GOULDSBORO, Maine — By a four-vote margin, voters decided Wednesday to keep the town’s $1.50 per-bag trash collection fee, which had gone into effect at a special town meeting last August.
According to town officials, the vote Wednesday night at the open session of Gouldsboro’s annual town meeting was 90 in favor of keeping the fee and 86 in favor of eliminating it.
The fees were enacted last August by an even closer vote. At that special meeting, 40 people voted to implement the fee and 39 people voted against it.
The latest vote was put on the town meeting warrant by a citizen’s petition. Some residents wanted the matter decided at a regular town meeting, rather than a special one, because they felt the $1.50 per-bag fee was too costly for some people and because they felt the 40 people who supported the measure last August was too small a group to adequately represent a majority of voters.
Voters who supported keeping the fee said it has helped the town reduce its waste disposal costs and that the special town meeting last August had ample advance public notice about what would be decided.
Gouldsboro has approximately 1,600 registered voters, according to registrar Maureen Hall. Nearly 200 of them attended and participated in Wednesday’s open session of annual town meeting, she said.
Voters also approved a measure to fund a new education reserve account with $350,000. Town Manager Yvonne Wilkinson said before the meeting that Gouldsboro has more than $500,000 to put toward education expenses for the coming school year, but that next year it will not have the extra funds. By creating and commit-ting funds to the reserve account, she said, the toll next year’s school budget likely will have on property taxes will be less significant than it would have been without it.
Gouldsboro’s proposed annual municipal operations budget of $1,274,312 was approved Wednesday by voters. The town’s Hancock County tax bill of $157,632 also was approved.
In elections on Tuesday, there were no contested races, according to town officials. Bill Thayer and James Watson each were re-elected Tuesday to the Board of Selectmen with more than 150 votes.
By a 132-57 vote, residents also validated Gouldsboro’s previously approved share of the new annual schools budget for Regional School Unit 24. Gouldsboro’s share of the $32 million 2009-2010 budget for the RSU, which serves 12 municipalities, is roughly $2,456,000.