PALMYRA — Residents at Saturday’s Town Meeting voted to approve a municipal budget of $754,837 but rejected a proposed ordinance regulating yard sales.
About 70 people turned out for the meeting, held at the community center. They approved all 52 warrant articles in three hours.
The approved budget is $25,414 more than the $729,423 voters appropriated last year and does not include school and county budgets, which will not be known until June. Town officials said they don’t know how much the current tax rate of $14.50 per $1,000 worth of valuation will increase until those figures are known.
The proposed yard sale ordinance, recommended by the Planning Board, would have required residents to get a $2 permit to hold a yard sale and would have prohibited people from having more than three sales a year. The sales would have had to be separated by at least 30 days, and residents would have had to get a permit at least 14 days before a sale.
The proposal also stipulated that only personal property — not new or used goods purchased or consigned specifically for yard sales — could be sold.
Planning Board member Virginia Turner said she helped write the ordinance, which was designed to stop people from having long-running sales that they call “yard sales” but really are businesses, she said. Some of those sales are held every weekend and never get cleaned up, according to Turner.
The proposal did not go over well with some residents, including Barbara Bell.
“What is in my garage or my barn I don’t think is the town’s business; and if I want to sell it over the Internet or any other way, I don’t think the town has a right to tell me,” Bell said.
She said she agrees that ongoing yard sales should be better maintained but the proposed ordinance needs to be rewritten. She parents in town have small children who outgrow their clothes and the parents need to buy new ones. The ordinance, if approved, would not be fair to them, she said.
“This is putting a real burden on these people,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
A requirement that people get a permit at least 14 days before a yard sale also makes no sense, Bell said. A weatherman can not predict the weather 14 days in advance; likewise, people planning a yard sale have no way of knowing what the weather will be two weeks ahead, she said.
Voters defeated the proposal by a show of hands.
Some warrant articles drew contentious debate, including a request to appropriate $10,000 for assessing work — with $5,000 of that amount to be raised and $5,000 to be taken from surplus.
Priscilla Jones, vice chairwoman of the selectmen, who was returned to her seat in Friday’s election with 91 votes, said she thought people who wanted the article to be defeated did not have the town’s best interests at heart.
“I believe that it’s personal,” she said.
Jones, who does assessing work for the town, said she has not had a raise in more than three years. She added that she does not think such work should be done by volunteers.
At that, Carlton Preble said all selectmen are elected to be assessors and overseers of the poor and should share the work.
“Don’t give me this crap about one person needs the money and one person does all the work,” Preble said.
Jones, however, said a lot has changed since the old days when assessing was simpler. The town also has a lot more commercial property, she said.
“This is work that needs to be done by someone who is trained to do it,” she said.
Resident Lorna Rowe agreed with Preble, saying assessing is part of selectmens’ responsibilities.
“We’re paying for something that really is supposed to done by a board,” she said.
Some residents complained about a request to take $11,968 from surplus to make up for overdrafts last year in recycling, public works and fire protection. They said town officials should keep a closer eye on spending.
But selectmen said there is no way, for instance, to predict how many fires will occur in town.
Meanwhile, Jones said a change was made this year in the town’s budgeting system that will make it much more accountable. Also, Palmyra has a new administrative assistant, she said.
Residents approved the article by secret ballot, 31-23.
Voters approved spending $150,000 for the town charge account, which includes salaries, utilities, supplies, equipment and contracted services; $50,660 for insurance; $9,000 for the Town Hall, utilities and maintenance; $49,260 for the third of five annual payments for construction of a building to be used as a town garage; and $200,000 for public works. They also voted to authorize selectmen to borrow up to $175,000 to buy public works trucks and spend $105,000 for solid waste disposal; $30,000 for recycling; $5,000 for improving the town’s assessing office and conference room; $7,500 for animal control; 5,500 for recreation; $3,000 for the library; and $10,000 for an investment account for future capital improvements for town-owned buildings and properties.
In Friday elections, write-in candidate Brent Hale was elected to the Board of Selectmen. He and Jones, as well newcomer Galen Knight and write-in candidate Daniel Sprague, had competed for two seats on the five-member board.
Incumbent Darren Briggs ran unopposed for his three-year seat on the Regional School Unit Board of Directors and was re-elected Friday.