Selectman contest, pot moratorium on Newry warrant

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NEWRY — Voters will elect a selectman Monday and decide on a marijuana moratorium and a town budget Tuesday.

Selectman Jim Largess is being challenged by Gary Drown for a three-year term. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 5 at the Town Office.

The town meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. March 6 at the Bear River Grange Hall. The warrant includes a municipal budget that would increases the amount raised by taxes about $160,000.

The proposed moratorium ordinance on retail recreational marijuana sales would be in effect six months from its adoption. It would prohibit all retail recreational marijuana activity, or developing or operating a retail marijuana establishment or retail marijuana social club.

According to the ordinance, it is being proposed because the state Legislature has not passed regulations governing such establishments.

The town recently received an inquiry from a business owner about possibly opening a retail marijuana shop near Sunday River Resort.

Town officials said they may ask voters Tuesday if they wish to allow retail sales, testing facilities and/or grow operations or some combination of those options.

Regarding the proposed town budget, Town Administrator Amy Bernard said it’s about $1.3 million, which doesn’t include school and county assessments.

Much of the $160,000 increase in taxes, if approved, would come from higher amounts in the capital improvement and highways and bridges accounts, Bernard said last week.

The capital improvement account would increase to $264,000 from last year’s $167,200, largely because of paving projects. Among roads listed for paving are Timberline, Lone Pine, Mountain View, Mill Hill and Deer Run.

Highways and bridges would increase to $188,500 from $158,660 last year. Bernard said that hike is largely because of the higher cost of plowing and paying for road salt outside the winter roads contract.

Under third-party requests from nonprofit organizations, the larger requests include $5,000 for the Mahoosuc Heart & Soul project, $6,000 from the Bethel Library, $10,000 from the Mountain Explorer and $5,000 from the Windy Valley Snowmobile Club. Total requests this year are $40,239, up slightly from last year.

Town officials are proposing the creation of three new capital reserve accounts, all to receive initial funding from undesignated surplus. They are Town Buildings Reserve Fund, $50,000; Revaluation Reserve Fund, $50,000; and Fire Department Equipment Reserve Fund, $100,000.

Bernard said the new format would replace the practice of taking money for those expenses directly from undesignated surplus and would make for a cleaner and clearer process. Future funding would be raised from taxes.

The Fire Department is proposing an new pumper truck to replace the old ambulance vehicle. Fire Chief Bruce Pierce said the new truck would save responding to accidents and small fires with a full-size firetruck and would be easier to maneuver. He said a used vehicle could probably be found for about $50,000.

Voters will also be asked if they want to accept the North Newry Community Church and all its assets as a gift from the church’s board of directors. If approved, a second article asks for $1,000 for a new account to fund operations of the church.

The church board members told selectmen last year that they could no longer afford to maintain the building.

Tuesday’s town meeting will be preceded by a potluck supper at 5 p.m. at the Grange Hall.

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