PARIS – Although not without debate and revision, all 28 articles reviewed by residents were approved during Saturday’s town meeting.

Residents voted 58 to 40 against funding the Growth Council of Oxford Hills for the next year, a decision that cut $12,000 from the town budget.

John Shattuck, executive director of the Growth Council, said the organization intends to work with Community Concepts on a more regional basis to promote business retention, work force development, and infrastructure issues. Both organizations work to promote development and economic growth in the region.

One resident said the town should see how the Growth Council operates for a year before awarding it any money, citing the organization’s decision to abandon development of a technology park in Norway. Paris was one of six towns that had invested money in the project.

Resident Troy Ripley recommended that the budget for administrative services be reduced by $50,000 from the recommended amount of $464,520. He said the proposed budget was “10 percent tall” and could “stand some trimming.”

Town Manager Sharon Jackson said the town’s tax rate of $16.20 per $1,000 of property valuation would not change if the article passed as it stood, and that the reduction would prevent town officials from receiving an annual raise.

Jackson, as well as Barbara Payne, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, requested that Ripley cite specific line items that he wanted reduced. Ripley said he would like to see the authority for the cutbacks given to selectmen and the Budget Committee.

At this point, resident Franca Ainsworth said the discussion was “beating around the bush,” citing personal attacks on town officials that she said shouldn’t be occurring.

As the vote to cut the $50,000 was about to occur, it was discovered that the amount Ripley proposed to approve for administrative services in his amendment was a reduction of $60,000 instead of $50,000. Due to this error, voters defeated the amendment.

Other residents promptly moved to end discussion and vote on the article as written. It was approved by a 54 to 47 vote.

Ripley later wanted to ensure that the town avoid any financial losses at Norway-Paris Community Television, which actually receives its funding from franchise fees paid to Norway and Paris from Time Warner Cable. Ron Snow, a former Norway selectman who worked as an accountant for NPC-TV, was recently indicted for embezzling more than $29,000 of the station’s funds.

Jackson said the situation is “being taken care of,” that changes are being made to the station’s accounting system, and that NPC-TV relies on the towns to approve its operating costs. Residents approved the continued payment of franchise fees by Time Warner to the two towns.

Some debate arose regarding articles outlining the budgets for parks and recreation and capital improvements. Jackson said a $400 fee paid by subdivision developments goes toward recreational areas in those subdivisions. She said the money could not go toward the parks and recreation budget.

A resident questioned why $11,000 of capital improvement money was budgeted for ball park maintenance if the subdivision fees could be used for that purpose. Jackson said the capital improvements fund was intended to improve existing town properties, while the subdivision fees are meant to be used for new construction.

An amendment seeking to remove the $11,000 item from the article was defeated, and the capital improvements fund passed as it was written.

In a written ballot, residents voted 59 to 32 in favor of increasing the property tax levy limit of $1,711,235.98 in the event that the articles resulted in a tax commitment that was greater than the state’s levy limit. Jackson said the town was over the levy due to $100,000 in loan payments for the purchase of two Fire Department vehicles and one Highway Department vehicle.

With the striking of the Growth Council funds, the town was $27,000 over the levy. The vote ensured that the budget could be passed as voted upon, with no cuts to meet the levy.

At the beginning of the meeting, Payne recognized Elizabeth Larson’s 30 years of service to Paris as the town clerk. Payne, who lost her seat on the Board of Selectmen at Tuesday’s vote, said she will continue her public service in other manners.

Following the meeting, David Ivey and Glen Young were sworn in as selectmen. The duo were voted in to office Tuesday, when residents also approved the town’s comprehensive plan and subdivision ordinance. Also on Tuesday, Albert T. Dignan won a three-year term as trustee for the Paris Utility District, and Raymond Lussier received eight write-in votes that earned him a two-year term as a PUD trustee.


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