ATHENS — Voters at Town Meeting on Saturday unanimously agreed to enact an ordinance establishing the Athens Volunteer Fire Department as a municipal entity.

Residents also voted accept as town property all the assets, land, buildings, trucks and equipment currently owned by the department, with all the financing to go through the Town Office. The Fire Department traditionally has been an incorporated entity, separate from the Town Office, with incorporation done annually.

Athens Fire Chief Brett Strout said all current members of the department voted for the move, adding that the change would not mean added liability to the town.

“The change would have come sooner or later anyway,” Strout told residents.

The show-of-hands vote by the estimated 36 Athens residents on hand for the one-hour-and-40-minute meeting was a unanimous “yes.”

The purpose of the ordinance is to establish a municipal fire department and to define the powers and the duties of the fire chief, who would be appointed by the Board of Selectmen each year.

Residents wondered, first, whether the annual appointment could be for a longer period of time; and second, whether they could increase the chief’s current salary of $3,000.

“That can be changed,” First Selectman Mark Munn said of the annual appointment. “This is a starting point.”

The proposed salary increase would have to be brought up at another town meeting, because the amount in the article Saturday could not be increased.

Another purpose of the ordinance is to provide the maximum legal protection under Maine law for the fire chief and the municipal firefighters and to consolidate paperwork under one roof at the Town Office.

Under the ordinance, which takes effect July 31 once all department assets are transferred to the town, the fire chief will submit a written monthly report to selectmen, along with an annual department budget.

Strout said department training will continue under the new plan and that all 10 current members have medical emergency and other training necessary to fight fires and respond to accidents.

In other voting from the Town Meeting floor, residents approved all the spending articles, for a budget of about $611,765, which is about $10,000 less than the budget approved at Town Meeting last year.

Spending for the coming year includes $122,173 for general town government, which covers insurance, dues and salaries. Other budget items approved Saturday include $30,000 for town buildings and grounds, $30,000 for the Fire Department and $11,000 for support of the poor.

Big-ticket items Saturday included spending $190,000 for road maintenance, $50,000 for the road paving account, $47,574 as the second annual payment on last year’s $250,000 road bond and $74,500 for solid waste management and disposal.

Athens voters also agreed to raise $2,500 this year for a veterans memorial plaque to be displayed, along with a lighted flagpole and other amenities, in an area to be decided later, possibly at the fairgrounds. Selectman Guy Anton said other town accounts, including the Dr. Green Fund, could be tapped for additional money.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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