RICHMOND — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on Tuesday decided they’d rather meet in warmer weather after all.

They voted to change the date of the annual meeting back to the first Tuesday of June starting next year, reversing a vote of two years ago that moved the meeting from June to its current date on the first Tuesday in April.

The meeting was shifted from June to April partly as an effort to boost attendance, according to Town Manager Marian Anderson. However, town officials said attendance has not increased since the change to April.

Residents thus voted in favor of the change back to June.

Tax due dates

In addition, a proposal to increase the number of property tax due dates from two to four, to allow residents to pay their taxes in four installments spread over the year, was dismissed by residents at Tuesday’s annual meeting.

Recreation

They approved $22,290 for summer recreation, following about a half-hour of often heated debate, then later chastised town officials for not giving more to help the town’s senior citizens.

The Budget Committee recommended $7,500 for the recreation program, while selectmen recommended the $22,900 figure that eventually was approved. Officials said the program also receives about $4,000 in user fees.

Tim Arnold, chairman of the Budget Committee, said the coordinator’s salary — which he said would be $16 an hour but is listed on town documents at $15 an hour — is too high compared to the pay for other jobs in town, including those of firefighters and library workers. He also said the coordinator has spent more than the department had budgeted.

“She could be making $9 an hour. There’s no need for her to be making $16 an hour,” Arnold said, referring to Rose Beckwith, coordinator of the recreation program, who is also a selectwoman.

Residents said the program provides young people with valuable activities and employs teenagers from the town, who learn about responsibility through those jobs.

Beckwith said she is contracted to work 108 hours but works many more than that. She said there have been no staff raises in five years.

She echoed another resident’s statement that programs for the young and elderly often face a negative reaction at Town Meeting.

“These kids are the future,” Beckwith said. “I think this program is important to have available to these kids, because there are several of them who don’t get out of town all summer (without it). I hope you give our children the opportunity to participate in this program.”

Senior services

Immediately after that vote, residents were asked to approve the selectmen’s recommended amount of $7,500 for the senior services account, which funds a senior center downtown where seniors meet for activities, companionship, and informational sessions.

Horning bristled at the selectmen’s recommended amount, noting she asked for $11,615 for the program.

“I can’t believe you’re going to give (the summer recreation program for youths) $26,000 and you’re only going to give the seniors $7,500,” said Betty Horning, program director. “It’s just not fair. I support Rose (Beckwith) and everything she does, but I also think you have to support these seniors who’ve supported you for years.”

Selectman Tracy Tuttle said the funding request for seniors was cut back because the group has money collected in fundraisers in an account already, and that can be used to help pay the costs of the program.

Voters eventually approved $11,615, the amount originally requested by the group of seniors, after a successful motion to end debate.

Church buildings

A proposal to accept the donation of two church buildings and commit money to repair and maintain them also won voter approval.

Earlier this year, the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, at the direction of the dwindling congregation of St. Matthias Episcopal Church, offered to give the town its two buildings at 15 Spruce St.

The two single-story buildings are the 1,340-square-foot church itself and an 864-square-foot meeting hall, Roberts Hall.

The property is assessed by the town as being worth $207,900.

Canon for Finance and Stewardship Terry Reimer, of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, said the congregation no longer has enough members to continue and the remaining members decided to offer the building to the town in hopes that it could continue to serve the community.

Anderson said no final decisions have been made about how the town would use the buildings, but she said possibilities town officials have discussed include making it the home of the food pantry, now run in temporary quarters in the basement of the Dresden Richmond United Methodist Church; and moving the senior center, now operating in Front Street space donated by Gary Nash, into Roberts Hall.

The same warrant article asking whether voters wished to accept the church property also asked to appropriate $5,000 from an undesignated fund balance to repair and maintain the property.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]