ATHENS — Residents at Town Meeting on Saturday agreed to a municipal budget for the coming year of slightly more than the $446,000 raised last year, but they rejected a bid by Road Commissioner Dwight Weese to spend up to $40,000 for the possible purchase of a fourth truck for the Highway Department. The measure was defeated by a vote of 20-12.

The spending doesn’t include schools and the town’s share of the county tax. The current tax rate of $18.99 for every $1,000 in property valuation should remain about the same, selectmen said.

Weese, the incumbent who was re-elected Friday, 74-25, over challenger and former Road Commissioner John Barron, said his idea for a fourth truck was that the town could use the proposed $40,000 as a down payment on a new truck, having just fixed one of its existing trucks. Another of the existing trucks would be phased out or sold under the plan, leaving the town with three good working trucks, Weese said.

The Budget Committee recommended the article, which included using $3,000 from the brush cutting account and $5,000 from equipment maintenance account, with the balance to come from the equipment replacement account.

Lengthy discussion of the proposal began with an objection from resident Donna Avery, who said she wanted to keep the maintenance account on solid ground.

“I’m not for the new truck,” Avery said. “I’m not for it at all.”

After Avery’s comments, resident Beverly Lake made a motion to amend the article, but there was no specific amendment and the motion failed.

“What I was trying to do was take some money out of some of the other accounts to help put towards a new truck,” Weese said after the meeting, which about 35 people attended.

“It was assuming the third truck wasn’t going to be fixed at the time,” added Second Selectman Charles Rotondi, who was re-elected Friday.

Now town officials will have to wait until next March to try the idea again or call a special town meeting this summer, the men said.

“What happens now is nothing. The article’s dead,” Rotondi said. “He’s got a truck fixed and it’s going to be business as usual until something else changes.”

“We’re OK right now,” Weese said as yet another winter storm started outside.

In other voting Saturday, Athens residents agreed to spend $81,000 for solid waste disposal and the town transfer station.

First Selectman Guy Anton said that cost increased 20 percent to 25 percent in 2014, with more activity and trash accepted at the transfer station.

“Trash is up and we don’t know why,” Anton said.

Anton, Weese and others said they were willing to begin work to establish a recycling and composting program.

Anton said spending increases this year include money to fix leaks in the roof of the town garage, a $1-an-hour increase in pay for the road commissioner and a helper, and upkeep and mowing of the Wesserunsett rest area on Route 150, which the town has taken over from the state.

The town also has taken over snowplowing at Athens Community School since residents voted to leave the Madison-based school district. Anton said there is no point in putting that cost — about $2,000 for wages, fuel and sand — into the school budget because it all comes from Athens taxpayers anyway, including it as a town expense reduces paperwork.

Residents on Saturday also approved spending $165,000 for town roads, including $55,500 for summer roads, $42,000 for winter roads and $34,500 to stockpile sand and salt.

Voters agreed to appropriate $96,424 for general town government, including officers’ salaries and insurance; $30,000 for the Athens Volunteer Fire Department; $11,000 for support of the poor; and $25,000 for road paving.

Town Clerk and Tax Collector Tracey Rotondi, who was re-elected Friday, said 100 votes were cast in that secret-ballot election. There are 729 registered voters in Athens.

Also re-elected unopposed was Third Selectman Mark Munn and school board director Victoria Avery.

Marc Courtemanche was the Town Meeting moderator.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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