Farmingdale residents hold blue cards in the air Thursday while voting on an article during the annual Town Meeting. Sam Shepherd/Kennebec Journal

FARMINGDALE —  Town voters breezed through Articles 6 through 63 on the warrant during the 45-minute Town Meeting at Hall-Dale High School on Thursday.

Voters set municipal spending at $1,524,090, a 9.5% decrease from what was approved in June 2019.

The town’s total spending, including the town’s $2,800,829 share of the Regional School Unit 2 budget and county tax assessment of $258,249, will be $4,688,584, roughly a 0.7% increase from last year’s figure of $4,654,215.

The meeting, which had 36 attendees, was moderated by town solicitor Mary Denison.

Many of the articles were approved with very little discussion.

The most controversial article was one raising and appropriating $26,750 for cemetery maintenance, repairs, upgrades and administration services.

Resident Jeff Ellis expressed concern that funding for the cemetery administrator position was removed from the cemetery line at the 2019 Town Meeting warrant.

The administrator role has been Joann Choate, who Ellis was concerned had been hired illegally in what he described as “an inside job.”

Choate said she was not technically an employee of the town, but she was receiving a stipend for the work she had done and she was insured properly. Road Commissioner Steve Stratton said that he recalled the job being posted at some point.

After the meeting, Town Clerk Rose Webster said the line was reduced during the meeting, but the reduction did not specifically apply to the administrator position. Selectwoman Nancy Frost described Choate as a subcontractor who stepped up to do the job after two candidates declined the position.

The article was passed as part of a block of articles by a wide margin.

The only change from the floor to the recommendations was a $500 increase to funding for the Kennebec River Rail Trailing, increasing the line to $4,500.

A resident expressed some dissent on an article to see whether voters would allow the Select Board to use any funds remaining from the $1.7 million loan to finance the construction of the town’s new fire station for updates to the town office related to handicap accessibility. According to the warrant, the remaining loan balance is $213,704.

Resident Jim Owens asked the board if there was an estimate on the cost of the project. Selectman Wayne Kilgore said there was no estimate available, but there was “a lot of work to be done.”

Owens likened the article to giving town officials “a blank check” for the job. It was later approved, with only Owens dissenting.

The largest single-line budget decrease comes from the town’s street lights. That line is $10,000 this year, shrinking from $110,000 last budget year. The previous budget included a large one-time expenditure to change over the town’s streetlights to LED, which would reduce their annual operating costs.

The town is expecting $1,106,657 in total revenue, which is about a 9.8% increase from last year’s $1,007,797. The increased figure includes an injection of $279,817 in surplus funding, along with $500,000 in expected excise tax and $254,400 in revenue sharing, as well as smaller amounts of funding from other sources.

According to a property tax rate calculation form, residents will likely pay $17.74 per $1,000 of property value. The town expects to receive $3,581,927 in taxes this year, which is the same amount it received last year.

TUESDAY’S ELECTIONS

Tyler Tripp was elected to the town’s Select Board by a three-vote margin over Frost on Tuesday. Frost requested a recount.

Frost was still serving on the Select Board during Thursday’s Town Meeting, pending the result of the recount at the town office, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Doug Ebert sat on the board Tuesday after he beat out Jim Grant this week. Ebert filled the seat left vacant when Andy Vellani stepped down due to medical reasons earlier this year.

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