GREENWOOD – In an attempt to avoid a tax increase, voters made deep cuts to several budget items at the annual town meeting Saturday.

Six spending recommendations by selectmen on the town’s 35-article warrant were reduced for a total savings of $85,475. However, while the cuts brought the budget down from the projected 8 percent increase, they still represented an increase of $7,934 over last year’s budget.

Voters approved a reduction of $40,000 in the proposed reserve and savings accounts; $19,310 in the Fire Department budget; $10,000 in the facility maintenance and repair budget; $5,320 in the community safety budget; $5,845 in the codes, planning and assessment budget; and $5,000 in the administrative budget.

Selectmen had requested $60,000 for reserve and savings, $69,310 for the Fire Department, $57,250 for facility maintenance, $30,045 for community safety, $45,845 for codes/planning/assessment, and $235,000 for administrative.

The Fire Department vote drew the most discussion. The cut was proposed by resident Fran Picirillo, who asked that the department’s budget be reduced to $35,000 by trimming expenses for wages, vehicle repair and equipment.

Some residents questioned whether Greenwood should retain a professional fire chief and if it might consider joining with a neighboring fire department.

“The Fire Department is getting to the point where we can’t afford it,” former Selectman Herbie Dunham said.

Fire Chief Jim Owens, who works part-time for the department, said the presence of the department in Greenwood resulted in a house being saved from destruction in September. He also said pairing up with a neighboring department would not be an effective cost-saving measure.

“There would be some savings,” Owens said. “It’s not going to be significant.”

After another amendment was proposed that would allocate the full amount recommended by selectmen for the department, confusion reigned over whether a formal vote was taking place on either item. Eventually, Picirillo proposed another amendment, this time reducing the department’s budget to $50,000, and the change was accepted.

The town also overwhelmingly rejected a pay-per-bag policy, which would have had residents purchase special garbage bags for disposal at the transfer station, which is shared by Greenwood and Woodstock. Steve Beiss, a former Woodstock selectman, said it costs the town $99.14 to dispose of a ton of garbage, while it will receive money for turning in recyclables. Beiss said the plan aimed to prevent people from throwing away recyclables to save the town money.

“This needs to go forward,” Selectman Wayne Hakala said, who proposed the item as a citizen’s initiative article. “The more you’re recycling, the more we save.”

Residents expressed concerns that the new system would instead lead to more littering, as well as the possibility of people, including tourists, being turned away from the transfer station for not having the correct bag. Residents also noted that the system would punish those who are already recycling and discourage people from cleaning up other roadside garbage, which they would have to pay for.

“I don’t see why we should have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes,” resident Irving Cole said.

Voters also decided in a 33 to 26 vote to split an $800 line item in the general services budget among libraries in Bethel, Woodstock and West Paris. The item had formerly gone only to the Bethel library, and was amended when some residents said they could access the other libraries more easily.

Arnold Jordan was elected to the Board of Selectmen, replacing the retiring Hakala, with a landslide 56 votes. He defeated Rodney Harrington, who had 16 votes, and Shaun Houston, who had four. Jacqueline Brown was elected unopposed to the SAD 44 school board.

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