Town approves barking dog ordinance amendment and $4.4 million budget

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FARMINGTON — Voters on Saturday approved amending the town’s animal control ordinance to include rules for barking dogs, adopted a revised shoreland zoning ordinance and approved a funding request for the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project.

More than 100 people came out for the first town meeting to be held on a Saturday.

Voters approved spending $4.41 million to operate the municipal government this year, including $5,000 for AWAP, an increase of $2,000 above the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation.

Voters at a special town meeting last year raised the same amount, after no funds were approved at town meeting. The agency’s request caused a lengthy discussion again this year.

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Several members of the Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen said donations should be given by individuals, not by tax dollars. They had also recommended reducing the amount for the American Red Cross.

With 50 percent of their calls from Franklin County coming from Farmington, where AWAP has an office and a shelter, the organization had received almost as many calls in five months of its fiscal year (October to September) as it did all of last year, Executive Director Jane Morrison said.

“We expect the number to double,” she said.

This organization “saves lives,” said Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Farmington resident.

After much discussion, residents approved a $1.02 million budget for the police department. Looking to save by not filling two vacant positions in the department and to reduce a $14,000 increase in its budget, a proposed amendment to curb the amount to $900,000 was defeated by voters.

Taxpayers are looking at an unknown increase in school taxes. “Not filling the positions would mean no one would lose their job,” said resident William Crandall.

Although town officials initially thought they would be within the Property Tax Levy Limitation, known as LD 1, which establishes spending limits on municipal governments, more recent calculations showed the town to be over by $167,000, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Not allowing the town to go beyond the limit would mean cutbacks in services and people, Davis said. It would also mean voters would have to cut $167,000 from the warrant articles.

“Making these kind of cuts would have an impact,” Davis said. “The budget is $3,000 lower than last year. We’ve cut everything to the bone.”

Crandall called for a stop to increased spending, but residents went on to approve increasing the limit by a vote of 85-19.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Stephan Bunker praised the dedication of Selectman Dennis Pike who lost his seat on the board to Andrew Hufnagel in Friday’s election.

Pike was a leader who had “compassion for fellow citizens,” Bunker said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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