EMBDEN — Voters overwhelming have defeated a proposal to establish a town highway department in Embden.

By a vote of 135-25 on Friday, residents essentially said they wanted to keep things the way there are.

Embden residents were asked on the ballot if they favor creating a highway department, using a proposal developed by a four-member exploratory committee. The committee recommended passage, saying the town would save $160,000 annually once all the equipment was purchased and the hiring was done.

Selectman Scott LeHay and residents Tim and Torry Wahler, all committee members, said the town now pays private contractors to tend to all of the winter and summer road work at a cost of nearly $490,000 annually.

“The vote didn’t really surprise me,” LeHay said Saturday morning after Town Meeting. “It’s the way we’ve done business for years. Change is hard. Sometimes change is good; sometimes change is not good. The voters have spoken.”

The Wahlers and committee member Frank Nile did not attend the meeting Saturday morning.

The proposal developed by the committee had a projected annual operating budget of just over $330,000, once the town buys all the needed equipment and hires a crew. The change would have taken place in the spring of 2018, the end of a three-year contract for winter roads now held by Nitram General Contractors, of Benton. The winter roads contract are expected to go out to bid next January, in time for the 2018 Town Meeting vote.

Embden Road Commissioner Michael Witham, who was re-elected for his 11th year in balloting Friday, reacted positively to the vote on the proposed highway department.

“I was very happy with the vote,” he said.

In the other referendum question on the ballot Friday, voters agreed 113-44 to change the term of office for the town clerk and treasurer from one year to three years and to change the tax collector’s term of office from one year to two beginning in 2018, then to three years thereafter, in order to stagger the terms of the two positions.

A proposal at the 2016 Town Meeting to make the town positions of tax collector, town clerk and treasurer appointive rather than elective was rejected.

In other voting Friday, former Selectman Wayne McLaughlin edged former Selectman and Somerset County Commissioner Robert Dunphy, 80-71, for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, filling the seat vacated by Elizabeth Pratt. Former Rep. Larry Dunphy was elected to a vacant seat on the school board with 26 write-in votes. There was no candidate on the ballot.

Residents also agreed to transfer $37,189, which is the remaining balance from the School Administrative District 74 withdrawal expense account. The money is to be used to pay for repairs to Slipp Road and Mill Stream Bridge. The proposal also includes taking $11,000 from excise taxes to do the work this summer.

Embden residents in November voted in favor of stopping the effort to withdraw from the North Anson-based school district. The vote was 294-227 to end the yearlong withdrawal process.

In voting from the floor of the Town Meeting on Saturday, residents agreed to take $150,000 from taxation and $50,000 from excise taxes for maintenance of roads and bridges. They also agreed to take $210,000 from taxation and $51,000 from excise for the winter roads contract.

Residents increased local spending by about $27,650, up about 2.36 percent, approving all of the articles from the floor of the meeting. The approved spending package for the current year, not including schools and the county budget, came in at $1,172,390 at last year’s Town Meeting. The amount for the coming year is about $1,200,041.

The current tax rare is $12.81 for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

The meeting on Saturday was attended by 40 people, including town officials.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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