WEST GARDINER —With a few amendments from the floor, voters on Saturday endorsed a spending plan that’s about 2.2 percent higher than the town’s last budget.

Greg Couture, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, brought several amendments that made adjustments to spending amounts and the source of revenue to pay for that spending.

Initially, selectmen proposed spending $1.2 million on town needs, including $440,730 to be raised and appropriated from property tax payers, $751,300 would come from excise tax, $23,000 from surplus and $14,377 from other sources.

“We were able to get down to $400,250 in what we raise and appropriate,” Couture said following Saturday’s Town Meeting.

Voters endorsed that that by paying for some spending with excise tax rather than appropriation, including $1,000 intended for the decoration of soldiers’ graves and for personal protective gear for the West Gardiner Fire Department. They agreed to authorize spending what the town pays for roadside mowing in the summer in the hope that the roadsides can be cut twice. And they agreed tapping the town’s surplus for $40,000 and excise tax for $15,000 to remove the old town garage and building a salt storage facility. If possible, some of those funds would be used to build a secure building for the West Gardiner Historical Society.

Couture said the warrant articles are drafted with the phrase, “or take any other action thereon,” which allows for amendments to spending, up or down.

One resident, a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, proposed increasing the contribution to Spectrum Generations by $500 more than the organization had sought noting that that was less than town residents had agree to pay for mowing and to support the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, and residents easily agreed.

Among the towns that pay a fee to use the Gardiner Public Library, West Gardiner’s fee was the only one that decreased this year. The Gardiner Public Library board of directors had proposed a new funding formula going forward  for its partner towns that’s based on the number of residents.

Jim Caldwell said his two sons, now both in college, attended Helen Thompson School in West Gardiner and graduated from Gardiner Area High School. Both used the library when they were growing up, he said, and they remain avid readers and use the library when they are home.

“I think it’s a wonderful asset for the community,” he said.

Voters acknowledged the work of resident Ginni Nichols, who is the children’s librarian, with a round of applause before they easily approved paying $35,137 to continue its association.

Voters approved a proposed ordinance that would allow West Gardiner to declare food sovereignty, allowing residents to sell food products to their neighbors in town without undergoing state inspections. They also endorsed an ordinance that would allow the fire department to seek reimbursement from insurance companies for costs associated with cleaning up after vehicle accidents and car fires of vehicles owned by non-residents.

Selectmen had also sought permission to set aside $20,000 to pay legal fees associated with cleaning up junkyards in town and voters granted it.

Tim Somes raised his hand at the meeting and said he’s one of the people whose property was referred to, and he thinks the money would be better spent another way.

“I apologize to everyone for letting my property get to the point where it is,” he said.

“I have looked into this and the fines and the lawyers fees are just devastating. I would ask you to think about that when you vote on it,” he said.

The selectmen said if the money is not spent, it would end up in the town’s surplus.

“We don’t want to spend it,” Selectman Mert Hickey said.

Couture said town officials have been dealing with some of these properties for more than decade.

“We’ve tried everything we can to get them to work with us,” he said.

At least 133 residents turned out in the morning to re-elect Randall Macomber to the Board of Selectmen, Carrie Boudway to the School Administrative District 11 board and Sue Pierce as tax collector and treasurer. All are three-year terms.

Just about the same number of people voted in the afternoon Town Meeting.


Jessica Lowell — 621-5632
[email protected]
Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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