WATERFORD — About 75 voters approved a $1.2 million town budget, agreed to change the town clerk’s position from elected to appointed and approved a recommendation by selectmen to keep a waterfront parcel on Bear Pond.

Voters acted on the 63-article warrant in about four hours Saturday, taking time first to acknowledge several residents, including the late Timothy Fanning, a 10-year veteran Planning Board member for whom the town report was dedicated, and outgoing officials — Board of Selectmen Chairman John Bell and Assistant Fire Chief Ray Merrill, who has spent 30 years with the department. 

Before acting on the 45-plus articles dealing with town budget, Selectman Randy Lessard told voters that stability had returned since a town official was involved in an embezzlement case and other factions caused a rift in the town. But, he said, cash flow continued to plague the municipal budget and the town’s ability to spend money.

With that in mind, selectmen were against the Finance Committee’s recommendation to buy a skidder and related accessories for the transfer station. Voters agreed with the selectmen and rejected the $25,000 expenditure by a vote of 32-35.

 “We have been in two years of a recession and really haven’t cut spending,” Lessard said. “This is a way to do it.”

Voters approved the $1.19 million town budget, which includes a 3 percent increase for town workers, but asked a number of questions when it came time to approve $61,000 for employee health insurance.

Lessard said the board would call around to other towns and find out how they are handling health insurance. Waterford employee’s health insurance is paid 100 percent by the town.

“If the (cash flow) problem got worse, we would probably come back and look at it again,” he said of the town’s health insurance budget.

Voters approved $45,000 for the Fire Department; $436,000 for the Highway Department; and $132,050 for transfer station operation. The town budget does not include money for the school and county budget, which are still being developed. 

In other action, voters agreed to remove the position of town clerk as an elected post. The move was to ensure that the town has a skilled town clerk when current Town Clerk Brenda Bigonski retires next year. Officials agreed that an election would result in a “popularity contest.”

Bigonski agreed with the move.  A committee of three selectmen and four residents will do the hiring.

Voters also went along with the selectmen’s recommendation to keep a three-quarter-acre parcel at the south end of Bear Pond for public access, despite an offer by an abutter who lives in Rhode Island to buy the land. Officials said the benefits of retaining the land for residents far outweighed the money that it could bring in in taxes or through a sale. The parcel cannot be built upon.

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