MANCHESTER — Residents agreed to put aside $20,000 in town money to match a hoped-for state grant to put a sidewalk on part of U.S. Route 202, and they approved every other budget item put before them Thursday at the Town Meeting.

The approximately 30 residents at the meeting voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of $20,000 from the town’s sand-and-salt shed reserve account as a local match to be used if the town is successful in winning a state grant of about $90,000 to build a 2,300-foot-long sidewalk on U.S. Route 202 from Woodridge Drive, which leads to the Gardencrest neighborhood, to Rite Aid, where an existing sidewalk continues until the intersection with Route 17.

Residents of the neighborhood said their children can’t safely walk or bicycle to the nearby town hub, including the Fielder’s Choice ice cream stand and ballfields in the area, because there is no shoulder on U.S. Route 202.

While some residents questioned spending taxpayer dollars on something to only benefit a few, resident Terry Watson noted there are at least 60 or so houses in Gardencrest.

“There are a lot of children in Gardencrest. It’s not just four or five people who’d benefit,” she said.

Jeremy Pare, chairman of the selectmen, said the sidewalk would help address the desire, expressed by residents and in the recent rewrite of the comprehensive plan, to make Manchester’s neighborhoods more connected to what is essentially a town hub just off U.S. 202, consisting of the Town Office, the fire station and the elementary school area.

Selectman Bob Gasper said last year the town had a significant amount of work, costing about $60,000, done on the sand-and-salt shed that should extend its life another 20 to 25 years, so the town could use $20,000 from the fund for the sidewalk instead. Selectmen, in a 4-1 vote, recommend $20,000 from the sand-and-salt account be used as the local match for the sidewalk project. If the town doesn’t get the grant, the $20,000 woudn’t be spent.

Gasper warned that if the grant is awarded, the town probably would have to put up the entire $110,000 cost of the sidewalk, then get reimbursed by the state.

Another $45,000 from the sand-and-salt shed account was approved in another warrant article to be transferred to the firetruck reserve account for the future purchase of a new firetruck.

Most of the warrant articles dealt with parts of the proposed $1.8 million town budget that, when combined with the school and county budgets, could increase the tax rate by nearly $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value if everything on the warrant was approved.

The municipal budget, as proposed, was up by about $76,000, or 4.4 percent.

Jeremy Pare, chairman of the selectmen, said when the municipal budget is combined with Manchester’s share of the Regional School Unit 38 school budget, which is up 4.6 percent, and the county budget, taxpayers could be looking at an increase in the tax rate from the current $15.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value to about $16.30.

He said for the owner of a $170,000 home, that rate would mean a tax increase of about $152.

Residents rejected a motion from Selectman Thomas Oliver to cut the proposed $387,000 road paving budget by $97,000 by removing plans to pave about two miles of Prescott Road.

“I travel that road every day, sometimes seven days a week, three or four times a day. I know that road pretty well,” Oliver said. “In my opinion, we don’t need to resurface that road. $97,000 means an increase in the tax rate from $15.35 to $16.01. That’s a 6 percent increase, roughly.”

However, after road and budget committee members told residents the town needs to keep up on road work and there is already more work that needs to be done than the full funds would pay for, they approved the original $387,000 figure.

Oliver appeared to be the only voter in favor of cutting the $97,000. He jokingly asked for a recount.

Residents unanimously approved new bylaws for the Manchester Fire Department following recent modifications voted on by department members.

Gasper, a firefighter, said the changes will update the titles of the department’s chief officers to match state statutes, specify that officers and new members will be elected by secret ballot, and eliminate the one hour of pay firefighters got for attending meetings. Gasper said the idea of eliminating pay for meetings was that the funds could be used better by paying firefighters to attend training.

“We thought it would be a better use to use it as an incentive to get more firemen to come to training nights and truck check nights,” Gasper said. “Basically we’re at the fire station (training) every Wednesday night.”

Voters approved several changes to the Land Use and Development Ordinance.

Moderator Lee Bragg, an attorney who has moderated numerous other town meetings over the years, said the approximately 30-person turnout was about as light as he’s seen at an annual meeting.

Residents also informally voted in a straw poll about whether they’d be interested in the town striking a deal with Augusta Country Club to allow residents to use the club’s beach on Cobbossee Lake.

Selectwoman Martha Nielsen said there has been discussion for years about seeking access to a swimming spot on the lake for residents, and that is also a goal expressed in the comprehensive plan.

She said in recent discussions with town officials the club offered to let residents use the beach, starting July 1, for $20,000 a year, also requiring the town to hire an attendant at a cost of $10,000 a season and with some Saturdays reserved by the club for special events.

“That seemed exorbitant to some of us, so rather than put a large amount of money on the warrant, we decided (to do a straw poll) and get a sense of whether people are interested in this,” Nielsen said. “If there is interest, maybe we can talk to the country club and perhaps get a different deal.”

The straw poll votes weren’t counted Thursday.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj