SABATTUS — Sixty-two voters came out to represent a population of nearly 5,000 on Saturday, passing a budget that called for the bare minimum to operate the town, Town Manager Rick Bates said.

Before townspeople voted on the warrant, Bates gave a presentation that showed the 2010 mill rate of $14.15 per $1,000 of property value would remain the same this year. Bates said he told his department heads to keep the budget as low as they could without cutting too many services.

Planning Board member Jeffrey Baril spoke to the board’s increased budget by explaining the need to have a comprehensive plan accepted by the town.

“We need your participation to get the plan finished before next year’s town meeting,” Baril said. “There will be a meeting on June 14 at 6:30 and I encourage people to come out and participate.”

When questioned about the need for a plan, Baril said few grants are available that do not require a comprehensive plan. If the town had a plan, they could qualify to apply for all grants available.

Baril said it would give direction to the town, which is growing at a fast rate. He cited the population in 1970 as 1,681; it is now 4,876.

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The establishment of a capital reserve account with designated funds brought considerable discussion. Connie Castonguay was among several voters who wanted to know where the money that had been designated for special accounts went.

Selectman Scott Lansley said, “The money is there, but by having these capital accounts, it takes the funds off the books and they can only be accessed by town meeting vote. Now, if we took all the money out, we couldn’t run the town.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Ronda Fournier said, “In the past, all the funds were in escrow and the townspeople voted to designate it to be spent on certain things, but it lived and breathed inside the general fund. Setting up these accounts should make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

New accounts established by Saturday’s vote were $89,400 to fund the municipal building reserve account, $8,000 to fund Police Department cruiser/vehicle replacement, a road construction capital improvement and a tax rate stabilization credit reserve fund.

The town voted to accept Lorelei Drive as a town road. Steven Caron, a resident on the road that has 14 homes and 27 lots, said their association had brought the road up to town standards.

“I support people who come up with the money to bring a road up to town standards,” Baril said.

Selectmen were questioned about what they intended to do when police Chief Thomas Fales retires. Bates said they had not decided what option to take on whether to replace Fales, hire a part-time chief or look at consolation with other towns.

Voters were divided on funding administrative expenses, which include paying part-time Town Manager Bates. The vote was 32-30 to appropriate the requested funds.


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