HARRISON – Following a lengthy discussion, voters at Wednesday’s annual town meeting approved funding for the five social agencies that sent representatives to the meeting.

Sixteen organizations were seeking a total of $21,755 from the town, and the town’s Budget Committee had recommended that no funding be awarded. The decision to award a total of $5,350 to Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Child Health Center, the Rape Education and Crisis Hotline, and the Southern Maine Area on Aging, came after two proposed amendments and a decision to overrule a moderator’s ruling.

Some residents expressed concerns that approving the request would increase the tax burden on poorer residents. Selectman Eddie Rolfe suggested that residents could support the agencies through individual contributions.

“We have to stop somewhere from being everything to everybody,” Rolfe said.

Other residents argued that the agencies provided valuable services and were affected by economic difficulties.

“We’re talking about a very vulnerable section of the population, not just Home Health, but these other agencies as well,” said Richard Hooper, a founder and former CEO of Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice.

A motion to amend the vote to fully fund the agencies failed in a 47-37 decision, and a proposed amendment to fund all of the agencies with a 10 percent cut in requests for a total of $19,579.50 was later withdrawn.

Town Manager Bradley Plante said each agency was asked to fill out an application discussing their services, and that the organizations were also advised to send a representative to speak on their behalf. He said the Budget Committee had been advised to advocate funding for either all or none of the requested amount as a way of avoiding favoritism.

The decision to fund the five individual agencies that sent representatives came after residents overruled the moderator’s decision that all agency funding would have to be voted on as a single article. The vote allowed the town to choose which agencies to allocate funding to.

A resident deputy will continue to contract with the town after voters decided to raise $85,297.66 for the position. The Budget Committee had recommended that the funds not be raised, and some residents questioned why the contract was needed if the town contributes to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office through county taxes.

State Rep. Richard Sykes, who made the amendment to fully fund the position, said the town is in a more remote section of the county, and that a resident deputy helps inhibit crime and hasten responses to other incidents.

“You can’t measure the deterrent,” he said.

Voters also decided to raise up to $25,000 for a dedicated radio frequency for the fire department. Chief Scott Andrews said the department currently has two channels that interfere with Scarborough and Yarmouth traffic.

“The only way to get away from that is to get my own frequency,” he said.

A comprehensive plan and emergency management ordinance were approved, as were amendments to four other ordinances.

Voters opted against giving 14 full-time municipal employees and one per-diem employee a 5 percent pay raise. A proposal to increase wages by 3 percent was also defeated.


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