Despite messy weather and the threat of worse to come, 128 registered voters came out to town meeting on Saturday, March 5, and spent the hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. deliberating warrant articles 3 through 78 in the historic town house. By the end of that time, a total budget of $2,612,295 had been approved for municipal and educational costs, with the school share to be raised up by 3.31 percent to $1,620,461, while the municipal budget was held fairly steady at $696,493, with $30,800 additional to be appropriated from surplus.
It was standing room only within minutes of moderator David Anderson’s call to order, as residents gathered to conduct the town’s business. In most instances, a show of hands was adequate to judge their wishes, with only one written ballot required, for Article 56. State law requires a vote on whether or not to exceed the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model; this year the proposed budget exceeded ESP by $231,698; last year, it was $221,661. The vote was 86-8 in favor.
Regardless of what motivated the unusually large attendance at town meeting, citizens awaiting discussion of the ordinances contained in Articles 41 and 42 were attentive through discussions about compensation for local officials, costs of running the town office and preserving the town house, repair of the town dock, upkeep of town roads and bridges, operation of streetlights, disposal of septic tank and cesspool sludge, replacement of road signs and funding reserve accounts.
A show of hands was fine for approving $90,908 as Sedgwick’s share of the county tax, $98,643 for use of the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, and $1,917 for dispatch services from the Hancock County Regional Communications Center.
In Article 38, what selectmen were seeking authorization to do with tax-acquired property prompted an exchange between selectmen and those curious about the process. Newly elected selectmen Neil Davis responded in a few words, saying, “Anyone who can’t pay (taxes due on foreclosed property) should come into the town office and set up a system (of payments) so they can keep the home.”
Peter Neill was spokesman for Article 41, to see if the town would vote to adopt an ordinance entitled “Town of Sedgwick, Maine, Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance.” Having served on the committee that prepared the ordinance, with input from the planning board, and in attendance at a recent informational hearing, Neill faced a barrage of comments, on subjects ranging from narrow representation on the committee to unseemly haste in preparing the ordinance. When it was suggested a wait of another six months would do no harm, committee member Nicole Gray said, “We do not have to wait. We have already seen what can happen,” a reference to the nearby Vinalhaven wind project.
As the lone dissenter on the committee, Paul Trowbridge acknowledged concerns about noise and size, but he indicated there hadn’t been enough study done on ordinances in other parts of Maine and joined the call to delay adopting the proposed ordinance to give more time for consideration. After lengthy discussion, a vote to adopt the ordinance was called, and with such a large majority in favor, it was not necessary to count the dozen or so hands raised in opposition.
After a break in town meeting action, voters returned to address Article 42, an ordinance entitled, “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance” that prompted only a single question about town liability. When assured the issue was about private enterprise, such as the Sedgwick school eighth grade food sale selling coffee, baked beans and pastries for a class trip and class gift, the vote to adopt the ordinance was virtually unanimous.
While most of the education articles were considered in one vote, voting for “charities” was a different matter. In some instances there was a spokesperson on hand to explain what each supplicant did to help local residents. Sedgwick resident Joan Clapp-Allen, spoke on behalf of Nichols Day Camp, while Blue Hill Public Library Board of Directors president Tom Morris and several Sedgwick residents spoke about the BHPL. Voters honored the library’s request for $3,600. The only request turned down was that for $1,653 from Maine Coast Memorial Hospital.