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Town meeting

Voters choose successors for Flacke, Scribner; budget falls slightly

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Apr 17, 2021
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Morrill residents vote at their annual town meeting April 17.

Morrill — The changing of the guard on the Board of Selectmen and at the Fire Department were emotionally freighted moments during the town meeting April 17. In addition, under the guidance of moderator Todd Greely, the town efficiently passed a 2021 municipal budget that is down by $7,975, or 1.6%, from last year, going from $491,902 to $483,927.

The meeting began with Clerk Melinda "Mindy" Rowlands remembering former First Selectman Tom Flacke, who died Nov. 1, 2020, from COVID-19. She recalled his humility and how he deeply appreciated small kindnesses others did for him. Rowlands also asked for a moment of silence in memory of Flacke.

During the election portion of the meeting, Selectman Randall "Randy" Place was chosen to fill the open first selectman's seat for three years, which left his seat as second selectmen vacant. Mike Farris was chosen to fill the remaining year of the term.

Place and Farris, along with Third Selectman Gary Sheldon, were also elected as the board of road commissioners for the year.

Longtime Fire Chief Pat Scribner stepped down after 13 years in the role of chief and 25 on the department, but said he would still be around to help out. He was praised by Place, who spoke of how lucky the town was to have people like Scribner and others who help take care of the town. "There's no department like the Morrill Fire Department. … It's well spoken of around the county," Place said, attributing the department's good name to Scribner's dedication.

When Dean Rowlands was nominated as the new fire chief, former chief Jethro Pease stood and offered his support, saying he remembered when Rowlands had started with the department as a high school student. After he was elected, Rowlands made a plea for Fire Department volunteers, and noted that, since he does not work in town, he will not be able to respond to calls during weekday hours, as Scribner did.

All the warrant articles passed with little discussion. The budget item for the Reserve Account was amended by Pease, who asked that, since the town had a cash balance of more than $1.6 million, $5,000 from surplus be added to the line for the fire building, doubling it to $10,000, in addition to a current balance of around $8,400 in the account. Pease said the building needs an addition for a meeting room, a chief's office and storage, as well as a new furnace and interior repairs. The article passed as amended, with $85,000 raised from taxes and $5,000 from surplus.

One other budget item of note was a new $500,000 bond for road paving. The previous bond will be paid off by the end of April.

In other business, voters reelected Jean Dube for three more years as their representative to Regional School Unit 71. Dube told residents that the town's share of the school budget will be going up because Belfast's valuation declined from last year, raising the proportion of the budget to be paid by other towns in the district. In addition, she said, Belfast wants to change the formula for apportionment of taxes so that it is not based solely on valuation.

Dube went on to say that the district is considering consolidating its elementary schools and leasing buildings formerly owned by MBNA to house elementary students. Finally, she said RSU 71 is also planning a capital campaign to support district sports.

Before the meeting ended, voters also approved an article authorizing the town to conduct a poll of residents as to what should be done regarding the cost of maintaining the Community Building and look into options for sale, demolition or other uses.

The total 2021 budget, including the town's contribution to the county budget and an estimated $845,000 for the school district, is estimated at $1,471,903, down from last year's 1,478,000 by $6,097, or 0.4%. In addition to the amounts for the county and schools, Morrill will raise $227,927 from taxes for municipal expenses, down from last year's $235,902 by $7,975, or 3.4%.

Newly elected Second Selectman Mike Farris, right, is sworn in by Morril Clerk Melinda "Mindy" Rowlands following the April 17 town meeting. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
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