the initial part of the meeting at Walker Elementary School and presented with plaques as well as Liberty silver dollars. Steeves has been town clerk in Liberty for more than 10 years and also served four years as a selectman, according to the town report. Krueger has marked 26 years of public service as a selectman and school board member, the town report states.

In a contested race for town clerk, Gail Philippi was elected over nominee Melanie Ripley with a written ballot. The results were 97 votes for Philippi and 7 votes for Ripley.

Treasurer Betsy Davis, Fire Chief Bill Gillespie, Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds and RSU 3 representative Kathy Eickenberg each were reelected with a hand-count vote.

The sole nominee for Krueger's seat was Steve Chapin, who was elected by written ballot.

"I'll try and do the best I can," Chapin said after accepting the position.

Also recognized was Republican Journal town news correspondent Cindy Canavan for her work with the newspaper.

Most articles passed with few questions or discussion. After some confusion regarding the correct amount, Article 8, relating to the town operation account, the selectmen's recommendation of an amount $500 higher than the budget committee was passed. The additional money recommended by selectmen fell under payroll expenses.

Article 9 generated mostly thanks to resident David St. Clair, who last year at town meeting promised to build a community center and carried through on his promise with a building he constructed on his property at Dave's World, located at 14 Junk Ave. St. Clair said the building is not yet complete and has a concrete floor but when it is finished, a transition from his ownership to the town will have to take place.

"Meanwhile, the hall is ready," he said, adding a small fee will be charged for use of the building and renters will be responsible for clean-up. Residents approved carrying over $3,470 contained in the "New Committee Hall Account."

EMA Director Elise Brown spoke about a proposed PACE — which stands for property assessed clean energy — ordinance, explaining the town has to approve the ordinance if any town resident wished to take advantage of the federally-funded loan program that is administered by Efficiency Maine. Several residents questioned the wisdom of approving an ordinance they implied would allow people who could not otherwise afford to make energy efficiency improvements. Clarification was made that people applying for the loan still have to meet typical money lending guidelines. Following a motion to end debate, a hand-count vote resulted in passage of the PACE ordinance.

A resolution drafted by Diane Messer to "Abolish Corporate Personhood and Restore Democracy" also generated discussion from residents. Several Maine towns and cities have passed similar resolutions, seeking to send the message that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights to influence policies. One citizen requested a written ballot to vote on the issue and his motion was defeated. The resolution passed with a show of hands.

Article 23 was amended to increase funding for town basketball teams to a total of $300 from the originally proposed $100, changing the final line for Article 23 to $2,200.

Article 24, funding for Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Service, again brought a plea for volunteers from Chapin. He said Montville EMTs did more calls this year that Liberty EMTs — the first time that has ever happened.

"If we don't keep enough critical mass, we will go out of business," Chapin said.

He said emergency workers will be paid stipends in the near future.

"We're not asking for money from the town…the real question is will it bring in more people?" he concluded.

Residents also considered changing the bottom line of Article 27 relating to funding of social service agency requests. Some wanted to decrease funding for the Red Cross, while others sought to increase funding to Kno-Wal-Lin. One amendment to move funding from the Red Cross to Kno-Wal-Lin was withdrawn and a new amendment proposed to keep Red Cross levels the same and increase funding to Kno-Wal-Lin — that amendment failed and the article passed as written.

Article 29 addressing the town's debt service was approved at the higher selectmen's recommendation of $17, 314. 78. The selectmen's recommendation was $3,000 higher than the budget committee based on Tax Anticipation Note applications, according to Selectman Kyle Wright. He noted the TAN paid the school district last year and was only an estimate of the school cost increase for this year.

"It could be a lot less, last year it was paid off early," Wright said.

Krueger added there is not enough money in the town's surplus to pay the school bill if the higher amount is not approved. Residents passed the article based on selectmen's recommendation.

Krueger noted Liberty is likely over the state-imposed LD1 spending cap when residents took up article 32 to approve exceeding state recommendations. He said the only way to increase the allowed spending is through new construction, of which there has been very little in recent years.

Town meeting concluded just after noon and residents stayed on to enjoy lunch in the school cafeteria.

Reporter Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 338-3333 or sgrinnell@villagesoup.com.

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