STRONG — Strong residents voted on Saturday to reject selectmen’s recommendation to use surplus money to buy a used excavator for town public works projects.

About 40 residents turned out at the Foster Memorial Building for Strong’s Town Meeting. To start the meeting, those in attendance remembered the Strong residents who had died over the last year.

After a lengthy debate, voters rebuffed selectmen’s advice and decided not to use $40,000 from the town’s surplus account to buy the excavator. The town owns no excavator, so it must rent one for public works projects, including trench digging.

Several residents said it would be more feasible for the town to rent the equipment. “(Rental equipment) is brand new, and if it breaks down, (the company) takes care of it,” resident Perry Ellsworth said at the meeting. “I suggest paying three to five thousand dollars and hiring someone to come out here to do our ditching.”

Selectmen Mike Pond argued that renting is not a feasible option for public works projects because equipment rental companies charge by the week, but it is not guaranteed that a town crew would be able to complete the project within the rental contract period before being called to do something else, putting the project on hold.

In another debated issue, residents voted to authorize the selectmen to incorporate all of Strong’s nine cemeteries into the Village Cemetery Trust for the purpose of maintenance and to comply with the state-mandated upkeep of veterans’ graves. As a result of the vote, Strong now is responsible for mowing the grass, removing fallen trees and maintaining veterans’ graves in Conant, Cunningham-Cates, Hunter, Pierpole, Stevens, Taylor Hill, Toothaker and Town Line cemeteries, as well as the trust’s original cemetery, Village Cemetery, in the center of town.

Elections for two three-year selectmen terms, two school board seats and fire chief were held Friday. Results were announced at the start of Town Meeting, with the winners being sworn in after the meeting’s lunch break.

Running uncontested, Selectman Mike Pond secured another three years on the board with 64 votes. Robert Elliot, also running uncontested, won with 65 votes to fill the seat vacated by Selectman Milton Baston. Loretta Demming and Jessie Stinchfield, running uncontested, won re-election to their seats on the school board, with Demming securing 65 votes and Stinchfield, 62 votes. Fire Chief Duayne Boyd, who also ran uncontested, secured another three-year term in his role with 72 votes.

Residents approved a $576,543 budget for 2016, which is $48,431 less than last year’s budget. Going into Town Meeting, the proposed budget totaled $572,543, but residents approved adding $4,000 to the Town Garage Account to replace an oil-burning furnace that broke last month.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

 

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