NEW SHARON — Voters Saturday elected Milton Sinclair selectman, ending a month-long leadership crisis in town when a long-time selectman lost to a political newcomer, prompting another member to resign.

Residents also helped fill the gap left when 38-year selectman Maynard Webster was defeated by newcomer Travis Pond at last month’s Town Meeting by approving a $10,000 expenditure to hire someone to do town assessing. They also agreed to spend $3,100 for a new heating system for the fire department.

About 200 people packed the Cape Cod Hill School gymnasium for the special town meeting at which Sinclair was the only nominee for the selectman, assessor and overseer of the poor seat vacated by Forrest Bonney.

Bonney resigned after last month’s election, because he said the loss of Webster, who did much of that work, would be too much of a burden for himself, Pond and Chairman Lorna Nichols, who’d only been on the board for a year.

Sinclair, 72, told the crowd, “I hope that I can do the job that you want. I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

His comments came before 118 residents cast paper ballots in favor of Sinclair, a retired dairy farmer and current salesman for Paris Farmers Union in Oxford.

Residents grilled Sinclair about how he will handle situations in which Pond, whose father, John Pond, is road commissioner, will remove himself from voting on road issues. Specifically, people wanted to know what will happen if Sinclair and Nichols disagree on a road matter and there is no third selectman to break the tie.

“I think it’s a give and take and I think that Lorna and I are going to have to work together to try to be in agreement,” Sinclair said.

He acknowledged that it may be tough, and when he and Nichols don’t agree they must seek a compromise.

“I think we’re going to have to work something out,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have to each get together a little bit. We can not hold the town hostage. That’s not in our best interest.”

Resident Garry Mayo asked if road issues on which Nichols and Sinclair do not agree could be brought to voters at an informational meeting.

“Yes, we could do that,” Sinclair said.

Pond defeated board chairman Webster, 127-83 in March, prompting Bonney to resign, saying it would be “difficult for anyone to pick up the pieces” after losing Webster’s years of experience.

Nichols’ husband, Scott Nichols, the Franklin County sheriff, said earlier this month that he’d run, but he withdrew when Sinclair stepped in.

Residents Saturday filled one of the gaps lest by Webster’s department by agreeing to the $10,000 for an assessor’s agent.

Voters in March approved a motion by Pond to cut selectmen’s annual pay from $7,000 to $5,000 and use the extra money for hiring the agent to do assessing work, much of which had been done by Webster.

Pond and Lorna Nichols both noted Saturday they have no experience with that type of work.

The question drew considerable discussion, with resident John Donald moving to decrease the $10,000 to $4,000.

Nichols explained that most assessor’s agents charge by the hour or the day and the cost can range from $600 to $800 a day. Some people, she said, charge a lower fee, such as $350 a day.

“We felt a $10,000 cap would be appropriate to put funds in a dedicated account so it would roll over each year for that purpose,” she said.

The question residents were considering asked that the work be paid for with $10,000 from surplus, and any money not used would stay in the fund for future years.

Nichols said an assessor’s agent is certified by the state and does both administrative and field work and he or she would keep software updated and have office hours one day a month for residents who have concerns or questions. Such an agent can make recommendations to selectmen, and selectmen would make decisions.

“They really have no authority to set our tax rate, tax commitment, to answer or execute any abatement requirements,” Nichols said. “All they can do is bring those issues to the Board of Selectmen.”

Scott Nichols said if the town does not hire the agent, assessing duties would fall to the three selectmen. “I think we’d better vote in this $10,000,” he said.

Residents, by holding up cards, voted against Donald’s motion to decrease the $10,000 to $4,000.

When resident Tracy Brackett recommended reducing the amount to $6,000 instead, former selectman Spencer Thompson objected.

“This is a big deal and it’s important and you can be penny wise and pound foolish,” Thompson said, adding that $10,000 or $15,000 would be more in the ballpark for an amount needed for assessing.

“Six thousand won’t do it and it’s got to be done right,” he said.

Voters rejected the $6,000 recommendation and approved the $10,000. Moderator Tom Saviello’s announcement that the “ayes have it” drew applause from the gymnasium.

Residents quickly approved spending $3,100 for the New Sharon Volunteer Fire Department heating system. The money would be appropriated from surplus.

As Sinclair waited for voters to cast their ballots for the selectman’s position, he said he ran for the seat because people asked him to do so and he felt the town needed a choice. He thanked those who turned out Saturday to support his bid for the seat.

“I think if we get three new people through a year and we don’t have any major catastrophes, we will do pretty good,” he said. “Lorna’s been there over a year and Travis a month and I think I have enough life experience in different things that I can do the job — and there are state manuals that tell us what we can and can not do and we’ll go by them a lot.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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