Town meeting 2019

Searsmont thanks outgoing, votes in new, selectman

No spray agreement with the state approved
By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 09, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Voters smile during a light moment at the Searsmont town meeting April 6. The assembly ended in less than two hours with 85 residents attending.

While the annual town meeting drew 85 residents and 15 visitors, with few long debates and a short break in between, the meeting that started at 9 still was over by 10:30 a.m.

The biggest discussion of the day came on the last article, part of which authorized selectmen to dispose of any real estate acquired by the town for non-payment of taxes by advertising the property.

It also said selectmen could sell back the property to the owner, or their heirs, at the cost of unpaid taxes, interest, lien costs, administrative fees, and other fees as determined by the board.

One resident, a lawyer, took issue with the language of the article and suggested changing the wording.

Town Clerk Kathy Hoey said the article has been voted on at town meeting for years. She said it gives selectmen permission to dispose of tax-acquired property, which benefits the owner or heirs and allows them to buy the property back from the town.

Some residents voiced concern about changing the wording.

After two rounds of voting on two separate language changes, the amendments failed. The article was then passed as originally written.

Selectman Bruce Brierley began the meeting by acknowledging two Searsmont residents "who've been outstanding for Searsmont." He recognized Fred Wardwell as the town's "senior, senior citizen" at "96 years young," who was the recipient of the Boston Post Cane earlier this year

Brierley also recognized Sarah Nelson, a second-grade teacher at Ames Elementary School, who was named the state's Veterans of Foreign Wars Elementary Teacher of the Year. Nelson will compete for the national award in Washington, D.C.

Don Corcoran was acknowledged for serving as a selectman for the past eight years. His term concluded this year and he chose not to run again. Brierley presented Corcoran with a certificate of appreciation for his service to the town.

Corcoran said he appreciated the town of Searsmont "accepting me as I am," and that it had been his pleasure.

In elections, David Marceau beat out Chuck Weser for selectman with a vote of 55 to 20. Catherine Robbins-Halsted was voted in as school board representative for Regional School Unit 71 for the next three years and Cenobio Munoz Rico was re-elected to the Cemetery Committee.

Jana Herbener and Joanne Robbins were elected to serve on the Library Board for of Trustees for three-year terms, along with Brad LaRoche serving a one-year term to fill any vacancies that may arise. Chris Brinn and Jonathan Robbins were elected to the Planning Board and Michael Sirota, Heather Kennedy, Rob Hoey, Paul Leeper and Sarah Nelson will serve on the Board of Appeals.

Brierley said that overall, the county tax is up about $18,000 for Searsmont, and the town taxes were up about $28,000 — roughly 4 percent for the county and 4 percent for the town. He thought any increase in taxes could be "erased" with surplus funds. The only unknown is school funding, he said, which he said is the "biggest cost."

Big-ticket items on the budget included $160,000 for wages and benefits, $106,250 for the Fire Department, $455,000 for road and bridge maintenance and $126,000 for debt repayment.

Taxes will be due Sept. 30 for 2019 taxes and interest at 5 percent will be charged on taxes not paid by that date.

One article asked the town to authorize selectmen to enter into a no-spray agreement with the state and take responsibility for roadside mowing through a state contract. One resident asked how much it would cost, to which Brierley answered, "The state pays us to do it and the gentleman we got to do it is cheaper than what the state pays us."

Another resident then noted, "So we're making money on this."

The article passed unanimously.

All social service and nonprofit agencies were given recommended amounts by selectmen, except for The Game Loft, which the town voted to amend and give an additional $50 to reach the requested amount of $200.

According to the annual report, deaths outpaced births 17 to 14, respectively. Six boys and eight girls were born to town residents. Also, six marriages took place.

According to the Selectmen's Report, the board "reluctantly" accepted the resignations of James and Joanne Ames, former fire and rescue chiefs for the town, saying, "Their contributions to the town will be greatly missed." The Searsmont Annual Report was dedicated to the couple.

Fred Wardwell, left, recipient of the Boston Post Cane as the town's oldest resident, is recognized at the Searsmont town meeting April 6. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
At 10 a.m., an hour into the Searsmont town meeting on April 6, a break gives residents a chance to mingle and get something to eat. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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