ST. ALBANS —  Annual Town Meeting voters approved a $1.3 million budget Saturday and opted to change the way the town fills the position of road commissioner.

The 48 voters were asked whether the town manager should be able to appoint the road commissioner instead of having someone elected to the position, as is done now.

Some citizens asked the selectmen and town manager to explain the benefit of the change.

The problem we ran into is we’re on our third road commissioner,” Selectmen Chairman Hiram Weymouth said. “And what happens when we have an elected one that steps down, we have to search to find one as an interim and we can’t appoint one. It’s difficult to say to someone ‘we’d like you to do this job for the next three to six months but we can’t guarantee what will happen after that’ … and it gives us more control over the day-to-day operations.” 

The new system of appointing a road commissioner would take effect in March 2021.

Rick Fisher, left, sits with Selectmen Peter Denbow, Todd Brown and Hiram Weymouth during Saturday’s annual Town Meeting in St. Albans. Moderator Michael Wiers, in back, waits to read to next warrant article. Morning Sentinel photo by Molly Shelly

Voters asked about the process of removing a road commissioner if it became an appointed position.

“The only way to fire them would be to call a special town meeting and remove them,” Selectman Peter Denbow said. “And with an election it’s fixed for a year.”

After all questions were answered, voters submitted written ballots, passing the article with 28 yes votes to 20 no votes.

Voters also authorized the town to appropriate all money received from the state for snowmobile registrations and allocate any other funds from grants to the Sno-Devil Snowmobile Club for the maintenance of its networks of trails on the condition that those trails be open during snow season and of use to the public.

Voters wanted to discuss $30,991 to be raised by taxation for the Town Hall, $15,600 of which is to be put toward tearing down the structure at 15 Water St. and refurbishing the area into a parking lot. Voter Bonnie Lawrence told the selectmen that the amount seemed like a lot of money.

“The money is for tearing down the contaminated material and refurbishing the land,” Denbow said.

Town Manager Rick Fisher pointed out that the asbestos removal alone was projected to cost $4,000.

“Well I guess a lot of money to me is different to you people because that seems like a lot of money to me,” Lawrence said.

The remaining money for the Town Hall goes toward cleaning supplies, electricity, heating, equipment and repairs. Voters approved the article.

More discussion surrounded a $53,249 request for the fire department as Lawrence asked for clarification on what the money goes toward.

“This is to run and operate the fire department,” fire Chief Tim Kuespert said. “We’re starting to clean the station, we want to make upgrades to the station, to make it feasible to operate out of there. We increased our roster from 12 to 24 people, we fixed the kitchen, fixed a bathroom; but we have a lot of work to do with our training center just to get it up to regulation. One of our trucks has an electrical issue right now, we’ve also ordered new gear, boots, helmets because of that increased roster …”

Kuespert also explained how the department is looking to renovate the upstairs of the fire department to bring it up to the regulation of the Maine Municipal Association.

“So is it feasible to improve the building or have another town cover us?” Lawrence said. “We have to keep updating and spending money so I don’t know why it wouldn’t be cheaper to have another town cover us.”

Kuespert explained that because the town has all of its own equipment, it is feasible to run its own fire department.

After more discussion on whether St. Albans should have its own fire department, moderator Michael Wiers stepped in to tell voters that the discussion wasn’t what was on the warrant and moved the meeting along.

Voters ultimately approved the funds.

Big ticket items voters approved include $211,340 for general government, $206,894 for public works and highway personnel; and $102,842.05 for the Mid Maine Solid Waste and Recycling contract.

Voters also OK’d the appropriation of $40,000 from the MaineDOT reserve account to begin a two-phase paving project on Pond Road. The project would cover .83 miles of the road with the first phase to be completed this year and would include stormwater and drainage improvements if needed.

Citizens gather Saturday morning at the St. Albans town hall for the annual Town Meeting. Morning Sentinel photo by Molly Shelly

The final article to spark a discussion was for the health and human services organizations budget. The original budget was slated at $3,150, but representatives from Kennebec Valley Community Action Program and Spectrum Generations addressed voters before Saturday’s meeting to ask for an increased amount of money to their organizations.

KVCAP was originally set to receive $300 but Associate Director Nicole Chaplin asked for that to be raised to $900. Spectrum Generations was originally set to receive $500, but representatives wrote a letter to selectmen asking that it be raised to $920.

Citizen Jason Scholten made a motion to amend KVCAP’s budget to $900. Lawrence made a motion to amend Spectrum Generation’s budget to be raised to $920, but also asked for an additional $500 for the Tri Town Food Cupboard.

“I do a lot of work with the food bank and I would like to add to it because there’s a lot of people and a lot of them come from this town,” Lawrence said.

Debate arose when one citizen pointed out that the food bank only requested $1,000.

“This section is all about giving,” citizen Doug Spalding said. “So anyone could donate to any of these organizations at any time.”

Another woman chimed in.

“… yes there’s a lot of need and a lot of people who use it,” she said. “But compared to a lot of food cupboards, the communities are very generous and it has more money than a lot of food cupboards. The Tri Town Food Cupboard is very blessed.”

The two original budget motions were ultimately withdrawn and a new motion amending the budgets for both KVCAP and Spectrum Generations was approved. Lawrence’s proposal for an additional $500 for the food bank was rejected.

Municipal and school board elections were held on Friday.

Todd Brown was reelected for a three-year term as a selectman; Brady R. Snowman was reelected for a one-year term as road commissioner; and James Thorne, Joyce Weymouth and Seth Snowman won thre-year seats on the budget committee.

Jason Scholten was elected to a three-year term as a school board director for Regional School Unit 19; Charles Cossar was elected for one year.

Proceeds from a bake sale at Saturday’s meeting will go toward Summerfest 2020.


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