STRONG — Voters at Saturday's town meeting approved a budget that is 3.78 percent more than last year and includes $8,000 for a snowplow.
Fifty residents agreed to raise and appropriate $607,383 from taxes and transfer $47,702 from existing accounts. Selectmen and the Budget Committee had proposed spending $590,856, which was less than a 1 percent increase over the 2012 budget.
The same snowplow article that was defeated last year passed easily Saturday.
Residents also approved adding $20,000 to the firetruck reserve account, although the Budget Committee and selectmen recommended allocating $10,000.
This year's total included conditional approval to buy an $8,500 stainless steel hood and fire suppression system for the town's kitchen. Selectmen were instructed to find other funds to defray the costs. A state fire marshal has only approved use of the kitchen for reheating food.
Assessor Robert Worthley explained to voters that Gov. Paul LePage's budget won't be approved by the Legislature until late spring. The town receives revenues from several state tax-reimbursement programs, including tree growth, business equipment, circuit breaker and homestead exemptions, he said.
The town's share of sales tax revenue, $86,000, may be cut significantly. Voters approved taking $250,000 from surplus to reduce the tax commitment for 2013, but newly elected Selectman Mike Pond suggested that selectmen review taking more from the account.
"Is there a way we can come back to this article later for more of a commitment from surplus?" he asked.
Voters also approved the Planning Board's revisions to the town's 1993 Site Plan Review Ordinance. Revisions applied only to specific types and sizes of nonresidential development, according to Planning Board Chairman Jeff Murphy. He explained that the revisions include large wind farms without a separate cumbersome ordinance and addresses other types of large industrial sites.
"Only the major development category, which involves three or more acres of unrevegetated area on the site, will be required to meet these setback standards," Murphy said.
Fire Department personnel and equipment need adequate access to prevent fire from spreading to other properties. Murphy said another safety concern is having a wind tower break apart, propelling blades or other parts over extreme distances. The board has held three public hearings to get public input.
Large wind turbines will be required to have a 2,000-foot setback. All other energy-generating facilities, such as biomass or natural gas plants, must have a 1,000-foot setback. Large industrial facilities will have a 1,000-foot setback, and processing and commercial facilities will have a 100-foot setback.
On Friday, challenger Mike Pond defeated Selectmen Rupert Pratt for one of two open seats. Pond received 120 votes, incumbent Milt Baston received 94 votes and Pratt received 89. The five selectmen elected Joan Reed as chairman and James Burrill as vice chairman.
Fire Chief Duayne Boyd was re-elected, as were Budget Committee candidates Langdon Adams and Loretta Deming, along with incumbent Susan Pratt. Raylene Tolman, who was hired to assist with vehicle registrations, tax collection and other town business, will also act as town clerk and registrar of voters.