Town Meeting

Searsport elects Norman, Payson; breezes through 38 articles

Town honors outgoing selectman Aaron Fethke
By Fran Gonzalez | Mar 12, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Residents vote March 10 at the annual Searsport town meeting.

Searsport — The Searsport town meeting began promptly at 9 a.m. at Union Hall, with 38 articles on the warrant. Approximately 50 residents in attendance observed a moment of silence in honor of Marissa Kennedy before the meeting commenced in earnest.

Faith Garrold was chosen as the moderator, a job she has performed several times in the past. The Town Report was dedicated to her and husband Don Garrold for their service and commitment to the town of Searsport.

According to the dedication, "Both feel blessed to have found such a good home town to raise a family and to have been able to support our friends and neighbors over the years!"

A few days before town meeting, Selectman Doug Norman was re-elected with 157 votes and Linda Payson won the remaining selectman slot with 118 votes. Tom Hodgkins received 77 votes and Arthur “A.J.” Koch Jr. had 52 votes.

Tony Bagley was re-elected to the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors with 196 votes; and all nine Budget Advisory Committee members were re-elected for two-year terms.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Jack Merrithew acknowledged Town Clerk Deborah Plourde for her many years of service to Searsport.

Residents plowed through the warrant at a brisk pace, approving all the municipal budget articles without much discussion. Big ticket items included the Public Works Highway Department line item, where $453,455 was approved with $153,455 coming from new taxes and $300,000 from excise tax. Included in this line are pay, benefits and winter sand.

Another big line item was the Road Maintenance Reserve where $275,000 was approved; $175,000 raised from new taxes, $50,000 from revenue and $50,000 from excise tax.

During discussion of the article, one resident asked, "Why can't we get Prospect Street taken care of?"

Town Manager James Gillway said, "I can only answer what I know. I've been told Bob (Seekins) is going to take care of that this year."

Residents approved Sept. 4 as the recommended due date for taxes, and also set the interest rate at 5 percent, the minimum allowable by the state, to start Oct. 9.

A member of the Searsport Historical Society spoke about why the group was asking for $3,000 this year, $500 more than last. "(The funds) will help do the doors on the barns. We also have a red squirrel problem," was the explanation.

Funding for social service agencies was reduced in some cases. The Swan Lake Association requested $1,000 but received $750, which selectmen recommended. TRIAD also requested $1,000 but residents chose the selectmen's recommendation of $500. Maine Youth Alliance (aka Game Loft) requested $1,000 but townspeople decided to go with the selectmen's $500 recommendation.

Life Flight Foundation had not made any previous request to Searsport and residents approved their initial request of $655.

All other agencies and organizations requesting funding received requested amounts. Voters approved a total of $35,786 for 15 requests.

Merrithew added at the conclusion of the meeting, to a round of applause, "Aaron Fethke has decided not to run after serving the town for 12 years."

Fethke thanked selectmen past and present, the town manager and residents for the opportunity to serve the community and added, "I'm probably the only thing keeping you from the chowder. I won't hold you up."

The meeting adjourned around 11:30 a.m.

Deborah Plourde is recognized for her many years of service at the Searsport town meeting, March 10. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
James Gillway answers questions from Searsport residents as moderator Faith Garrold looks on March 10. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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