ATHENS  — Voters at the Athens annual Town Meeting approved raises for several town officials Saturday afternoon on the way to appropriating a nearly $653,000 budget package for the year.

First Selectman Mark Munn said before the Town Meeting that voters would be asked to approve $1,000 per position for the town clerk, tax collector, treasurer and fire chief. Residents approved the raises, but it didn’t come without discussion.

Former Selectwoman Brenda Avery wondered why the raises were not included in separate warrant articles, not lumped together in an article raising money for general management of the town.

“There should have been a separate article if nobody knew what salaries were last year,” she said.

Munn told her the Budget Committee decided to add them to the general town charges article, without specific articles for each spending line.

Resident Donna Avery took issue with that, too, noting that the people ought to be better informed.

“You guys are here for us,” she said. “We have a right to ask any of you anything.”

Avery also questioned the $30,000 miscellaneous line in the same long article. She said that spending should be itemized.

“We want to know where the money is going,” Avery said.

Munn said there is always a list of items ready for public scrutiny at the Town Office and that putting every spending line in the Town Report would be expensive to print.

“We want the same thing,” he said

Athens resident Jason Gayne, the executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce, said he, too, would like to see the miscellaneous items list and was told that Town Treasurer Jean Bussell has the list at the Town Office, and it can be viewed during her regular business hours.

The article asking for $134,254 for general management passed as written and included the pay increases.

“Based on a 10-hour work week for each position, the hourly salary was $10 an hour or less, therefore being less then minimum wage,” Munn explained last week before the meeting. “We also suggest an increase for the road crew, from $17 an hour up to $18 an hour on the road commissioner and from $14 an hour up to $17 an hour for assistants. We feel the town will benefit from this in attracting and keeping good people during this tight workforce market.”

Those raises were also approved by voters after some discussion on higher rates of pay for truck drivers elsewhere in Maine.

The municipal fire chief will receive $4,000 a year. The position paid $3,000 last year.

Voters at a special town meeting last year agreed to make the road commissioner’s position one appointed by the Board of Selectmen, not elected as it had been.

Munn said last year the town appropriated $611,764 for its municipal budget, not including money for the school or the county tax. This year the spending amounted to $652,911.87, up about $41,000. The tax rate going into the Town Meeting was $18.50 for every $1,000 in property valuation.

In other spending Saturday, Athens voters agreed to an increase of $10,000 on the salt and sand spending and the winter roads accounts. They agreed to spend $45,000 for stockpiling sand and salt, $65,000 for summer roads and $60,000 for winter roads.

“It seems the ice hits the budget pretty hard both for the sand and salt and the increased hours and wear and tear on vehicles,” Munn said earlier.

Voters also agreed to set up a road account specifically for utilities. In the past, electricity, phone and heat came out of the summer or winter road accounts.

Athens residents also said “Yes” to a requested $50,000 for the road paving account and $49,000 as the third annual payment on the $250,000 road bond for paving.

Another $2,500 was appropriated to help establish the new Veterans Area at the Athens Fairgrounds.

In Town Meeting elections held on Friday, incumbent Selectman Guy Anton edged challenger Chad Stewart 106-58. Incumbent Selectman Charles Rotondi beat opponent Cristian Goodman 128-34. Both positions are for two-year terms on the three-member Board of Selectmen. Also re-elected were Bussell, Town Clerk and Tax Collector Tracy Rotondi and Alan Linkletter and Kate Cooley to the municipal school board.

The meeting was attended by 31 people, plus the three-member Board of Selectmen and other elected town officials.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]
Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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