Whitefield voters at the Town Meeting approved the purchase of a new fire truck and enacted a 180-day moratorium on mining.
In secret-ballot voting Saturday, voters agreed to buy a $269,000 pumper-tanker fire truck, 208-152, according to Aaron Miller, town clerk, treasurer and tax collector .
The new truck will replace two trucks now at the Coopers Mills fire station — a 1980 tanker and 1993 engine. It will be financed over 15 years at 3.5 percent interest.
The fire truck vote was pushed to the ballot by residents who petitioned to have it settled that way rather than during the open-floor business portion of the Town Meeting.
Voters gathered Saturday afternoon after the polls closed to decide the fate of the remaining 37 warrant articles.
Miller said they approved a 180-day moratorium, retroactive to Jan. 31, on any new or expanded mining operations, including sand and gravel extraction, as the moratorium text put it, “in order for the Planning Board to develop an ordinance governing such activities within the town and take same to the town for a vote.”
The moratorium was proposed after town officials learned Topsham-based Harry C. Crooker and Sons had received Department of Environmental Protection approval to dig below the water line at the company’s gravel pit in town near the Alna line.
Crooker also must get local Planning Board permission to revise its permit. Town officials expressed concern that Whitefield doesn’t have adequate regulations on the books for mining operations, since a Sagadahoc County Superior Court judge declared the town’s development ordinance unconstitutionally vague in 1994.
“Nothing has really been done with that” since the judge’s decision, Miller said. “This will give us 180 days for the Planning Board to look at the development ordinance. It puts the review of (Crooker’s) application on hold.”
The approximately 100 people at the meeting’s business portion approved every budget item put before them and increased the amount on money proposed for one agency, the Whitefield Food Bank, from $4,000 to $5,000, he said.
The budget included a $100,000 increase in the road maintenance budget, to $265,450.
Overall, the municipal budget of $946,826 approved by voters is about $100,000 higher than last year’s, an 11.8 percent increase. However, voters approved taking $100,000 from surplus to help offset the budget’s effect on property taxes. With those surplus funds included, the budget is expected to require $24,000 more in taxes, a 5.2 percent increase over last year. The school budget, which accounts for about two-thirds of the total budget, won’t be set until it goes to voters in June.
Voters rejected accepting Moosehead Lane as a town road, after extensive discussion.
Elected in secret-ballot voting Saturday morning were incumbent Dennis Merrill, with 198 votes, and Sue McKeen, with 170 votes, in a four-way race for selectman, topping Sam Bartlett Jr., with 137 votes, and Jeffrey Newell, with 90 votes, Miller said.
No one declared candidacy for a seat representing Whitefield on the Regional School Unit 12 school board, leaving the spot to be filled by write-in. Miller said there were write-in votes, but town officials had to confirm with the people whose names were written in that they will serve in those roles before announcing who was elected.
The meeting initially was scheduled to be held at Whitefield Elementary School, but the school was still closed Saturday because of a March 10 fire in the gymnasium. The bulk of voting took place at the Calvary Bible Baptist Church, which is near the school.
Miller said the warrant for the meeting already had been posted announcing the school would be the election site, so town officials still opened the meeting at the school, elected a moderator, then reconvened at the church for the rest of the meeting.
Keith Edwards — firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @kedwardskj