Fish — specifically alewives, the river herring that has put the town of Benton on the culinary map — will be on the minds of Benton residents Saturday at Town Meeting, as will approval of the town’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

The election of town officers is set for scheduled for 1 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Benton Town Office. Incumbent Selectman Douglas Dixon is unopposed on the ballot for a three-year term. Leroy “Todd” Littlefield also is unopposed on the ballot for a one-year term for road commissioner.

The annual business meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in the historic 1915 Benton Grange Hall on Kennebec River Road.

At last year’s Town Meeting, about 50 people turned out for the 3.5-hour session. They passed all but one item on the 92-article warrant and approved a budget of about $600,000.

On the alewives questions, residents on Saturday will be asked to sell surplus river herring. The Budget Committee recommends doing so in Article 26.

In the next two articles, voters will decide on whether to endorse the annual Alewife Festival and to authorize the town treasurer to accept donations for the festival and to take $1,800 from the tax increment financing district to be used for the event.

The festival, which celebrated its sixth year of operation last May, recognizes the small herring’s annual spring run from the Gulf of Maine to spawn in inland lakes. Benton has the largest run in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast, estimated at nearly 3 million fish annually.

Alewives had long been a staple of the area, but over the decades rivers with dams and pollution to the waterways diminished the fish’s population. When dams in Augusta and Winslow were removed several years ago, alewives returned to the region.

Voters also will be asked to spend $500 from Tax Increment Financing revenue to support fish restoration in Outlet Stream, recognizing that “a million more spawning alewives in the Sebasticook River may enhance our income in future years.”

In other business action from the meeting floor Saturday, residents will be asked to raise $60,000 to cover employee Maine Municipal Health Trust benefits. Residents also will be asked to determine an amount to be raised for winter roads, including the expense of the contract for plowing, sanding, sand stockpiling and removal of snow from fire hydrants. The money would come from excise tax.

For summer roads, the Budget Committee recommends taking $55,000 from excise taxes, plus additional money when needed from state highway aid. The committee also recommends taking $235,000 from excise taxes and from the state Urban Rural Initiative Program for the paving of town roads.

Benton voters also will be asked to raise $180,000, plus any additional money needed from surplus, for fire protection, plus $3,800 for fire and rescue dispatch services from the Somerset County call center in Skowhegan and $19,000 for law enforcement dispatch services from the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta.

Residents also will be asked to take $200,000 from surplus to reduce the tax rate in the coming year.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]