PITTSTON — Nearly 90 residents in Pittston voted to approve the town’s spending plan as proposed Saturday, with septage, books and ambulance scofflaws topping their concerns.

Among their budget votes, residents were surprised by an announcement by longtime Fire Chief Jason Farris that he will step down at the end of August.

By that time, Farris said, he will be into his 16th year as chief, and it’s time to spend time on other things. He said while he no longer will be chief, he will continue as a firefighter.

At the news, the residents gave Farris a standing ovation for his service to the town.

Farris made his announcement and residents considered an article that would reimburse the town from the department’s reserve savings account for $21,811.58 spent on equipment for the town’s new fire station in East Pittston.

After some minor debate, residents approved that warrant article, as part of the $1.2 million spending plan that was put before voters to decide.

While residents easily passed high-ticket items such as nearly $590,000 for the highway budget with little comment, they had questions about other items.

In this budget year, the cost of the ambulance service provided by Gardiner Ambulance jumped from $15,300 to $39,702, which prompted a question from Timothy Lawrence about the increase.

Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said the ambulance service bill to all of the towns served by Gardiner Ambulance was higher this year.

Nelson said the ambulance service has contracted with a different company to collect the money owed to the service, which represents a portion of the town’s bill.

It’s not clear why so many bills are unpaid, he said.

“We have seen an uptick in people without insurance,” Nelson said.

In some cases, he said, insurance pays part of the bill, but the patient cannot afford his or her part.

He noted that if money comes in on the bills after residents vote at Town Meeting, it’s sent back to the town.

“That’s your money,” he said. “It’s not our money.”

Residents also briefly debated the amount requested for Pittston residents to use Gardiner Public Library.

At $23,878, the amount is only 1.5 percent higher than the request a year ago, and as one resident pointed out, it’s 0.8 percent of the town’s annual spending.

Even so, Lawrence said he was concerned about the spending.

“People are losing property over this. At some point, you have to start saying ‘no’ to some of this stuff.”

Gardiner Public Library Director Anne Davis detailed the town’s use of the library, including a program on Thursday afternoons when Pittston students at the Gardiner Regional Middle School can study, get a snack and watch a movie for free. The program has resulted in the higher number of active library cards held by young adults — 261 this year, compared to 201 last year.

Residents also focused on a proposal that has appeared every year in recent years to spend $2,000 to handle the town’s septic waste. They wanted to know why the selectmen opposed paying for it.

Selectman Greg Lumbert said he had tried to track down information about the payment, but he wasn’t able to find out why the town paid it.

The reason for the payment dates back nearly two decades to a dispute the town had with Jerald Smith, who sought to spread septage on property he was in the process of buying in the town. Smith sued the town, saying its septage ordinance violated state law, and the matter reached the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

While the current board is unfamiliar with the matter, Wanda Burns-Macomber, who served on the Board of Selectmen for many years and was chairwoman of the board, gave a short recap.

“It was a long battle, and everybody was suing everybody at the time,” she said. “I suggest you vote to fund this.”

The money pays for a site that will take what’s pumped out of the town’s septic systems in the event the hauler has no place else to take it. “If we don’t have to spend the money, we won’t,” Selectwoman Jean Ambrose said. “If we have to spend it to keep out of jail, we will.”

If the money is not spent, it will go to the town’s surplus.

Residents agreed to spend that money.

Currently, the property tax rate in Pittston is $14.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Town residents won’t know until after the Gardiner-area school district budget is approved in June whether that will change. Pittston is one of the four communities that make up School Administrative District 11, which is working on its spending plan.

In Pittston, the budget debate takes place on Saturday and the municipal election is held the following Monday.

Polls are scheduled to be open from noon to 7 p.m. Monday, and voters will vote on four open seats.

Ambrose is running for another three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. She has no opponent on the ballot.

Marlene Colvin is running for re-election to a three-year term on the Planning Board. She has no opponent.

Two seats are available on the School Administrative District 11 school board, but only one candidate, James Lothridge, filed nomination papers to run. Penny Poolman and Michael Bechard are the incumbents, and their terms are up this year.

Jane Hubert, who stepped down from Board of Selectmen after her term ended in 2016, said Saturday she is running as a write-in candidate for the second school board seat.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ