SUMNER – Before the annual town meeting began Monday night, Selectman Mark Silber recognized board member Glenn Hinckley’s 40 years of service to the town and spoke of the acrimony that led, in part, to his resignation last week.
Hinckley’s resignation followed personal attacks from opponents to a proposed wind power project in town, Silber said.
Earlier this year, Hinckley had voiced opposition to a moratorium on such projects, saying he didn’t think it was necessary.
The town has been approached by developers of three wind farm proposals.
Voters overwhelmingly passed a 180-day ban on such developments on June 6 and authorized an Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee to write an ordinance to regulate them.
Selectmen are considered ex-officio members of the committee, Silber said last week.
At Monday’s meeting, he said Hinckley had unselfishly given his time to the town.
“I have never seen him do anything to hurt this town and never has he acted for his own benefit,” Silber said. Sumner’s government has lost a good human being and questions about Hinckley’s integrity had hurt, he added.
“Lies hurt and kill and are sinful,” he said. “Let’s not allow evil to destroy this community.”
Silber reiterated a statement he made at last week’s selectmen’s meeting regarding his involvement in the wind power issue: “I will have nothing to do with wind and I will not discuss wind with anyone.”
The longtime selectman said he has been unable to eat and sleep because of the bitterness over the issue and accusations that he has lied and has accepted money from wind power contractors.
He and others have said the campaign against wind power has broken with the town’s tradition of civil debate.
After his statement, the estimated 90 voters took action on the warrant, passing a budget of $1,330,347.85, which is $7,630 less than last year.
Town Clerk Susan Runes said this is the last year of carryover funds from the former SAD 39 and next year she anticipates an increase of $125,000 for the schools.
“Though our mill rate this year is flat, we want to increase taxes half of that this year so we won’t get hit with the whole increase next year,” she said.
She said she expected about an 85-cent increase in the tax rate would cover half the anticipated increase in education funding next year.
Voters also decided to give selectmen a $500 raise, bringing their annual stipend to $3,500.
Silber, responding to a question about the increase, said selectmen usually get a raise every three years but had not for five years.
Sherry Fowler asked why Buckfield selectmen receive less pay in a town with more residents.
Three people answered that Buckfield has a town manager who does work that, in Sumner, is done by selectmen. Several people said the selectmen deserve every penny they receive and more.
Voters also decided to continue using Buckfield Rescue and Tri Town ambulance services, with some saying they were pleased with the coverage. Selectmen will review the coverage areas to obtain the best response time for every resident.
In a straw vote, residents indicated they preferred to finance transfer station costs with taxes rather than a $10 vehicle sticker.
An article to fund public safety operations included money for a generator for the town office complex, which voters OK’d.
Selectman Mary Ann Haxton was re-elected for another three years and Jim Keach was re-elected road commissioner for one year.
A hazardous waste pickup at the Fire Station on Saturday, Aug. 13, and a special industrial wind informational meeting Thursday, Aug. 18, were announced at the meeting.
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