CANTON – An effort to use a secret ballot to vote on town matters costing more than $5,000 was overwhelmingly rejected during Saturday’s annual town meeting.

Those opposing the article said it didn’t allow for broad discussions on financial issues, and also that people who didn’t attend public hearings would not be properly informed.

Supporters, meanwhile, said public hearings would address any questions prior to balloting.

Another citizen-initiated article, which had to do with the town acquiring a dam, was soundly approved. Dam Core Committee Chairman Malcolm Ray clarified the article by saying the town should own the dam and property before any other action is taken.

Ray said the town of Hartford also will address the dam issue by appropriating money at its town meeting. He said the committee has been speaking with the Maine Emergency Management Agency on the possibility of funding.

The privately owned dam has become a controversial matter because of concern that it could breach. The state has ordered that the dam’s gates be kept open in order to lessen the volume of water pressing against it.

Ray cited several reasons to acquire the dam. He said low water affects property values of homes on the lake, and the lake could become a more valuable resource if the town provided public access to out-of-town people as well as Canton residents, which in turn would boost business for local store owners.

“The passage of this article gives me some guidance to work on options for funding,” state Sen. Bruce Bryant said. “I don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into something the town has no interest in.”

The town voted to use $22,000 from the sale of town property on Jewett Hill to go toward purchasing the dam property.

In other matters, the town approved $75,000 for paving. Road Foreman Craig Gammon said, “We need to keep our roads up.”

He indicated the money would pave about a mile and a half and he would recommend doing part of Staples Hill Road. Selectmen Chairman Jackie Conant asked for a show of appreciation for Selectmen Rick Ray and Walley Haynes, both of whom did not seek re-election. The town voted for Donna Hebert and Scotty Kilbreth to fill the empty seats on the board. John Bissell lost his bid for selectman by three votes.

Residents voted for Tricia Blanchard, Kathleen Hutchins and Jeffrey Cavanaugh as Planning Board members, and write-ins to the Budget Committee were Clinton Conant and Lindsey Hayes.

The $579,458 municipal budget for 2008 reflects about a 3 mil increase. This includes the paving project and is an increase of around $150,000 from the 2007 town budget.

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