BENTON — Benton voters at Saturday’s Town Meeting sailed through an 87-article warrant in slightly more than an hour, approving all but one item — a request to spend up to $17,000 to develop a revised comprehensive plan.

The town Budget Committee recommended the comprehensive plan work, but Richard Lawrence, the town’s treasurer, tax collector and excise tax collector, convinced voters otherwise.

Lawrence said the State Planning Office doesn’t exist anymore and the state is not supporting comprehensive plan efforts. Launching a plan update effort is asking a lot of residents and requires a lot of volunteers, Lawrence said.

“I really think there ought to be more consideration of this,” he said. “I would like to see where is the groundswell of support to do something like this when it (town’s comprehensive plan) is not that far out of date.”

Lawrence said he has not seen any problems arise that require a change in the plan.

“That’s just my opinion,” he said. “I’m opposed to it.”

But Planning Board member Roger Averill said the state requires that the updated plan be developed.

“We have no choice. We have to do it,” Averill said. “If there are concerned citizens that would like to help, by all means, let the selectmen know.”

Averill, general assembly member of Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, added that current plans call for KVCOG to help with and oversee the effort to revise the plan. Still, residents went with Lawrence’s recommendation.

Town Meeting moderator David Bernier asked for a show of hands on the request to update the plan, which was defeated.

About 35 people turned out for Saturday’s meeting, held on the second floor of the Benton Grange hall, built in 1915.

In elections Friday, Albert Giroux defeated David Wing in the race for road commissioner, 50-44. Giroux will serve a one-year term. Road Commissioner Todd Hunt, who did not seek re-election, had been in the office four years. Also Friday, Lawrence and Selectman Dan Chamberlain were re-elected with 90 and 93 votes, respectively, for their positions. They ran unopposed.

In other matters Saturday, residents approved a request to raise $160,000 and any additional money needed from surplus for fire protection and rescue services. Harry Fitzpatrick, a director of School Administrative District 49, asked Chamberlain to explain the change in name of the Fairfield Fire Department to Fairfield-Benton Fire Rescue.

Chamberlain said the change came about after Waterville and Winslow were called to provide mutual aid in fighting a fire on Benton Avenue in Benton in 2013 and those communities billed Benton.

“We passed the bill on to Fairfield and they said they’d take care of it,” Chamberlain said.

Waterville and Winslow had a contract with Fairfield, not Benton, he said.

Previously, Benton was a client of Fairfield, paying money each year for fire services used, at a rate that was constantly renegotiated. The two towns last year agreed to a formal union. Under a new agreement, Benton is more of a partner than a client in the fire-rescue operation.

Benton residents also voted to appropriate $100,000 plus $5,000 from excise tax receipts for solid waste disposal. Last year, $98,766 was spent for that purpose.

Selectman Antoine Morin thanked residents for supporting single-stream recycling, saying the town saved $8,000 last year and 23 tons were recycled that would have gone to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington to be burned.

“This is working,” Morin said. “It is making an impact. I encourage everyone to continue. It’s appreciated and it’s saving Benton money.”

A request to apply $100,000 to the budget from surplus to maintain or reduce the tax rate for the ensuing year was changed to $200,000 after Lawrence said that, when the Budget Committee met to discuss the warrant article, the auditor’s report was not in. Once the report was in hand, it was apparent that more money would be needed for that purpose.

A moment of silence was observed for Richard McGee, director and co-founder of the Fairfield PAL program, who died recently.

Lawrence thanked Bernier, longtime Benton Town Meeting moderator, for his work.

“Thank you for coming back year after year, facing this hostile town,” Lawrence said, to laughter. “Thank you very much.” The assembly applauded Bernier.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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