A packed house of New Sharon voters elected political newcomer Travis Pond as selectman and cut $12,400 from budget requests Saturday at the Town Meeting.
With a vote of 127-83, residents picked Pond over Chairman Maynard Webster, who had been on the board for the past 38 years.
In an unusual display of campaigning, signs promoting Pond with the slogan “A Change We Need” had appeared around town in the weeks before the election.
After the vote, he told the attendees that he wanted to find ways other than property taxes to fund the town, which he said has only a small number of business properties to tax.
“It’s time to move into the 21st century and write for grants,” said Pond, who works for E.J. Pond and Sons.
The 211 Town Meeting voters who gathered on Saturday morning at Cape Cod Hill School approved a $837,915 budget, cutting $12,400 from the original recommended budget but still increasing the budget 8.7 percent from last year’s total.
The effect on the property tax rate won’t be known until the Franklin County and Regional School Unit 9 budgets are complete. Last year RSU 9 accounted for 51 percent of the property tax, and the county budget accounted for 6 percent.
The $336,253 road construction and maintenance budget, which included a $66,577 hike from the year before and provided the largest budget increase, was approved after a few minutes of discussion.
Road Commissioner John Pond said before the vote that request increased mostly so the town could to try to catch up on paving work that had been deferred so long that the roads were crumbling and in need of expensive repaving.
“We’ve let it go so long,” he said.
Other articles on warrant garnered greater scrutiny, with residents asking exactly how many streetlights they illuminate with their $7,000 appropriation and whether $1,500 was needed to clear the U.S. Route 2 sidewalk or if that number could be shaved down.
At Pond’s request, voters approved cutting $9,500 from the salaries of the town officers, including reducing each selectman’s pay from $7,000 to $5,000.
Webster said the selectmen’s pay hadn’t been raised in years and amounted to roughly $10 an hour.
With a show of hands vote, the cuts were approved.
After lengthy discussion, voters turned down articles proposing to switch the town’s voting process to a secret-ballot process and to require residents who want to run for office to file a petition declaring their intent at least 45 days before the election.
Attorney Paul Mills, who was granted permission to speak though he is not a resident, offered a compromise that he said was implemented in Kingfield, where candidates had to file their petitions ahead of time but were not elected by secret ballot. The suggestion was voted down, 38-31.
Residents approved an ordinances allowing for recall elections and updating the town’s minimum lot size law.
The recall election ordinance establishes a petition process to set up a vote on whether to remove elected town officials from office if they have been indicted or convicted of a crime. The petition requires a number of signatures equal to at least 25 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
Last year, New Sharon voters turned down requests from nonprofit organizations that did not send a personal representative to the meeting, but this year residents approved the majority of requests with or without representatives of the organizations present.
Two nonprofits received more money they requested. Safe Voices request was increased from $1,000 to $2,500, and Literacy Volunteers’ request was increased from $100 to $500.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252