PITTSTON — Residents will be asked on Thursday to restore money they cut during the March Town Meeting and to take money out of a reserve account to pay outstanding bills.

Residents will vote on roughly $61,000 in additional funding at the special town meeting set for 7 p. m. Thursday at the Town Office.

The town warrant asks for either $41,200 or $50,567 to come from taxes. The difference is because the warrant has questions asking for an unemployment bill to be paid by a reserve account and through taxes.

Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jane Hubert said she expects taxes to rise slightly this year, but doesn’t think it will be a major increase.

She said the town won’t know what the tax rate will be until sometime after the special town meeting.

Voters upset over the former board’s decision in March to dismiss the longtime town clerk removed $31,000 — roughly the equivalent of the former town clerk’s salary — from the general administrative services account.

The former select board members voted to not reappoint Ann Chadwick as town clerk in March because of issues with her performance.

Residents also rejected a $9,000 request for legal services at the March Town Meeting.

Hubert said she thinks the emotions behind what caused most of the bills and funding shortfalls have subsided, and that people will understand why the money is needed.

“If we don’t have those (staff positions) funded, we don’t have a functioning town, and it would be the state taking over our administration,” she said.

“Most of them are bills, and you have to pay your bills,” Hubert added. “There’s no question about that.”

Thursday’s town warrant asks for $37,000 to fund the salaries and benefits of the new town clerk and the new treasurer and tax collector, stipends from additional work and accrued time from former employees.

The warrant also requests $4,000 in legal fees, but select board members have said it could be lowered to $2,000.

Voters will be given the choice of whether they want to pay for the $9,366.94 unemployment compensation bill either through raising taxes or with the gravel pit and capital improvements account.

The unemployment bill was announced at the select board’s May 15 meeting.

The town can’t reveal to whom it’s owed, because unemployment files are confidential.

Hubert said the only town employees who have left this year are Rose Webster and Chadwick.

Webster, the former tax collector and treasurer, also became town clerk after Chadwick left. Webster resigned effective June 5 to become the town clerk in Farmingdale.

Before the special town meeting, the town will host a celebration at 5 p.m. at the Town Office for Chadwick’s 25 years of service. Hubert said it will be an informal event with refreshments.

The town warrant also requests using the gravel pit and capital improvements account to pay for a $8,093 outstanding legal bill and $2,732 for ambulance costs.

The select board voted at its July 10 meeting to bill the previous board for the more than $8,000 in legal fees in order to send a message to the former selectmen.

Selectwoman Vicki Kelley, who made the motion to send the bill, said the board only had permission to spend $3,000 between January and March.

The former board incurred around $9,000 in legal fees in February and March.

Kelley said she doesn’t expect the former board members to pay the bill.

Tim Marks, one of the former selectman, responded by saying that he doesn’t appreciate being bluffed. He challenged the new board members to sue him if they actually think he owes the town money.

Hubert, who wasn’t in attendance for the vote about sending the bill, said she would only support it if residents made that clear at the board’s 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday and at the Thursday special town meeting.

She said the board could still decide to not send the bills.

Webster, soon after she resigned, raised concerns in an outgoing letter to the town about hiring the new employees on a permanent basis without a guarantee that the funding will be approved in the special town meeting.

The town hired Deborah Barry as the town clerk, and Sarah McLaughlin as tax collector and treasurer at the end of June to replace Webster.

“Taking money out of accounts with no approved funding puts the town and the select board, as well as the person hired, at risk,” she said in the letter.

Hubert said she isn’t worried because she expects residents to pass the request for town employee funding.

“This is an important meeting, and I think it’s going to be a turning point in which direction we’re going to go,” Hubert said. “We have a whole new board out there. We have a new staff.”

She said the board members need “some rational, sound advice” from residents.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

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