FAIRFIELD — Voters at the annual Town Meeting Monday night overwhelmingly agreed to continue membership in the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments.

In deciding the town budget, residents split their decisions on spending articles for the coming year, taking recommendations from both the town Budget Committee and the Town Council.

The town is a long-time member of KVCOG, and Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said residents had the choice to approve the $8,463 suggested in the article and ignore the council and Budget Committee recommendations.

“They left the number there for folks to vote on. You can still vote on it,” Flewelling said last week. “Neither the council not the Budget Committee endorsed it.”

Voters ignored the recommendations and agreed to stay on board.

KVCOG representative Chris Huck stood to represent the group, saying it is well worth the proposed spending.

He said KVCOG assists the town with the land use ordinance, mapping service and joint purchasing.

“It’s worth the money,” Huck said.

Voters agreed.

Founded as the North Kennebec Regional Planning Commission in 1967, KVCOG is a municipal services corporation owned and operated by and for the benefit of its members. The problem, Flewelling said, is that some town leaders felt that the Central Maine Growth Council and KVCOG duplicate services. The town also has its own economic and community development office, which is doing much of the same work. There is also a county economic development organization.

The Growth Council was founded in Waterville in 2001 by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and area municipal managers, according to the organization’s website. It is a public-private, nonprofit partnership committed to the economic development of central Maine.

Aside from the bond payment for roads, which will be due every year through 2028, budget increases for the coming year were routine increases in fuel costs, insurance and utilities. Because money articles can be decreased but not increased, the recommendation with the highest amount appeared on the Town Meeting warrant.

Nevertheless, debate began right away with Article 3 on money for general government. The focus of the four votes it took to approve the motion was the insurance line that did not include coverage for former Fairfield firefighter Gary Michaud, who was badly injured on a call in 1998.

Michaud said he is owed the coverage based on previous town meeting votes. The meeting moderator said there was no way to add money to a spending line and the question would have to raised later at another meeting.

Debate went back and forth with one man having to be removed by police officers.

In the end voters agreed to compromise and spend $823,815 for general government, changing the council and the Budget Committee’s recommendations. Residents, including former town councilors, called for a special town meeting or a public hearing on the Michaud insurance question.

The Budget Committee recommended a total spending package for the coming year of about $5.54 million, not including schools or county tax. The Town Council supported a budget of about $5.57 million. The difference between the two was $24,600, Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said before the meeting.

Final budget figures were not ready Monday night.

The council’s proposal came in Monday night about $91,000 greater than the current $5.48 million budget approved by voters at Town Meeting last year. The majority of that difference is seen in the first payment on the principal of a $900,000 bond to pave and rebuild sections of about 20 roads in town.

The current tax rate of $21.70 for every $1,000 in property value is not expected to change.

Spending on each article comes from taxation and from anticipated revenue. Voters also agreed to take $250,000 from surplus to offset taxes.

Most of the differences in spending requests came from options to keep the cost of heating oil where it was last year despite a mild winter, Flewelling said.

Fairfield residents voted to spend $823,815 for general government, $942,440 for the Police Department, $802,795 for the Fire Department and $1,137,839 for public works.

The only articles that did not spark discussion were the ones in which the Budget Committee, the Town Council and department heads agreed on.

Under spending articles for public service organizations, voters agreed to spend $6,000 for the Fairfield Interfaith Food Pantry, $3,000 for the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and $4,000 for Spectrum Generations despite a Council recommendation to not fund Spectrum Generations because the organization did not get its spending request in on time, which is required by Town Meeting. Voters also agreed to give $500 to the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and $100 to the Somerset Economic Development Corp.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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