TEMPLE — Without dissent or discussion, town meeting voters Monday night quickly approved a moratorium ordinance that will delay any wind-power project for 180 days.
Voters also cut $8,000 from the municipal operating budget, including $3,000 from the General Assistance account that is used to provide emergency assistance to those in need.
The moratorium gives the town time to research and draft a wind-power ordinance to regulate the development of a wind-generated power facility in Temple.
There were no questions or comments on the article, which reflected on the effort by a group of citizens and town officials to explain the issue before Monday, resident Steve Kaiser, a member of the town's wind power committee, said after the vote.
“People understand that this is about developing a process and gives the town a chance to get something in place in the event there is an industrial wind proposal,” Kaiser said.
Two meetings had been held this winter and an informational newsletter with a copy of the proposed moratorium ordinance was sent to every household.
An out-of-state developer recently purchased tax maps from the town that include the ridge lines of Varnum, Derby and Dean mountains and Center Hill but no further inquiry has been made, according to the town.
In a discussion about General Assistance, Selectman George Blodgett said the board increased the article to $6,000 from $500 last year because of a spike in the number of families seeking help.
“Our General Assistance request was for $500 for a long time, but we've spent over $3,000 since January,” he said.
He said the town's requirements for verification and documentation from applicants is very stringent.
“But times are hard for so many people, and we don't have a choice,” he said. “If they meet all the requirements, we can't refuse them.”
The motion to cut the request in half was made by resident Ronnie Rackliffe, who said if more money was needed, it could be taken from the General Fund, also known as surplus.
Resident Janine Winn said she was concerned that the cut would mean the town would not have enough money to help those in need.
If the budget needs to be cut, she said, “Something feels wrong to take it out of this particular account.”
Blodgett said the board has the authority to transfer money to the General Assistance account and according to former town Treasurer Marie Andrews, the only two town accounts that can legally be overdrawn are General Assistance and roads.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Service's website states the state pays a town half of its General Assistance expenses.
Blodgett, however, said he has been told that the reimbursement is “doubtful” due to budget cuts.
Also cut from the budget was $5,000 from a $50,000 request for the town charges account. In 2010, $45,000 was raised. The extra funds were needed to buy a new computer for the assessor to replace one that does not have enough capacity, and also to study a problem with water leakage at the town office, selectmen said.
A question about why the request from Sandy River Recycling Association went up from $300 in 2010 to $562 for 2011 was answered by resident Jo Josephson, the board chairwoman of the nonprofit association. She said more recyclables were being brought to the facility since pressure has been put on the town's trash hauler to bring the recyclables to Sandy River rather than including them in the household waste stream.
“It costs $45 a ton for recyclables and $75 a ton for trash. You are saving taxpayer money if you are recycling,” she said.