SEARSPORT, Maine — Just as residents were getting ready Saturday morning to vote whether to spend as much as $762,000 for a new fire station, the annual town meeting was interrupted when all the firefighters present had to leave to respond to the report of a fire.
Although the reported fire ended up being just improperly discarded stove ash that was melting a plastic bucket and smoking up a house on Banks Terrace, and the firefighters returned to the meeting, Searsport Town Manager James Gillway said Monday that the warrant articles concerning the fire station were moved to a special town meeting to be held this summer.
Voters are tasked with deciding whether to build a new station on Mount Ephraim Road, on land that was purchased for the purpose a couple of years ago. If residents don’t want to build a station there, the town will sell the property.
According to Gillway, 126 people came out for the town meeting, held at Searsport District High School. Residents did vote to spend $33,390 and borrow $38,610 from reserves to refit the ambulance. They also decided to authorize the board of selectmen to use up to $600,000 in surplus money for small harbor improvement grants. The town needs to repair the municipal wharf, Gillway said.
Altogether, Searsport voters decided to spend $5,526,414 on the 2013 operating budget — which includes the Waldo County and RSU 20 budgets along with the municipal budget. That marks a less than 2 percent increase from last year, when residents voted to spend $5,430,588 altogether.
The budget includes increases for municipal retirement account, health care, wages for the fire department, the ambulance call stipend, and $20,000 more for legal expenses.
“We trimmed other things to make do,” Gillway said.
But the most satisfying warrant article did not require Searsport to spend any municipal money, he said. The last article on the warrant concerned a vote to spend $850 for a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of residents who served in World War II.
“Our town historian, Charlene Farris, stood up and made a motion to pass over the article, because it was no longer needed,” Gillway said. “All the money was collected through donations.”
People gave $400 to the cause on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, during a fund drive at Tozier’s grocery store, and town meeting attendees gave an additional $250 during the course of the annual town meeting. Other donations were given over the months between Pearl Harbor Day and the meeting, Gillway said, to raise the money needed to have the plaque made. It will replace a wooden monument that was taken down in 1973.
The new plaque will be unveiled at Union Hall on July 3, during the town talent show.
“We do have some veterans named on the plaque that will possibly be able to be there,” Gillway said.