Select Board Chair Larry Pinkham honored Sylvia Adams June 15 with the Spirit of America award at the annual town meeting in Phillips. Rebecca Richard/Franklin Journal

PHILLIPS — More than 60 residents of Phillips gathered at the Phillips Area Community Center on Saturday, June 15, to vote on a proposed $1.4 million municipal budget and the future of the town’s fire station, passing all articles. The meeting, moderated by Susan Pratt, began at 9 a.m. and addressed 41 articles.

Select Board Chair Larry Pinkham began the meeting by presenting Sylvia Adams with the Spirit of America Foundation Tribute Award for her decades of dedication to the town. “Sylvia Adams was a long-time member of the Phillips Planning Board, acting as secretary for countless meetings,” Pinkham stated, adding that Adams was also the town clerk from 1981 to 1994. “It is our hope that she will be okay with our naming her as this year’s Spirit of America Foundation Tribute Award recipient, as it is well deserved.”

Pinkham also asked everyone to give a round of applause for Paul Gardiner, cemetery sexton, who has contracted for the town all these years and has given the town wonderful service.  Everyone gave Gardiner a round of applause and a standing ovation.

Pratt took her place as moderator, said, “What a great way to start the meeting. Congratulations to the recipients,” referring to the recognition of community members for their service.

The budget, which represents a 3.4% increase from last year passed without significant opposition. Town Manager Maureen Haley explained that the new budget does not include the town’s share of Franklin County taxes or the Maine School Administrative District [MSAD] 58 budget, both of which are set to increase. She said the town’s share nearly reaches $1.2 million.

Voters also faced decisions on local elections. Betty Jean “BJ” Bangs was re-elected as town clerk, and Jessica Cain and Alice Sozanski were elected to three-year terms on the MSAD 58 board. Janet White was re-elected as a selectperson for another three-year term.

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Article 6 easily passed and calculates the town’s levy limit by considering last year’s limit and adding new properties, buildings, improvements, and personal property. This is combined with the state’s income growth factor to determine the town’s levy limit. For 2025, the town’s budget of $1,402,563 does not exceed the levy limit of $1,680,198.

Article 13 also passed, updating the handling of tax-acquired properties to require towns to appraise them, either return them to the owner if retained, sell them through a realtor with excess proceeds going to the owner, or if unsold within 12 months, allowing the board to decide on the best method for the town.

Select Board members from left, Justin Vachon, Kenneth Bubier, Janet White, Eugene Caton and Town Manager Maureen Haley vote Saturday, July 15, at the annual town meeting in Phillips. Rebecca Richard/Franklin Journal

One major point of discussion involved the town’s fire station. Article 17, which passed directed selectmen to establish a five-member advisory committee to oversee the application for a federal grant to build a fire station. “This advisory committee would be tasked to look at all angles pertaining to the viability of need, placement, and cost of a possible new fire station,” Haley explained. Pinkham emphasized the need for the committee to address residents’ concerns about clarity and costs. “We want everybody to be involved with this,” he said.

The approval of Article 18 rescinded a previous vote that authorized applying for a federal grant for a public safety building at 15 Russell St. The town had applied for the grant but was denied. “This is to start fresh,” Haley explained. “The application was denied, so we need to move forward with a new approach.” The motion to rescind the previous year’s actions and to reallocate the funds was supported by the board, opening up possibilities for other locations for the fire station.

The meeting also highlighted the town’s financial strategies and community projects. Several articles, including those addressing FEMA funds and the use of the undesignated fund for tax reduction, passed with little discussion. Haley noted that FEMA funds have been, and are being applied for to return funds utilized in the emergency repairs of 19+ roads that suffered damages after two storms this past year.

Residents raised questions about administrative costs, road maintenance, and the town’s health officer, all of which were addressed by Haley and Select Board members. One resident asked if the town was planning to hire a road commissioner. Selectman Eugene Caton said they are planning on hiring a road commissioner before winter. Another resident asked if the town has a health officer. The answer was yes, Rachel Cohn. The town is required to have a health officer; the cost is $555 per year.

Pinkham called for more community involvement in town committees. “The town needs you,” he said, urging residents to volunteer for the Planning Board and other roles to ensure effective governance and community development.

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