MEXICO – The premise was simple at Wednesday night’s joint meeting of selectmen and Budget Committee members: Make a yes or no recommendation on a proposed town meeting warrant article regarding secret ballot voting on town meeting articles.

What followed was more than an hour of discussion and motions atop motions to arrive at the same conclusion: Neither board would make a recommendation.

The article asks if the town will vote by secret ballot on warrant articles at the June 2007 annual town meeting, and to raise and appropriate $4,500 to implement the change from open town meeting to referendum town meeting.

Selectman Reggie Arsenault attempted to quickly get a no recommendation, but his motion failed to get a second.

Selectmen’s Chairman Barbara Arsenault, more than once, told both groups that Town Manager John Madigan said both had to provide either a yes or no answer.

Although Selectman Ritchie Philbrick said he would agree to an affirmative recommendation, Selectmen George Byam refused to be pinned down.

Selectman Peter Merrill did not arrive until after the board voted.

When asked about cost, Laramee said $4,500 is what it is expected to cost to have every town meeting article printed on ballots.

Discussion strayed several times into off-topic talk and accusations of distrust.

“This is the way it was written, this is the way it’s going to appear,” Laramee repeated more than once when Budget Committee members tried to get selectmen to split it into two articles.

Anxieties were raised that if that happened, voters could approve the secret ballot part, but reject spending the money.

Committee member Bertha Barrett suggested that by including the amount in the same article it was a ploy by selectmen to prevent the measure from being passed.

Byam finally moved that selectmen make no recommendation. It was OK’d by a 3-0 vote.

After more discussion by the committee, Barrett motioned to petition selectmen and Madigan to split the article into two.

Laramee said that can’t be done.

Committee member Arthur Bordeau, a former selectman, then objected to being “dictated to by the board, when we were supposed to have input.”

Laramee said they didn’t need a recommendation from the committee, but sought one out of courtesy.

“I think the townspeople should know that we as the Budget Committee have not recommended this as the way it is written,” Barrett said.

After Laramee said selectmen wanted voters to know how much it would cost to be implemented, Barrett said the town has money in its contingency fund to cover it.

Committee member Monique Aniel then agreed with Barrett, saying she believes that by including the cost, it was a ploy by selectmen to get residents to defeat the article.

Barrett’s motion was defeated, and Aniel proposed, in a wordy statement, that the committee make a “yes” recommendation only on the $4,500.

It was approved 8-2.

Then committee member Jim White motioned that if selectmen aren’t willing to change the article, that the committee would make no recommendation. That was approved 7-3.

Then it was unclear what had transpired.

Later, Town Clerk Penny Duguay said she’d have to confer with Madigan, who was absent due to a family emergency, to decide what to do.