PITTSTON — For one more year, at least, Pittston will continue its share of funding for the Gardiner Public Library, but town residents said they didn’t care for the take-it-or-leave it sentiment that accompanied their bill.

The vast majority of the 31 proposals before voters passed easily and with little comment, but the requested library funding of $23,292 prompted more than an hour of debate among the nearly 100 town residents gathered Saturday morning at Pittston Elementary.

Pittston is one five communities whose residents are able to check items out of the Gardiner Public Library and use its services, thanks to annual payments approved at Town Meeting. Pittston, West Gardiner, Litchfield and Randolph are partner communities. Farmingdale has been paying an introductory fee of $4,500 a year to test the waters for a return, and Whitefield has been offered the same deal.

While town officials have supported the library in the past, this year’s bill came with a 3 percent increase

Timothy Lawrence, a Pittston Budget Committee member, characterized the library proposal as blackmail by the Gardiner City Council.

“They will never change their policy. They will want more and more, and it’s got to stop,” Lawrence said.

Throughout the debate, residents tossed around the idea of joining the libraries in Hallowell, Dresden or Richmond, citing the lower likely costs to residents. Others noted that with only 800 cardholders in Pittston, tax dollars were subsidizing the enjoyment of only about one-third of the town’s population.

Those who argued against paying the bill said the town’s children have access to books through the school’s library, and that adults have other options, including using the state library in Augusta.

Rod Scribner pointed out the attention neighboring town Randolph drew when it opted to halt its relationship with the library, resulting in national and international newspapers and magazines with headlines such as “Town rejects library.”

“People in Randolph are as smart as anyone. People were embarrassed by this. We don’t need this kind of publicity,” Scribner said.

Two amendments were offered to approve lower levels of funding, one at $18,500 and one at $22,000.

Fred Kimball, who offered the amendment for the lower amount, said he understood the issue and heard the frustration about the Gardiner City Council’s intractability. “If this Town Meeting approved a smaller amount, the library would have to accept it or cut off its own nose,” he said.

In the end, library supporters such as Sheila Farkas edged the opponents. She said her children had spent a great deal of time in the Gardiner Public Library while growing up, and one of them will attend an Ivy League College next year.

“If we don’t want to pay our share of services, how can we expect others to pay?” she said.

Residents also had a series of questions for Pittston Fire Chief Jason Ferris and his plan to replace the East Pittston Fire Station at an estimated cost of $300,000. The existing building is inadequate for the department’s needs because it’s outdated and small and the only water available is through the floor, according to the department.

“The building used to have a second floor,” Farris said, “but when firetrucks started getting larger, the stairs had to be removed to accommodate the trucks.”

The building also has no bathroom or shower.

While grants are available to pay for many things to put inside fire stations, Farris said they are rarely available for construction.

The proposal calls for issuing bonds to pay for construction of a 48-foot-48-foot three-bay fire station to replace the existing one.

The approval of that article generated applause.

Going into the meeting, selectmen had not expected the tax rate of $13.80 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to change much. Town residents agreed to spend the $998,000 proposed to be raised from taxes or appropriated from excise taxes to support the town’s needs, including the cost of town operations, road projects and the Fire Department.

The town’s municipal election is scheduled for noon to 7 p.m. Monday at the Town Office, at 38 Whitefield Road.

Jane Hubert, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, is not seeking re-election, and no one filed nomination papers by the deadline.

On Saturday, Greg Lumbert and Sharon Gleason were handing out fliers at Town Meeting to seek support for their write-in campaigns for the open selectman’s seat.

Tammy Usher is running uncontested for a single seat on the Personnel Board. Four seats are up for election on the Budget Committee and three candidates are running — Cheryl Peaslee, Hope Ricker and Hubert. Three seats are up for election on the Planning Board, and the only candidate whose name appears on the ballot is James Lothridge. The term of office of all of those positions is three years.

The East Pittston Water District also is holding its election Monday. One seat is available on the board, and Leroy Usher is running uncontested for the three-year term.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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