Carthage to begin paying volunteer firefighters

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Veteran First Selectman Steve Brown of Carthage, shown in 2016, received a $4,000 raise at the annual town meeting July 9. The increase brings his annual pay to $23,000. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times 2016 file photo)

CARTHAGE — In hopes of keeping their Fire Department active, residents have voted to pay responding volunteer firefighters, First Selectman Steve Brown said.

The decision at the annual town meeting July 9 included compensating firefighters $10 per hour, the state minimum wage.

“The main reason for this was to try to encourage more young people to get involved, in order to keep the Fire Department going,” Brown said.

Prior to this, he said, volunteers for the town of less than 600 residents were never paid but the chief received a stipend.

Brown said the department has had some young people join recently, bringing the roster to 18.

It was one of 47 articles approved by 45 voters, including a $4,000 raise for Brown, who has been first selectmen for 39 years. His salary is now $23,000 per year. 

“It was a complete surprise. There had been no talk of it,” he said.

Voters also increased the hours for the tax collector/clerk from 15 to 20 per week, which will extend Town Office hours from 15 to 20 per week.

An article to allow the Webb River Valley Snowmobile Club to build a storage shed for its equipment on town property also won passage.

Brown said the shed will be built on the town’s 20-acre, gated parcel where the waste transfer station and sand-salt storage building are located.

“Part of the deal that we worked out with them is that they would create space to store our new compactor truck that we bought earlier this year,” Brown said.

Voters also decided to spend $5,000 from Saddleback Ridge Wind Community Benefits Fund to improve the town playground. Another $2,000 from the fund was approved for the Fire Department to add dry hydrants.

The fund has around $150,000. Carthage receives $48,000 per year from the wind power project.

 “People aren’t wildly spending it. They’re coming up with good ideas of where to spend (money),” Brown said.

A total of $402,580 will be raised from taxation this year, according to the municipal budget. That’s a slight increase from last year.

Brown estimated the tax rate will increase from 13 to 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Besides budget issues, voters re-elected Linda Berry as town clerk and tax collector, and Nancy Blodgett as treasurer for one year. They also re-elected Second Selectman Lawrence “Larry” Blodgett for three years. All were unopposed and were nominated from the floor.

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