Buckfield says no to rescue dept. increase

BUCKFIELD—Residents determined to stay within the budget amended the nearly $186,000 proposed budget for the rescue department down to $135,000.

Resident Darrell Harvey recommended the decrease because, he said, the town needs to stay within its budget. Harvey said that in the past the department has been able to get along fine with $135,000—the amount that was appropriated last year.

“We can’t keep going up on everything,” said Harvey. “We can’t afford it.”

Rescue Department Chief Lisa Bennett informed the voters that over the past year the number of volunteers for the rescue department has gone up. Currently there are 18 volunteers, one is full-time, two are part-time and the rest are on-call. The training for the new volunteers has resulted in an increase of cost for training.

The $186,000 figure, which was recommended by the selectboard and the budget committee, would be designated funds for the rescue department and cover this year’s overdrafts.

“The overdraft is a result of six or seven new members coming on board,” Cindy Dunn, the town clerk, said.

The town pays for the members to go through a training process, she added.

Dunn said that when the new members came on board the town was not aware that the training was going to cause an overdraft of funds. Dunn also informed voters that there was an increased number of emergency calls this year.

Selectman Warren Wright shared his appreciation for the rescue department and their efficiency. He said that when his wife fell and hurt herself last December during the ice storm, the rescue department got to the house quickly. Wright’s anecdote garnered applause from the voters, which moderator Terry Hayes quickly cut down.

“I’m a firm believer in staying within the budget,” added selectwoman Martha Catevenis. “They did not stay within their budget this year.”

Catevenis said that if money for new staff was not in the rescue department’s budget, they should not have gone forward with the training.

“You can’t overextend to get more people on,” she said. “That’s my game-plan.”

After nearly 45 minutes of discussion about amending the proposed number of $186,000 to $135,000, residents cast their votes on secret ballots. Sixty-nine votes were cast, 38 voted yes to amend, and 31 were opposed.

After the number was amended, residents were then asked to vote on approving the $135,000 for the rescue department.

When a resident suggested another secret ballot vote was in order, grunts and groans rose from other voters. The vote ended with 68 votes cast, 41 voting yes and 27 voted against. Total discussion on the article lasted more than an hour.