DIXFIELD – Thursday night’s eight-hour town meeting was one for the record books.

Not only did the 6 p.m. meeting end by 2 a.m. on Friday, but about 200 people showed up for the first three hours. Dixfield town meetings usually attract about 70 people, according to Town Clerk Vickie Carrier.

Additionally, due to the late exit and the fact that town office workers had already put in an eight-hour day prior to the meeting, Town Manager Thomas Richmond gave them Friday off and closed the office.

“If it isn’t the longest, it’s pretty close,” Dixfield resident and businessman Ralph Clarke said on Friday. “Years ago, we used to have town meetings on Saturdays and they’d start at 9 in the morning and last to 2:30 in the afternoon, but they’d take a break for lunch in between. Last night’s meeting was the longest one that anyone could remember and they didn’t even take a break.”

There were, however, two power outages that sparked two breaks at 8 p.m. and about 11 p.m.

However, neither Selectmen Chairman Bettina Martin nor Selectman Norine Clarke, Ralph’s wife, expected the meeting to last as long as it did.

“I think the topic of the meeting was that people, in general, are having a difficult time with fuel and oil costs and aren’t prepared to take on any more cost,” Martin said by phone on Friday.

Most articles on the 41-article warrant drew considerable discussion. Some even attracted several amendments, motions and multiple votes.

“I think we knew we would meet with opposition for different reasons, and I also felt that because we did a revaluation, a lot of taxpayers were unhappy. But I didn’t think the arguments would go on for as long as they did, especially with the police department,” which lasted about three hours, Martin said.

“What was it that somebody said, ‘Pure democracy in action?'” Norine Clarke asked of her husband. “I really want to commend the large number that stayed to the bitter end. I’m impressed.”

Neither Martin nor Norine Clarke knew yet what voters raised in their rending of a budget that already came in below the property tax levy limit of $2,011,961.

An 88-12 tally early in the meeting prevented the budget from exceeding that amount. Selectmen had proposed a budget of $1,957,613; the Finance Committee pared it further to $1,928,475. Both were less than this year’s $1,996,217.

An unofficial count based on what voters approved, tallied $1,910,208. That didn’t include the taking of $475,000 from 19 revenue sources to reduce taxes or taking $38,512 from surplus to cover overdrafts of $32,512 in Public Works and $6,000 in general assistance, both due to the tougher than usual winter and rising fuel and oil costs.

The biggest changes voters made involved ignoring requests to stockpile $239,500 for reserve funds – reducing that to $160,000 for a boiler and road construction – and capping at $50,000 instead of $100,000 the amount paid to Mexico for replacement of the Thaddeus White Bridge over the Ellis River. That’s because the state transportation department offered to pay for half of the $200,000 joint Mexico-Dixfield project.

A large majority of voters also approved renewal of a 10-year interlocal agreement with Med-Care Ambulance Service and OK’d raising $48,355 as the town’s share.

The annual election of municipal officers and SAD 43 directors will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10, at the Dixfield Swasey-Torrey American Legion Post 100 instead of the usual place – inside the Dixfield fire station.


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