Meeting set to discuss secret ballot

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RUMFORD – During a three-hour session Thursday night, selectmen set a special meeting for 6 p.m. on April 27 to continue discussion of a proposal to replace town meeting voting with referendum votes on the annual budget.

The board also agreed to begin examining the services municipal departments are providing to townspeople, and the number of employees involved in providing those services.

Town Manager Steve Eldridge said on Friday that the primary question facing selectmen as they prepare a question on whether to change the hand votes at the annual town meeting to referendum votes is how to deal with a defeat.

As proposed, the so-called secret ballot article would provide several questions covering various parts of the budget for townspeople to vote on. If an article, such as the police department or public works budget, is voted down, selectmen aren’t sure what dollar figure the department would operate with until another proposal is agreed to by residents. He said the board hopes to hammer out a solution following the special meeting on Thursday.

Selectman Mark Belanger has said he believes the town employs a greater number of police officers, firefighters and other employees than is needed for a town with a population of 6,400.

Eldridge said the board agreed to wait until after the June town meeting before beginning the review. In July, he said the board plans to set a referendum vote for November, asking people for their opinions on the level of services currently provided.

In the interim, he said a series of public hearings will be held to explain the duties and responsibilities of each department.

“We’ll spend the summer and fall months looking at each department,” he said.

Also on Thursday, the board:

• granted Len Greaney $1,000 toward the purchase of bronze markers for veterans’ graves.

• awarded the contract for the purchase of two new plow trucks to C.B. International of Bangor at a cost of $135,394 and $104,126. The funds are in the capital budget, said Eldridge.

The board also met in a 30-minute closed session to discuss the specifications and potential tenant for a structure the town plans to have built in the new business park located off Route 108.


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