Town voters reject backhoe money

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NEW GLOUCESTER – The majority of the roughly 80 voters at the annual town meeting Monday decided not to put $80,000 into a reserve account for a backhoe. They also turned down an ordinance allowing accessory apartments in all dwellings except mobile homes.

It took residents just over three hours to decide 33 warrant articles. Donald Libby was moderator.

Carlton Wilcox persuaded voters to cut $1 from a requested $265,000 capital reserve fund that included $15,000 for the transfer station.

Wilcox’s token gesture was to make a point that it would be more economical for the town to have curbside pickup rather than have residents in gas-guzzling vehicles hauling their trash to the Bald Hill Road facility. He said a new study is warranted on the cost of roadside pickup compared to running a transfer station.

“This town is no longer a town of farmers. The population is now 5,000 people today in 2,000 households based on a recent economic demographic study,” Wilcox said. “The town should look at trash pickup. Maybe the town has outgrown the transfer station.”

In other business, voters rejected appropriating $80,000 for reserve to buy a backhoe.

Roger Levasseur said independent contractors are less expensive than the town buying costly equipment for the highway department.

Lloyd May said he sees what happens around town in his daily travels. “No one’s watching what’s going on. We’re spending a lot of money and not going anywhere.”

Voters turned down an ordinance allowing accessory apartments townwide for all dwellings except mobile homes. After a show of hands that passed the ordinance 32-31, a request by A. Wayne Cobb passed to reconsider the vote by paper ballot. The final vote defeated the article 41-38. The ordinance would have replaced one that permits in-law apartments of no more than 540 square feet for any dwelling.

Zoning board member Janet Smaldon said, “This is a way to get affordable housing for the elderly or the young, not meant to be permanent housing.”

But residents argued that excluding mobile homes, which account for 20 percent of residences, was unfair.

If the ordinance passed, every single residential dwelling could have an accessory apartment subject to Planning Board approval, and be no larger than 40 percent of the livable square feet of the prime residence.

Voters approved a gross municipal budget of $3,718,552 with estimated revenue of $2,307,715. The net municipal budget raised by taxes totals $805,837.

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