West Gardiner residents will vote at Saturday’s Town Meeting on a proposed budget slightly greater than the budget passed last year and will choose a new town clerk from seven candidates during the election earlier in the day.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to noon at the Town Office to vote for a member of the Board of Selectmen and for the open position of town clerk, excise tax collector and administrator to the selectmen. Voting on the town warrant, which includes a proposed ordinance to allow for the recall of elected officials, is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
The amount to be raised by taxes in the proposed $1,008,038 budget, $413,714, is roughly $6,500 more than last year; but the increase probably won’t affect the tax rate, said Gregory Couture, chairman of the selectmen.
“How the school budget affects it, that’s a different story. We know the numbers in the school budget are going to go up,” Couture said. “What we’ve proposed in the town budget won’t affect the (tax) rate.”
The town’s tax rate is $10.90 per $1,000 of property valuation.
The proposed budget contains no significant changes compared to last year.
One of the largest individual increases from last year is a $20,000 increase in the winter road maintenance budget, which would bring the total request to $120,000 and is the result of this winter depleting the town’s salt and sand supply, Couture said. The selectmen are recommending the higher amount to allow the town to replenish its salt and sand supplies and to be prepared in case next winter requires as many resources.
“If we have another hard winter like this, we’re going to need the extra money,” Couture said.
The selectmen also are proposing to change the Collins Mill Dam repair account to a fund for building a town boat landing below the dam on Cobbosseecontee Stream. Couture said the town plans to try to finish the landing sometime this year with the $3,239 in the account. If that’s not enough, the town would have to request more money next year, he said.
Another change, adding $10,000 for staff training, is there because the town will need to train a new town clerk. Couture said the interim clerk, Nancy T. O’Laughlin, will train the new person.
O’Laughlin was appointed to the position in December after Heidi Peckham resigned to take a job with the state.
The seven clerk candidates on the ballot are Jennah K. Cunningham, Kim E. Flynn, Heather M. Hinkley, James R. Howe, Tabatha L. Hustus, Angela J. Phillis and Ann G. Plourde. O’Laughlin said none of them has worked for the town before.
It’s unusual for the town to have that many candidates on the ballot. O’Laughlin said she’s never seen more than three candidates running for a position in her 35 years at the Town Office.
In the selectmen’s race, Merton Hickey is running unopposed for a seat he’s held for more than 25 years.
This year’s warrant includes a proposed ordinance to allow residents to recall an elected official. If it passes, residents will be able to initiate a recall election if petitioners gather signatures totaling at least 10 percent of the number of votes cast in town during the most recent gubernatorial election.
State law allows municipalities to enact recall ordinances, but such a recall effort may occur only in a case involving an elected official convicted of a crime against the municipality while in office.
Voters rejected a proposal to enact the same ordinance last June, 112-68. The person who petitioned to vote on the ordinance last year, however, said at the time that the opposition was a result of people thinking it was targeted at a newly elected selectman. The effort to enact the ordinance began two days after Earle McCormick defeated longtime selectman Victor Goodwin Sr., who had held the seat for 44 years.