BUCKFIELD – Despite the fact that midnight was fast approaching, more than half of the original 80 voters in attendance continued to look for every penny they might cut from the town’s budget Wednesday.

Town Manager Glen Holmes had been requested to cut his original budget to below the state spending limit to satisfy selectmen and the Budget Committee. The Wednesday night budget presented to voters fell below the state limit by $32.08.

Showing frustration over their own tight budgets, voters questioned nearly every expenditure. The general government administration budget drew the most debate, followed closely by an article about a new public works position.

The administration’s budget passed after an amendment to cut the $245,510 by $7,000 was OK’d.

The town also rejected creation of a public works director’s job.

Holmes is the town’s road commissioner, and Selectman Skip Richardson said that someone needs to be in the town garage full time to supervise road workers, vehicle management, plan road projects, write specifications for contractors, make work schedules and run crews more efficiently.

“We have no one skilled in road construction; that’s where we are losing money,” Richardson said.

When Holmes was questioned about how much time he spent as road commissioner, he said it depends on the season, but it could be as much as 25 percent of his time.

An article to accept Lyn Drive in the Bell subdivision as a town way brought criticism from several voters. “You just closed four or five roads; why approve another one? It’s ludicrous,” said voter James Young.

Holmes said the roads in question were already abandoned and no work had been done on them in 30 years.

“Mr. Bell has done everything to make a nice subdivision,” Dick Piper said. “He is building new houses, which means more taxes for the town, and also they are on the town water system.”

The article passed as proposed.

A right of way on the railroad bed was authorized for Eric Stevens, who has a 10-foot access to his property from Morrill Street. “There is no room on abutting property to make this access wider,” Stevens said.

A locked gate was put on the railroad bed two years ago to prohibit off-road vehicles from using it in mud season. That cut access to Stevens’ property. Now, Stevens will be given a key for the gate.

Selectman Oscar Gammon said if the right of way was granted it would open a “can of worms” allowing other property owners on the bed to do the same.

In other actions, voters approved charging a fire department service fee to owners of vehicles involved in accidents that the department responds to.

Buckfield Rescue already charges a fee. When questioned about hardships in paying the fee, Holmes said there has been few complaints over the rescue fees.

Voters also agreed to add $4,500 back into the budget for social services after Judy Berg motioned to have it replaced. Budget Committee and selectmen included no money.

Voters also cut the highway equipment budget by $30,000 on a narrowly supported amendment.

A request for purchasing a bucket loader was also overwhelmingly rejected.

Another motion to move money back into the town’s law enforcement account in order to provide 330 more hours of police coverage was also rejected.

Voters also lowered the interest rate charged on late tax payments from 11 percent to 8 percent.

In all, voters trimmed $56,900 from the budget.

On Thursday, Holmes said it was the best town meeting he has ever attended.

“Anytime you can get that many people to participate in a meeting, it makes for better government,” he said. “Sure it will be difficult to work around the cuts, but the people showed genuine interest and that was good.”


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