Belmont practices social-distancing during town meeting

By Fran Gonzalez | Mar 19, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Belmont residents sit a safe distance away from each other at the annual town meeting March 16, while Fire Chief/Fire Warden Ron Harford II, standing at left rear, talks about the purchase of new radios and pagers for his department.

Belmont — The community room at the Belmont Town Office was sparsely populated Monday evening, with about 25 residents attending the annual town meeting. As a precaution in response to the threat of the coronavirus, chairs were set about 6 feet apart to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

The meeting progressed at lightning speed, with all 19 articles approved by residents in approximately 30 minutes.

Sharon Reed-Hall was reelected first selectman and Suzette Harford and Wanda Pinkham were elected second and third selectmen, respectively. Fire Chief/Fire Warden Ron Harford II was reelected, and so was Steve Hopkins as a director of Regional School Unit 78.

A resident noted that Hopkins was not present because he was self-isolating at home.

Taxes will be deemed delinquent after Nov. 1 and will accrue interest at an annual rate of 6%. Also, the tax collector/treasurer can accept partial payments of current year taxes in advance and partial payments of liens not involved in foreclosures.

The 2020 general government budget amounted to $214,800, with $204,725 raised, $8,319 carried over from last year and $1,754 appropriated, of which $284 was from state snowmobile registration reimbursement, $1,020 from Planning Board and Planning and Development permits, and $450 from building rental.

The largest line item in the government budget was $80,000 for town officials' wages, followed by $40,000 for building repairs and maintenance and $30,000 for employee costs, including insurance and taxes.

Public safety accounts totaled $67,700, with $52,169 raised, $15,130 carried over from last year, and $400 appropriated from donations. Pagers/radio was the highest line item in the public safety budget, at $11,000.

The only discussion of the night occurred when Harford explained the need for $11,000 in pagers and radios.

“This is where I tell everyone what I did,” he said. “As you can see, it’s a pretty sizable increase this year. ... The final amount jumped drastically.”

He went on to say that the Fire Department's old Motorola pagers only lasted two years at most, and the same was true of the radios. The pagers and radios, he said, also did not work across all areas of town.

After calling Yankee Communication and asking what the options were, he decided on new Swissphone pagers and Kenwood radios. “They are not as bulky as our old pagers and they come in a lot better in the area,” he said. “The whole state will be going digital soon — we will be one step ahead of them.”

There are places in town, Harford said, where it is “still a struggle” to get a decent signal, for example, at the Belmont Town Office. “Because of the metal roof, sometimes it comes in, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Harford also said he was commended by the state fire marshal at the Pierce Farm structure fire recently, when the fire marshal said, “... 'your department and mutual aid departments did one hell of a save. With the pictures I’ve seen, I can’t believe anything is still standing here.'

"So hats off to my fire department and hats off to my mutual aid people," Harford said. "We had a good turnout that night. We turn out anywhere between eight members to our full department, which is 15 members right now.

“We feel very lucky for what we have here in town,” he said, ‘We have a very active department, and I thank you for your support.”

One resident asked if he had solicited bids from other companies. “Are they the only game in town?” he asked. “Is there anything comparable at a lesser rate?”

Harford said, “No.” The result of his research, he said, was that Yankee Communication offered the lowest bid. The old Motorola radios, when compared to the new Kenwoods, “don’t even break a squelch,” he added.

In closing, he said the Firefighters' Association had raised enough funds through its annual chicken barbecue and golf tournament to purchase video cameras for the two fire trucks. The cameras, he said, would be used for safety, training and to tell if any driver was going too fast, or in case of an accident, would be used to investigate.

The $633,745 Public Works budget was approved, with the largest line item being $400,000 for capital improvements. The town planned to spend $112,000 for winter road maintenance and $49,000 for trash services.

The town approved spending only 25% of requested amounts on all health and welfare accounts, including $697 for Waldo Community Action Partners, which requested $2,786; $63 for New Hope for Women, which requested $250; $125 for Midcoast Maine Community Action, which requested $500; $208 for Spectrum Generations, which requested $832; and $25 for Game Loft, which requested $100.

The town clerk reported eight marriages, 15 births and 11 deaths in town for 2019. The meeting, which started at 7 p.m,. adjourned at approximately 7:30 p.m.

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