BELGRADE – After electing two candidates for office and approving everything else at the ballot box on Friday, more than 100 Belgrade voters assembled Saturday to dispatch the remaining items on the Town Meeting warrant.
Among the big-ticket items approved by floor votes Saturday at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons were almost $470,000 requested for town offices and administrative activities, including wages and benefits; almost $251,000 for public safety, which includes money for a full-time emergency medical technician/paramedic Monday through Friday; and $446,000 for public works, including winter plowing and sanding.
Voters also agreed to spend $250,000 for solid waste operations.
Language in several articles, including one funding cemetery operations, was amended on the floor Saturday, and voters defeated an amendment proposed by Penny Morrell to rename a the annual holiday stroll as the Christmas stroll. Several people spoke against the idea, saying they wanted it to be inclusive.
In response to George Seel’s question about why one selectman recommended rejection of an article to give a $500 academic award for the highest-ranking high school senior from Belgrade in 2017, Selectman Gary Mahler explained, “It’s too little,” getting chuckles from the crowd. “That’s why I voted no. It’ll buy a nice textbook.”
In voting Friday, Belgrade residents kept incumbent Selectman Michael Barrett in place for another three years and elected Ernst Merckens from among three candidates seeking to complete the final year of a term for a seat that was vacant. Merckens said Saturday that he expected to be sworn in before the next selectman’s meeting.
The votes were 201 for Barrett and 173 for challenger Scott Damren. In the three-year race, Merckens garnered 170; Howard Holinger, 132; and Jordan Stolt, 73.
Voters agreed 355-52 to accept a gift of more than $495,000 raised by Friends of Belgrade Lakes Village to be spent on upgrading sidewalks and lighting materials that will be installed during the state’s reconstruction of Main Street through the village in 2018.
“This is so exciting,” said Carol Johnson, a Belgrade property owner who was staffing a colorful booth with information about the project and the enhancements.
The state plans to rebuild just under half a mile of the road, which also is known as Route 27, and the estimated total project cost is just under $2.7 million. In consideration of residents’ and business owners’ concern about the effect on the town, the project will be suspended during the busy tourist months of July and August.
Liz Fontaine and Diane Oliver, two leaders of the nonprofit group, were honored with Spirit of America awards for their volunteer work on the project.
Voters supported, 280-124, spending $4,500 on the Fourth of July fireworks celebration put on by the Belgrade Lakes Region Business Group.
They also opted, 242-161, to spend $40,000 for water quality programs run by several nonprofit agencies. That was the most controversial item on the secret ballot, with the Board of Selectpersons voting 3-1 to recommend rejection. Barrett was the lone supporter.
One selectman, Ernie Rice, had publicly urged rejection.
The vote nixed an article to be voted on the floor that would have given $19,000 from those funds to the groups.
Voters also approved, 293-103, amendments to the town’s Commercial Development Review Ordinance, which include a new section about wind energy facilities as well as a standard about visual impact of those and cell towers.
It says, “Any development to be placed on a lakeshore or a hilltop may be required to prepare a visual impact assessment to provide evidence that it will not significantly impact the quality of Belgrade’s scenic resource.”
Results of the Friday election are listed on the town’s website at www.townofbelgrade.com.
Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said the municipal budget is about $87,000 lower than the current year’s spending plan.
The town is expecting a $4.55 million municipal operating budget. While no budget projections have been received yet from Regional School Unit 18, the Messalonskee and China Schools, Castonguay said she estimated a 5 percent increase, which would bring it to about $6.2 million.