ST. ALBANS — Voters at Town Meeting approved a $1 million spending plan for 2015 and enacted an ordinance to regulate pawnshops in town, but they rejected a proposal to buy property for a new municipal parking lot.

Only 51 of the town’s 1,385 registered voters turned out at the Town Hall on Water Street to act on the 43-article town warrant.

One of the items of most interest was a proposed pawnbrokers ordinance that allows the town to license and regulate pawnshop owners.

Town Manager Rhonda Starks told voters that someone had approached the Town Office in December with interest in setting up a pawnshop. Without an ordinance, the shop would have to be licensed and regulated by the state, through a more complicated and lengthy process.

With its own ordinance, the town could maintain some local control over what shops are allowed in town, Starks said.

The new ordinance allows the Board of Selectmen to issue licenses to pawnbrokers for a $50 fee. It also requires pawnshop owners to maintain records showing the name, age, sex and address of each person pawning items; the time and date of the transaction; and identifying numbers or distinguishing marks on the items.

Under the ordinance, items have to be kept on the premises for at least 14 days before being resold, and records of all transactions must be provided to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office on request, and the sheriff’s office will retrieve and review all pawn slips at the end of the month.

Voters seemed to regard the idea of having a pawnshop in town with caution, but a number of them noted that if a pawnshop is going to come into town, it should at least be on the town’s terms.

“If they can go through the state anyway, I think we should keep a little control over it,” resident Ronald Fowle said.

The ordinance also showed that the town was open to new business enterprises, said Jason Scholten, who owns Redneck Mobile Welding and Fabrication.

“It shows that the town supports local business,” Scholten said.

A majority passed the ordinance, with only a handful voting against the measure.

A proposed land purchase also generated discussion.

Selectmen decided to pass on to voters a proposal to buy less than an acre from Dennis and Ann Smith for $5,000, to be taken from the town’s surplus, Town Manager Stark said.

The land would have been used to create a parking lot near the town’s ballfields and playground on Mason Corner Road, but a number of residents wondered whether the cost of building the parking lot would be worth the number of cars it could accommodate, and also why the town would pay more for the property than its tax valuation. Starks confirmed that the land is valued at $3,500.

Voters shot down the proposal, voting for the Budget Committee’s recommendation to apply zero funds from surplus to the purchase.

A $1,008,857 annual budget, almost $20,000 more than the 2014 spending plan, passed overwhelmingly. The budget includes spending for repaving on Nyes Corner, Pond, and Ballard roads and replacing culverts on Springer Landing Road.

It also includes an additional $25,000 for a new salt-and-sand shed reserve account, and $20,000 for professional assistance for a new comprehensive plan.

Projected heating fuel savings over the next year allowed voters to knock off $3,000 from the fire and highway department and town hall accounts, as recommended by the Budget Committee.

Although the budget is larger this year, it is not expected to affect the town’s tax rate of $19.40 per $1,000 worth of property, Stark said.

Voters also approved the purchase of a new $40,000 compressed air foam system for the Fire Department’s engine No. 1 through the fire equipment reserve account.

Fire Chief Jason Emery said that although the purchase would drain the account almost completely, the new apparatus would help the department extinguish fires much faster than its current equipment does.

Voters on Friday re-elected Hiram Weymouth as selectman for a three-year term and Town Clerk Stacey Desrosiers and Road Commissioner Ronnie Finson to one-year terms. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Dube was re-elected to a three-year term, while James O’Neil and Ronald Fowle were elected to the committee as write-in candidates.

Patricia Gallison and Jason Scholten were elected to the Regional School Unit 19 school board for three- and two-year terms, respectively.

According to Town Clerk Desrosiers, only 84 votes were cast in the elections.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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