Topsham voters to decide on budget Wednesday

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TOPSHAM — Residents on Wednesday will decide whether to increase spending and whether to ban retail marijuana operations.

The annual town meeting takes place at 7 p.m. in The Commons at Mt. Ararat High School.

Residents will vote on a $12.2 million budget that would increase spending by 3.19 percent — up $11.77 million from this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

High public safety expenses are driving spending. The town is looking to add two police officers, for an increase of $130,000.

Town Manager Rich Roedner said feedback from residents has pointed to traffic safety concerns and additional officers would enable the department to concentrate more resources on traffic violations and patrol.

“It would also cut down on the need for overtime,” Roedner said. “When somebody’s out, you don’t necessarily need to fill the time.”

The fire and rescue budget is proposed to increase by $161,000 for a pair of new firefighters and a hike for per diem pay.

Roedner said the town has fallen behind on per diem pay, and the demand for per diem firefighters has increased. The proposal would hire two new full-time firefighters — the department’s recommendation is firefighter medics — one in September and one at the end of the year.

Topsham is also looking to add an assistant town manager to assist with human resources, technology and facilities management. Roedner had initially proposed a part-time position in the finance department that he said the new assistant manager would be able to cover. The new position, one the town eliminated in 2011, contributes to a $127,868 increase in the administration budget.

An ordinance to define and regulate retail marijuana also will be put to voters. Marijuana retail establishments are defined by the ordinance as a store, cultivation facility, testing facility, social club, or any facility where retail marijuana products are manufactured. The ordinance would prohibit such facilities throughout the town.

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