FAIRFIELD — Voters at the annual town meeting Monday overwhelmingly approved supporting the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville to the tune of $3,000 despite a recommendation by the Town Council to spend only $1,800.

The vote came just after 8 p.m. as voters were about half-way through a 42-article warrant asking them to approve a budget for 2015-16 that is about $5.47 million.

If voters approve all articles, the tax rate would increase just under 2 percent, or about 48 cents per $1,000 worth of valuation. The current tax rate of $20.25 would increase to about $20.75, according to Town Manager Joshua Reny. The municipal budget does not include school or county costs.

About 100 people turned out for the meeting held at the community center, where they discussed the homeless shelter item at length after questions were raised about whether Fairfield residents get to use the shelter. The issue also was raised last year, officials said.

Councilor Aaron Rowden said he addressed the issue with the executive director of the shelter after the discussion last year. The shelter does serve a number of people from Fairfield, he said.

“There is no systemic or policy reason why people from Fairfield would be turned away from the shelter if they applied,” said Rowden, an attorney.

Town Clerk Christine Keller, who also is the town’s registrar of voters and welfare director, said if people are turned away at the shelter because it is full, they are provided information about other shelters. Police Sgt. Matt Bard said he was one of those who raised the issue last year about the shelter not always accepting people from Fairfield. However, during the past year, he said, the shelter was able to accept them.

“It was an improvement from the previous year, definitely,” Bard said.

Rowden noted that the town has an obligation to look after the homeless in the community.

“It’s not only a moral obligation; it’s a legal obligation,” he said.

He said sheltering is not a long-term solution to homelessness and urged residents to contact their state representatives to try to help solve the issue of homelessness.

Doug Cutchin, a member of the shelter’s board of directors and its former co-president, said a lot of people come to the shelter unemployed, and officials help them with immediate needs and then get them into a program to start finding a job and housing. That helps them to become stable and avoid homelessness in the future.

“We do not have many people that come back,” Cutchin said.

Homeless shelter volunteer Stewart Kinley said a person does not go to the shelter at 6 p.m. and ask for a bed. The shelter takes people only after a background check has been done and determination has been made that the assistance is needed. People who are drunk or on drugs are not allowed to stay there, he said.

“So it’s a pretty good opportunity,” Kinley said.

Voters approved spending $846,094 for salaries and operation of town government; $223,494 for municipal debt; $188,126 for salaries and operation of Lawrence Public Library; $946,777 for salaries and operation of the police department; $783,634 for the Fire Department; $197,500 for operations and maintenance of fire hydrants and street lights; and $1.1 million for public works, cemeteries and the parks department.

Also approved was $230,000 for roads, streets and sidewalks; $540,000 for solid waste disposal, recycling and spring cleanup; and $197,500 for capital improvements, capital equipment and reserve accounts.

Voters had yet to consider an article asking them to borrow up to $900,000 for maintenance and improvements to roads and streets and to replace the leaking library roof and do repairs to the police department.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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