NEWRY – Residents at the annual town meeting Monday night passed a municipal budget of just under $1 million, which includes nearly $150,000 to stabilize the Bear River banking. They also agreed that the town should provide more financial assistance to high school graduates from Newry who go on to higher education.

Whether the current $8.32 per $1,000 valuation remains level, will not be known until the local school district approves its budget.

Newry Fire Chief Gary Wight was elected as the town’s newest selectman, taking 24 votes, to Planning Board Chairman Brooks Morton’s 23, and Wight’s brother, Mark, 4 votes. Wight replaces 34-year veteran Selectman Steve Wight who chose not to seek another term. Steve Wight and Gary Wight are not related.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Steve. He gives an opinion but is never condescending. Thank you for making the town what it is,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Jim Largess.

Gary Wight said the Fire Department will soon meet to choose a new fire chief. Most likely, it will be Assistant Chief Bruce Pierce, Gary Wight said. The department’s choice must be approved by selectmen.

The town also elected a new representative to sit on the Regional School Unit 44 board. Deb Webster, an educational consultant who home schools her children and is co-owner with her husband, Doug, of the Bear River Trading Post, ran unopposed. She succeeds Bill Brown.

The town’s overseer of river projects, Jeff Stern, said without erosion-prevention work, the water will eventually overrun Route 26 across from the Bear River Grange Hall as well as flood the Black Cemetery on that side of the river. Residents voted 22-18 to approve the work.

Some said because Route 26 is a state road, the state would eventually have to do the work.

Resident Brad Wight called the cost “outrageous.”

Stern said that the engineering, as well as the design and federal and state permits have already been acquired. The project is expected to begin in the spring and should take about two weeks to complete.

The cost is estimated to be about $145,471, according to a figure quoted by one contractor who specializes in such water work.

Residents approved $25,146 for a variety of community assistance organizations, including one that provides $100 for each Newry youngster who graduates from Telstar High School or Gould Academy, both in Bethel.

Teacher Brenda Wight said that sum was not nearly enough for the town’s graduates.

At her suggestion, several residents volunteered to sit on a special committee that would look into ways to establish scholarships.

Selectman Wendy Hanscom said the $100 per student sum began many years ago when the town had a Mother’s Club. When that club dissolved, the town took over providing the same amount.

Administrator Loretta Powers said those interested in serving on a scholarship committee must come before selectmen to be appointed.

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