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by Faith DeAmbrose
Despite an April Fools snowstorm that dumped about half a foot of snow across the region, more than 700 voters turned out to participate in annual town meeting elections Friday, April 1. With contested seats on the board of selectmen and school board, voters reelected long-time selectman John Bannister, while nudging out three-term school board chairman Ben Wootten to seat incumbent Susan Keenan and newcomer Ann Rice. (See a complete listing of election results at the end of this story.)
As the meeting reconvened April 2, more than 100 registered voters took seats in the Blue Hill Consolidated School gymnasium, eventually authorizing $4.4 million for school, and $1.75 million for municipal, expenses. The school budget saw an increase of $55,000, or 1.67 percent, while the municipal budget saw a decrease of $1,184 from last year.
Voters made quick time of most of the warrant articles, especially since moderator Bob Granger took advantage of the “discretion” afforded to him under Article 3, allowing him to “dispense with the complete reading or rereading of an article.” He chose not to read the individual articles and the meeting moved right along.
Just about the only articles to cause more than a one-question-and-answer dialogue from the audience dealt with ordinances and approvals for a sewer extension and sand-salt shed.
A local foods ordinance drew support from farmers and citizens alike, who agreed that the passage of the ordinance would send a clear message that the town was at odds with the increasing intrusion of state and federal agencies attempting to legislate individual choice and freedom. While some said they “were troubled” with the language of the ordinance, others felt there was no logical way to enforce it.
At the end of the discussion, the ordinance was enacted by a voice vote.
An ordinance to allow homeowners access to money earmarked for energy efficiency was also adopted. Under the Property Assessed Clean Energy Ordinance, residents will be able to apply for low-interest state and federal loans through Efficiency Maine. Selectman Jim Schatz said if the ordinance was adopted, the town would receive a package of material outlining the availability of funds.
Voters gave the board of selectmen the authority to continue with a fourth branch of the town sewer system up Greene’s Hill. The project will be completed with the original funds authorized for work on the Mines Road, South Street, and Main Street, which came in under budget.
An amount not to exceed $500,000 was approved for the design and construction of a salt-sand shed to be located off the Ellsworth Road where the town salt-sand pile currently is.
While many in the room questioned the sizable price tag of such a shed, they were pleased to hear from Selectman John Bannister that approximately 66 percent of the money will be repaid by the state “when funds become available.”