PALMYRA — The Town Office will move to new quarters this year in the town’s new community center, the former elementary school on U.S. Route 2.

That was the decision of 61 voters Saturday, with just 32 opposed to the move.

The issue proved to be the most contentious issue before the annual Town Meeting, held at the community center. More than half the voters left the meeting shortly afterward.

In the fall of 2010, the town took possession of the former school when it was no longer needed by RSU 19. Volunteers have been running the building and fundraising for it since then.

“This is our legacy,” said former Selectman Michael Cray, a supporter of the center. “Palmyra has no center. This building will draw us together as a community again.

Cray cited the division the Interstate creates in the town’s geography, noting that no other Palmyra building can hold large groups or provide a community atmosphere.

“We have the volunteers to make this our community center and draw more people in the future,” Cray said. “We’ve had 150 events in this building just since January.”

Selectman Brian Barrows offered a PowerPoint presentation citing the cost of maintaining the building and the cost of shutting it down, and listing the money already raised by rental uses.

Local resident Cindy Preble opposed moving the Town Office into the building, saying it is “sucking money out of our pockets.” She said the costs of running the building are unclear and there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t cost more in the future.

The approved warrant article calls for raising $20,000 from taxation for the building and taking $20,000 from surplus to move the Town Office. Residents voted to take no action on articles proposing to sell the building and to fund its operation only as a community center.

Voters also debated whether to allow townspeople to use the facility free of charge, opting in the end to charge for use of the gymnasium, the main attraction at the facility, but leaving the classrooms free.

A “healthy surplus” enabled the town to fund several articles during the annual session, allowing for an additional $50,000 from surplus to reduce the 2013 tax commitment. Selectmen proposed taking $300,000 to maintain a level tax rate of $15 per $1,000 of valuation, but voters increased that by $50,000 when they learned there was a greater surplus than there was last year — more than $600,000, at least $50,000 more than in 2012.

Adding the additional $50,000 from surplus will more than pay Palmyra’s share of the RSU 19 loan approved in Friday’s voting, according to Selectman Priscilla Jones.

“All things being equal, the school budget and county assessment, Palmyra’s tax rate could decrease by half a mill (50 cents per $1,000 of valuation),” she said.

Brian Barrows and Vondell Dunphy were re-elected to the Board of Selectmen in Friday voting, and Don Mendell was elected to the RSU 19 Board of Directors.

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