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Strong voters pass setback ordinance, elect new selectman

STRONG – More than 60 residents attended the annual town meeting today at Forster Memorial Building, increasing an allocation for the fire department’s equipment reserve and passing an ordinance regulating setbacks for wind turbines and other facilities.

Newly-elected selectmen Gerald “Mike” Pond and incumbent Selectman Milton Baston were sworn in before the mid-meeting recess. Pond was elected to the board with 124 votes, while Baston was reelected with 94 votes. Selectman Rupert Pratt received 89 votes.

“It’s no cause for distress,” Pratt said, joking: “It might be cause for celebration.”

Residents moved swiftly through the warrant, increasing an article setting aside funds for the fire department’s equipment reserve. Selectmen had recommended $10,000, but reelected Fire Chief Duayne Boyd requested $20,000, noting the going rate for a new truck was more than $300,000 and the town currently had $120,000 in the account.

“Surplus is very important,” Pratt said. “When we run out of surplus we have to borrow money. It costs money to borrow money.”

In the end, the town agreed on raising $20,000 through taxation (corrected).

The most contested article was Article 17, which updated the town’s Site Plan Review Ordinance, preventing development from being too close to residential areas. The old version of the ordinance didn’t differentiate between large and small developments and had a series of technical issues.

People were concerned that the updated ordinance would discourage wind tower development and other businesses. Supporters argued the change was necessary.

“It’s just so everyone knows the rules when they come to the table,” Planning Board Chairman Jeff Murphy said, “It’s minimal in its requirements compared to other ordinances in other towns.”

Residents voted to support the change to the ordinance.