BY DOUG HARLOW

Staff Writer

BENTON — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday stayed close to projected spending recommendations for the coming year, keeping the tax rate at $11.50 for every $1,000 in property valuation.

Approved articles brought spending for 2012 to just over $807,000, or about $62,000 less than last year.

In the only departure from recommended spending, residents agreed to give the Benton town clerk an annual stipend of $800, plus $20 per hour.

The clerk’s position, held by Julie Morrison, is an elected position, but voters at last year’s Town Meeting agreed to change her pay status from salary to hourly and to take up the specifics of the wage at this year’s meeting. She works approximately two hours a week.

First Selectman Ryan Liberty said the board looked at clerks in other communities of similar size and agreed to the $20 per hour pay rate.

In townwide elections on Friday, Liberty was returned to office for a three-year term, beating former Planning Board Chairman Robert Morrissette 246-99.

In other voting, former Selectman Richard Lawrence, the town’s alewife warden, beat former code enforcement officer Arthur Thompson Jr. for one seat as tax collector, excise tax collector and treasurer. The position was vacant with the retirement of David Gagnon.

Gagnon, who served the town for 23 years, was honored at the start of the Town Meeting with a plaque recognizing his many years of work for the town. His wife Nita also was honored with a bouquet of flowers.

Also honored with a plaque on Saturday was veteran Edward Hoyt, who was recognized for his many years serving on a variety of town committees.

In other money matters Saturday, residents agreed to spend $81,700 for road paving, a figure down from about $118,000 last year because many of the paving projects have been done on schedule over recent years. Residents said former Road Commissioner Ken Dudley, who died in 2011, did a good job of keeping up with road paving projects.

The town’s new Road Commissioner, Todd Hunt, was elected Friday for his first, full one-year term.

Voters also agreed to spend $135,000 for fire protection this year, $115,000 for solid waste management and to take $100,000 from surplus accounts to off set taxation.

Liberty said the town is in its final year of a fire protection contract with the town of Fairfield and is pleased with the service. He said Benton will renegotiate the fire contract, but with an eye on other towns as well, including neighboring Clinton and Winslow.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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