William Rice speaks Monday at the annual town meeting in Wilton to advocate for a veterans memorial at Lakeview Cemetery. Voters approved funding for it. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

WILTON — Voters at the annual town meeting Monday night approved a $2.49 million budget, a veterans memorial at Lakeview Cemetery and consideration of regionalizing public safety and public works services.

The $175,000 for the veterans memorial will come from the Cemetery Trust Account.

Resident William Rice implored voters to approve the money. “Our honor is really to those who have gone before us,” he said. “If you today, Wilton as a community, want to say thank you for your service, then please vote yes.”

Voters also authorized the Select Board to establish a committee to meet with other municipalities to consider regionalizing services, including but not limited to public safety and public works.

Consolidating agencies such as police and fire departments can address high costs, workforce shortages and efficiency.

Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri said, “This doesn’t mean that we want to do away with any of our departments,” but rather start a conversation about potential solutions.

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“I think our public safety department is worth every cent and then some,” she said. “So this is not a vote of no-confidence whatsoever. I would actually say that this is more of looking at the next year to see other opportunities in public safety, public works in other areas.”

When it came to the budget, there were two differences between the Select Board and Finance Committee recommendations.

The Finance Committee asked voters to increase the stipends for select persons from a collective $9,000 to $9,600. This would have given four select persons $1,900 and Chairman David Leavitt $2,000. The Select Board recommended stipends remain at $1,800 each.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish, who originally proposed the raises, said it had been a long time since stipends had increased.

Ahead of the meeting, Irish told the Sun Journal the increase amounts to around $2 more for each of the approximate 50 meetings they might attend each year, excluding the extra work they do.

During discussion, Leavitt said the board’s priority was to “to keep the budget as frugal as possible.”

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“We don’t do this for the money,” he said.

Voters approved the $9,000.

There was also disagreement over Article 10 to raise more money for Planning and Code Enforcement. For 2021-22, the budget was $24,500.

The Select Board recommended $49,200 to increase the code enforcement officer’s hours from 20 to 30 a week. The Finance Committee recommended $82,201 to offer the code enforcement officer full-time work plus benefits.

One voter claimed CEO Charlie Lavin does not have the state-required certifications.

“If we’re going to pay somebody to do a job, let’s get him up to state standards,” the voter said.

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Irish said Lavin has opted to retire and the town is in the hiring process.

“That was the reason for looking at this going forward: Do we go with a person that would work part-time 30 hours a week? Or do we go with a full-time person that would have the full-time benefits and work for the 40 hours?” Irish said.

Wilton Planning Board member Michael Parker explains Monday at the annual town meeting the importance of having a full-time code enforcement officer. Voters supported the request to fund the position for 40 hours a week, plus benefits. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Irish later clarified that the new CEO will ideally have experience and some certifications with the expectation that they must be fully certified within a year of starting the job.

Planning Board member Michael Parker, who raised a motion for an $82,201 budget, said he has “seen the complexity of this job, it cannot be done very well, over time, in a half-time position.”

“There are new issues that are coming up that require a huge amount of time for the code enforcement officer in behalf of the town to stay on top of these issues … to watch the development that is going on,” Parker said. “To the average citizen, (they’re) the person who’s between you and possible rampant growth, unchecked growth, and under-the-carpet growth.”

“I understand the Select Board wanting to be frugal but this is such an important position,” Parker said.

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Saviello responded that the $33,001 difference in recommendations was a difference in 10 hours.

“You can decide whether you want to have somebody 40 hours a week to pay all the benefits or whether you want somebody 30 hours a week and still do what needs to be done,” Saviello said.

Another voter pointed out that offering full-time hours plus benefits “will help attract good candidates and help retain employees.”

After Irish clarified that the position has been advertised as part-time with possibility to go to full-time, Leavitt explained that an article on the warrant would allow the Select Board to increase the Code Enforcement budget and the CEO’s hours, as necessary.

Voters approved Parker’s motion for $82,201.

Some voters also raised concerns about a $30,500 increase — or 305% — to pension and benefits, which Irish said was due to anticipated retirements in the next year.

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Voters also had questions about Article 37 to raise $13,000 for Town Events and the Blueberry Festival, up $10,000 from 2021-22.

Saviello said some town emergency funding alongside donor contributions were used to fund last year’s Blueberry Festival, which really cost around $8,000.

Other big spends include a $98,859 increase, or 16.8%, to the Police Department budget due to the training of three new police officers at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and a $94,700, or 9.6%, increase to the Highway Department budget for a total $1.08 million to cover higher wages.

Sixty-six voters passed all warrant articles.


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