WEST GARDINER — In the first Town Meeting held in the West Gardiner fire station since 2019, voters on Saturday approved the proposed $1.45 million spending plan for the town and then a little more.

In two amendments offered from the floor, nearly 150 town residents attending the meeting agreed to increasing pay raises for staff at the Town Office and the West Gardiner Transfer Station from 2% to 4%, recognizing the impact of inflation on the cost of living.

But even before those changes were made, the proposed spending plan had exceeded the town’s property tax levy limit established by state law by several thousand dollars, which required town officials to seek permission to exceed that limit. Residents agreed to allow that, on an 82-10 vote.

To pay for the spending, the bulk  — more than $970,000 — will be paid for by excise tax collected on vehicles by the town. Less than half of that, about $418,000, will be raised from property tax. The remaining funds will come from town surplus funds.

The town’s property tax rate will be established later this year, after Maine School Administrative District 11 and Kennebec County complete their budgets.

Among the items which drew questions and debate from the floor was a request to accept Seth’s Way as a maintained town road after it is finalized and meets town requirements.

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Road Commissioner Gary Hickey said while he had inspected the road base, he was not present when it was initially paved, and he could not confirm that 2 inches of paving had been laid down unless he dug through the paving to confirm the depth.

“A lot of people think you don’t have to walk behind them, but I like to know exactly what they are putting down,” Hickey said.

Hickey said when roads are paved, he walks behind the paver to ensure the paving is done as required.

The owner of the road is Steven McGee, who is one of the town’s three selectmen. He said he’s asking for the road, where about two dozen houses have been built, to be accepted only after it’s done.

Greg Couture, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said roads are accepted as town roads only after they meet the requirements of the road commissioner and the selectmen.

“We have said before, and we have voted before to accept roads once they are finalized,” Couture said.

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If the road is completed this summer and accepted, it would be deeded to the town, he said.

While the measure received the support of the majority of voters, Hickey was among the few to vote against it.

Residents also questioned spending $120,000 for a building for the West Gardiner Historical Society, after approving funds for upkeep and maintenance for other town buildings, and whether erecting a metal building is the best idea.

Debra Couture, who is a member of the West Gardiner Historical Society, said the cost of lumber has increased, making a metal building a preferable option to timber framing.

Couture said the building will house the many items tied to the town’s history that are currently being stored in basements and spare buildings, including documents dating back to the town’s establishment.

“Metal or wood, we need a place to house all the things from the people of West Gardiner and our history so future generations can come see it,” she said.

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Ultimately, residents approved the $120,000 expenditure.

In town elections, Randall Macomber was elected to his third term on the Board of Selectmen, receiving 161 votes to challenger Frederick Merrill’s 62 votes.

Christopher McLaughlin, who had been appointed to serve on the Gardiner-area school district board after Patrick Saucier resigned, was elected to serve the remaining two years of the term. He defeated challenger Kate Merrell 140-72.

Matthew Lillibridge, who ran unopposed for a seat on the school board, was reelected.

 

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