BROWNVILLE, Maine — Hurting from the poor economy, Brownville residents took their frustrations out on the town budget Monday during the annual town meeting.
Upon the approval of $3,035 for the care of cemeteries and $1,000 for general assistance, one resident lamented that the town was “taking care of our dead better than we are our living.”
Town officials told the audience that the municipal budget had been thoroughly scrutinized and that it had been reduced by $36,000 from the current fiscal year.
That assurance, though, did little to pacify some of the more than 100 residents who questioned most of the funding articles during the nearly four-hour meeting.
Some residents told town officials that they had not received cost-of-living increases, had to pay more for health insurance or were on fixed incomes, and they felt the eight town employees should shoulder more of their own health costs.
The town funds 90 percent of the health plans for employees hired before 2001, which may or may not include family coverage, Town Manager Sophia Wilson said Tuesday. For those hired after 2001, the town funds 100 percent of a single plan, she said.
One woman wagered a guess that about one-third of the town’s population was not covered by health insurance because they couldn’t afford it.
Before passing the administration account, residents voted 52-46 to reduce it by 10 percent, or $10,655.
Not all residents were in favor of the cut. Dolly Perkins called the move “irresponsible.” Before the close of the town meeting, Perkins inquired about revisiting the administration article because she thought some residents did not understand the action they had taken earlier.
Moderator Brian Mullis of Dover-Foxcroft advised Perkins what it would take to revisit the article, but he warned her that it would not be a good idea since many of those in the audience had left after the vote.
While residents wanted cuts, they softened on issues such as Christmas lights and the library. Town officials had proposed eliminating $100 for lights and the $4,600 request from the library, but residents included them for funding.
The warrant scrutiny by residents paid off when questions arose regarding the sanitation department’s operation. Wilson apologized to the audience when she recognized the funding request should have been revised. Selectmen had recommended $75,575 for the operation, but Wilson said the account could be reduced to $67,370.
The reduction, which was approved, was attributed to a contract with Piscataquis County for sanitation services for Williamsburg Township. The town previously had contracted with the county to serve both Williamsburg and Ebeeme townships. Wilson said county officials had advised the town earlier that they would not renew their contract, but they later decided to continue to contract for Williamsburg. She said Ebeeme was dropped because the county is no longer handling lake association Dumpsters.
In other action, residents approved establishing a tax club for property taxes. Those who want to take advantage of the program must enroll and pay specified monthly payments.
They also OK’d taking land on Knights Landing Road to make road improvements.
Also Monday, candidates for municipal office were re-elected. Paula Copeland was elected to a three-year seat on the Board of Selectmen with 30 votes, followed by Tony Milhalik with 28 and Todd Lyford with 20.
Marie McSwine was returned to a three-year term on the SAD 41 board of directors, and Leon Farrar Jr. was returned to a one-year seat.