Warrants pass selectboard but not without dissent

0
6296
DISAGREEMENT — Oxford Board of Selectmen Ed Knightly, left, and board member Caldwell Jackson, right, disagree on whether taxpayers should support a new sweeper for the Highway Department this year.

OXFORD — Voters will be asked to approve a $5.5 million municipal budget when Annual Town Meeting gets underway on Saturday, June 9.

The Board of Selectmen has approved the money articles in the 39-article annual  warrant at a special meeting on April  26 that supported the Budget Committee’s recommendations almost across the board.

If all of the budget articles pass, the total municipal budget will be set at $5,573,236.28.

Last year, town meeting voters approved a 5.738 budget after cutting many line items by cut two percent.

The municipal budget does not include the $4,015,048 assessment for SAD 17 and the $410,626 assessment to the county.

Board members disagreed with several requests including the $594,210.78 proposed Capital Improvements Project Account that would fund two police cruisers, two ambulances and a street sweeper for the Highway Department.

Police Chief Mike Ward said the plan is to do a lease/purchase agreement for two cruisers this year, replacing two that as of July 1 will each have more than 100,000 miles on them. Ward said ideally he would like to get into a program of purchasing three cars every fours years as a way to keep viable cars on the road without putting financial hardship on taxpayers.

Fire Chief Gary Sacco also requested money for two rescue units, to support a similar rotating three-vehicle fleet program.

The Highway Department’s request for a sweeper was met with a suggestion by Selectman Floyd Thayer, seconded by Caldwell Jackson, that the town not purchase a sweeper this year but rather put the $55,000 Highway Improvement Account where it would be accessible if needed.

But Selectman Scott Hunter disagreed saying, “We keep putting everything off. That’s why were in the position we’re in. I understand it’s only used two or three months a year. I get it. We’re trying to save money by renting one but at some point we’re going to have to buy a sweeper. We do a road then we’re back two or three years later and that has to stop,“ he said.

“Let the townspeople decide,” agreed Selectman Ed Knightly.

The article passed on a 3-2 vote with Jackson and Thayer dissenting.

Selectmen declined to provide a $2,000 funding request from the Thompson Lake Environmental Association for milfoil containment and a $500 request from  Androscoggin Home & Hospice.

Thompson Lake resident Scott Bernardi told selectmen many lake property owners pay high taxes and receive little services from the town and if the milfoil is not contained, lake property values might decline. He said 16 acres of milfoil have been contained over the last 25 years but 10 acres of milfoil remain.

Selectmen Chairman Peter Laverdiere  said he felt people should donate to these organizations rather than mandate that every taxpayer pay.

Voters will act on a number of other budget articles including requests to raise and appropriate:

  • $720,765.04 for the administration account which includes a 2 percent cost of living increase;
  • $645,284.57  for the Highway Department;
  • $822,766.95 for the Police Department, which includes money to fill a position;
  • $379,127.30 for the Fire Department;
  • $309,752.00 Rescue Department;
  • $280,535.81  for the Transfer Station;
  • $282,447.63 for the Waste Water Treatment account.

The June 9 Annual Town Meeting gets underway at the Oxford Elementary School beginning at 10 a.m. to dissolve the warrant.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net