Hermon voters approve general assistance funding, turn down purchases

Posted Jan. 20, 2012, at 6:57 p.m.

HERMON, Maine — Voters approved a funding increase for this year’s general assistance account Thursday night but turned down two proposed purchases and tabled a third.

Town Manager Clinton Deschene said Friday that discussion during Thursday’s special town meeting suggested that opponents of the failed warrant articles felt major purchasing decisions should be made at the annual town meeting, held each June.

In two close votes during the special town meeting, residents turned down warrant articles that proposed spending $159,000 to buy property at 299 Fuller Road, adjacent to the town office and Public Safety Building, and a firetruck for $120,000.

The land purchase failed by one vote and the firetruck purchase by two votes, Deschene said. Slightly more than 50 voters participated in the meeting, he said.

Deschene said that while residents expressed support for the fire department, some were concerned that the truck town officials were eyeing might not be the right model or size and wanted the matter brought back before them in June.

Though the town had no specific plans for the property next door, local officials thought it made sense to buy the adjacent parcel now because it might be more difficult — and costly — to try to do that should the town need the property in the future.

Deschene said some opponents of the purchase said the town didn’t need the property and that the timing was poor, given the economy.

Residents tabled a warrant article calling for the purchase of a dump truck for up to $50,000 should a good deal come up in the near future.

In the only warrant approved Thursday, voters authorized a transfer of $58,000 from the fund balance account to address a potential shortfall in the general assistance program, which is required by state law.

In a memo last month to town councilors, Deschene said that from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2010, the town had 38 applications for assistance, 29 of which were eligible. The total amount disbursed for those cases, he said, was $12,984.

Over the same period last year, however, the town had 67 applications of which 62 were eligible, he said, noting that $29,059 was disbursed for those cases.

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