ST. ALBANS — A discussion about chairs in the Town Hall generated more discussion than any of the budget items during Saturday morning’s Town Meeting.
Nearly 50 residents in the hall approved all 43 articles on the warrant that required a vote. Turnout was low, according to Town Manager Rhonda Stark.
The town approved $989,146 in municipal appropriations, which is roughly $40,000 more than last year, Stark said.
Voters approved spending $65,000 for the purchase of a public works truck to replace one from 1981, which represented most of the budget increase, Stark said.
“Our equipment is very old. We spend thousands of dollars in repairs every year,” she said. “We’ve been shopping for a month or two, but we’re getting more serious now that it’s been approved. We had it on the warrant last year, but it failed.”
The public works budget was increased from the proposed budget by $4,295 to a total of $269,447 because the snow-filled winter season had stretched the budget thin, Stark said.
“We’ve taken a big hit to the overtime account,” Stark said during discussion of the article. “If it goes on the way it is right now, our overtime account will be expended if we have the same kind of storms in March, April and November and December like we had last year.”
Neither the public works budget nor the truck purchase met opposition. However, discussion stretched past 20 minutes when an article called for refinishing the Town Hall floor.
Article 17 requested $6,235 to refinish the hardwood floor of the century-old building, as well as $5,500 to go toward the building’s septic system. Several people asked for the $6,235 to be removed from the article.
Although not mentioned in the article, members of the Town Hall committee said the current two-seat, wooden folding chairs would be removed from the Town Hall if the floor were refinished. The chairs were a part of the building when it was given to the town, according to Stark, adding that she favors of getting new chairs.
“They are so bulky and so heavy and they scratch the floor,” Stark said after the meeting. “People want them (to stay) because they were a part of the building” when it was built in 1912, she said.
After several minutes of discussion, moderator Michael Wiers asked for a written ballot on the article.
A âyes’ vote would have removed $6,235 from the article, while a âno’ vote would have kept the figure. After several minutes and repeated questions, the written ballot was rescinded, even after a handful people had placed votes in the ballot box.
“This is a small town and people should vote their conscience and not have to look the other way,” Wiers said.
By a show of hands, the article was approved in its original form and was opposed by seven people.
Stark said a meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Town Office to discuss the chairs’ future.
“Technically, the Board of Selectmen and I have the authority to purchase new chairs whether the people want them or not,” Stark said after the meeting. “But if there’s a big outcry and they don’t want us to purchase chairs, we won’t do it.”
No tax money would be used in buying new chairs if the decision is made, she said. The money already has been donated to the town.
In addition to budget matters, four town ordinances were addressed. Road naming and numbering, animal control and cemetery ordinances were all amended, while the nuisance ordinance was repealed.
The property tax rate won’t be calculated until after the school and county appropriations are finalized in July. In 2013, the tax rate was $19.10 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 90-cent increase from the previous year.
Town elections were held Friday. Jason Gould was again elected to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. Thomas Short also will join the board, for a two-year term. Stacey Desrosiers was unopposed for a one-year term as town clerk, as was Ronnie Finson for a one-year term as road commissioner.
Michael Wiers, the only person to submit papers for a three-year term on the Budget Committee, was elected. Barbara Wintle received four write-in votes and also was elected to the committee for three years. However, 12 people each received two votes for the third Budget Committee seat. The town plans to contact each of them, after which the selectmen plan to appoint one person to the seat.
Stacey Lea Watson was elected to a three-year term on the Regional School Unit 19 Board of Directors.
One hundred thirteen of the town’s 1,387 registered voters cast ballots Friday.