BUCKFIELD – After three years of balking at pricey proposals for a new highway garage, voters finally approved one for an estimated $200,000 Wednesday.

Nearly 100 voters at the town meeting raised little opposition to the project, a sharp contrast to a $335,000 proposal that was shot down in 2001 before it got to a town meeting.

A year ago the Buckfield Concerned Citizens group investigated the feasibility of doing away with the highway department altogether and abandoned the idea.

At last year’s town meeting, members Roland and Beverly Bennett recommended an article to discontinue the highway department without the support of Buckfield Concerned Citizens. The article was defeated.

Roland Bennett attempted to resubmit the article this year, but selectmen adopted a policy requiring voters to circulate a petition for any out-of-the-ordinary articles in the warrant.

Bennett chose not to initiate the petition process.

“This petition policy is unconstitutional,” he said at Wednesday night’s meeting. “I don’t care, (the selectmen) can break the law as many times as they want. I’m leaving.”

Voters discussed the article for less than 30 minutes after Bennett left. Some were uncomfortable not having an article on putting money into the new fire station reserve account, the amount of debt the town will accrue as a result of a $95,000 loan for the new highway garage and a $240,000 loan for buying a new firetruck.

The truck will be built by an out-of-state manufacturer and take about 10 months. The Fire Department is holding off on ordering the truck until it learns from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about a grant it has applied for three years in a row.

“Hopefully we’ll get the grant, but I don’t hold out much hope,” Fire Chief Steve Bly said.

According to Bly, the first round of grant recipients was announced earlier this month, and Buckfield was not one. The last of the FEMA grants will be distributed by Sept. 30.

In order to raise money for a new highway garage, buy the firetruck and have no tax increase, the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Cindy Dunn chose not to include an article to put money into the fire station reserve account, Dunn said.

“It’s a compromise, but it’s quite a reasonable compromise,” Wes Ackley said.

Selectmen can now hire an engineer or design-build firm, based on bids received last month.

The garage will be located on 15 acres at the former Maine Waste Oil site. It will be 48 by 60 feet. The project also will include installation of a gas/diesel station with cement pad, a 24-by-20-foot salt storage building, liquid calcium storage, security lighting and fencing. There will also be a 24-by-60-foot area beside the garage for future expansion.

“As far as expecting more opposition to the proposal, who knows?” said Dunn. “I expected more discussion, but that’s what it’s all about I guess.”


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