NEWRY — Voters approved a municipal budget of $771,838 Monday night at the annual town meeting in the Bear River Grange Hall.
That's $62,424 down from last year's budget of $834,262 that voters agreed to raise and appropriate.
The $771,838.30 amount to be raised by taxation, doesn't include the SAD 44 and county tax assessments, which are done later in the year, Administrative Assistant Loretta Powers said.
After electing Vern Maxfield of Woodstock as moderator, about 50 voters cruised through most of the 43-article warrant in 75 minutes with little to no discussion.
There were no controversial articles in the warrant. However, voters spent some time understanding the issues involved with three articles that focused on much needed roadwork.
Article 25 asked voters to appropriate from the carry-forward accounts to the Capital Project account. These were Bear River Watershed, $28,363.o7; Sunday River Watershed, $9,431.97; and Tri-Town Transfer Station Capital Improvements, $15,276.43.
Selectmen recommended transferring the $53,071.47 total amount, to be applied to roadwork.
Former longtime Selectman Steve Wight motioned to take them one at a time. It was seconded.
Wight said the money was raised for the two watershed accounts for erosion-control work on both rivers that were threatening to destroy the town's roads. Some of the money was also used for habitat restoration.
He lobbied against transferring the amounts, saying the Androscoggin River Watershed Council would provide matching funding for continued work to improve habitats.
Planning Board member Jim Largess then asked for the rationale behind transferring the money.
"I finally recommended it to the selectmen because I felt that money was just sitting there and we have roads to fix," Powers said.
"We haven't done anything to our roads in what, 10 years?" She asked of town officials. "So, we're trying to bring them all up to snuff, and that money was just sitting in there, and I thought it would save us a little money and just move it over."
Powers and Wight said they thought the money had been sitting in the accounts untouched since 2008.
Referring to a final report on one erosion control method called chop-and-drop, wherein trees were cut down and strategically placed in the rivers to control erosion and create fishing pools, Selectman Brooks Morton said it didn't help restore brook trout habitat.
Residents then voted 25-11 to transfer the Bear River Watershed monies, and 21-13 to transfer the Sunday River Watershed account funds.
Powers then explained that the transfer station account money was raised for a joint project with Bethel, but the project fell by the wayside. Voters then overwhelmingly agreed to transfer those funds.
Then, in Article 29, several residents asked Code Enforcement Officer David Bonney to explain why selectmen recommended taking $254,000 from the Capital Improvement account for work on Lone Pine and Sunday River roads.
The work, which has already been awarded by bid to paving contractor Bruce Manzer, includes reclaiming and paving the 3,150-foot-long Lone Pine Road and repaving 6,288 feet of the Sunday River Road from the Skiway Road intersection to the Monkey Brook intersection.
Additional work on the Sunday River Road includes shimming, or filling in low spots, Bonney said.
Later, voters agreed to appropriate $100,000 from surplus to the capital account and used another $75,000 to buy down the tax rate.
But voters rejected Article 43, which asked the state transportation commissioner to remove Route 26's Scenic Byway designation in Newry. Wight won that skirmish.
"I think it's a very foolish thing to do," he said. "We're a town that exists because of recreation and tourism."
He said people visit areas where there are scenic byways and map out their vacation routes by scenic byways.
"Whether we have this designation on the road or not won't mean anything to us, but it does mean a whole lot to people who make their whole living through tourism in the area," Wight said.
He recommended rejecting the article. It was defeated by a tally of 16 against the article and 12 for it.
In municipal elections done from the floor, Selectman Gary Wight, SAD 44 Director Deb Webster and Dog Officer Alan Fleet were all reelected.