WILTON — Library supporters and staff members expressed relief Tuesday after receiving full funding at the annual Town Meeting.

Despite some dissension and a lengthy debate, voters approved the library’s request and a minimum property upkeep ordinance, along with a $2.9 million town budget at the three-hour meeting Monday night.

Residents approved the $108,650 request during a voice vote with a clear majority following a 45-minute debate on whether the town should fund the nonprofit library, which is not a town department.

The roughly 160 people who gathered for the meeting filled the room and spilled out the door of the Academy Hill School cafeteria. Extra chairs were brought out in an attempt to seat the overflow crowd.

David Olson, director of the Wilton Free Public Library, said the staff is happy to have had a strong supporter turnout. While the library’s request traditionally has been funded by the town, he said, for the last few years there has been debate about whether it should be funded fully.

“This year we made sure we got the word out that we needed support,” he said. He said most residents have supported the group generously over the years.

The Board of Selectmen voted 3–2 to recommend not funding the library’s request, and the Budget Committee voted 7–0 with one member abstaining to recommend not funding the request.

Budget Committee member Thomas Whalen said his committee voted against the funding because its members thought it was fiscally irresponsible to give that much money to an organization over which they have no control. He also said the committee thought the library could do a better job fundraising.

Many residents in the room made disgusted noises and booed after Whalen spoke, and one man who spoke on behalf of the library stormed out of the room later during the debate.

Out of the $108,650, library representatives said, $60,000 would pay the salaries of two full-time employees, including one with a master’s degree in library science, and six part-time employees. They also said the library serves as the community center and employment bureau for the area by providing free Internet access. Teachers and parents said the library is necessary to support area youth education.

One man exclaimed “Amen” when people suggested the town could not afford to support the library, while another woman said people were un-American if they refuse to finance a free library. One threatened to move if the library’s request was passed and he had to pay taxes for it, and another threatened to move if there was no library for his son to use.

The $2.92 million budget, up 1 percent from the budget of the year before, received little discussion and was overwhelmingly passed.

The amount raised from property taxes would remain at $1.78 million, the same as last year, she said. The current property tax rate is $15.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Voters also approved four ordinances, including a minimum property upkeep ordinance after debating the proposal at length.

The minimum property maintenance ordinance, which passed 79–69, gave the town the authority to require homeowners who live in the downtown area to keep their property in “good repair.”

Examples of good repair included a yard free of trash, homes with no missing shingles or crumbling brick exteriors and all debris considered a health and safety hazard removed.

Voters overwhelmingly passed three other ordinances that will regulate “disorderly property,” recycling and fireworks.

The disorderly property ordinance proposal will require property owners to meet with police and town officials if police respond to four complaints in 30 days about disorderly conduct at a property. Any owner who refuses to cooperate could face a $50 fine.

The recycling ordinance updates town regulations to conform with the new single-stream recycling facility.

The fireworks ordinance requires fireworks permits in any circumstance that also would require a burn permit.

Tiffany Maiuri won a vacant selectman seat, 158–151, defeating Raymond Lagasse. James Black was elected to the school board, and Scott Taylor was re-elected to the Board of Selectmen unopposed.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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