PHILLIPS — Voters at the annual town meeting gave approval to raise matching funds for rebuilding Main Street sidewalks.

In less than three hours, the 77 voters agreed on a 2013-14 budget of $1.2 million, an increase of about 2 percent over last year’s requests, Town Manager Elaine Hubbard said. Mike Ellis moderated the Saturday morning meeting, and voters began by re-electing Evelyn Wilbur as town clerk. They also cast 47 ballots to re-elect incumbent Selectman Andy Phillips; challenger Lloyd Griscom got 21 votes.

Residents shared differing thoughts when faced with selling the former town office on Main Street. Pam Matthews suggested that the town needs the money and can’t afford continuing maintenance on the building, while Evelyn Wilbur suggested keeping the building for storage.

Voters agreed to allow selectmen to sell the building after hearing several opinions. Next, fire Chief James Gould explained that the former fire department building at 95 Main St. was beyond repair. Voters again agreed to sell the building. The buyer will remove it, but the town will retain ownership of the land. Although the acreage is too small to build a new structure, resident Richard Stovall suggested considering the option to make the land into a park.

Voters also debated reasons for keeping $500,000 available in an undesignated surplus fund account. Hubbard said auditors recommend municipalities retain at least three months of operating expenses and that she and selectmen had calculated that amount.

“This comes to $534,948 to pay our bills for three months,” Selectman Ray Gaudette said.


Designated accounts are funded for anticipated and specific purposes, Hubbard said, so money sitting in those accounts can’t be considered available.

“Undesignated accounts are completely separate,” she said.

One resident attempted to convince voters that surplus funds should be seen as a savings account for emergency budget problems and should not be tapped to fund budget requests.

“We’ve fought like the dickens to build up this surplus account,” Charles Wilbur said.

In spite of Wilbur’s reasoning, voters agreed to take $50,000 from surplus to add to the Budget Committee’s recommended $545,668 for the Public Works/Highway Department.

Residents had hard choices to make when deciding to give tax dollars to organizations. The Safe Voices organization works with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and should not be considered a typical charity, according to one supporter.


“Safe Voices works to reduce domestic violence and is a matter of public safety,” said resident Barbara Chassie. “At least give them the same as you give the snowmobile club.”

As the organization did not send a representative to answer voters’ questions, the $1,000 request was voted down.

Voters approved $100,000 for a lease-purchase agreement for a new plow truck and $11,745 as payment for the first year.

Residents also raised the remaining money necessary to receive a $240,000 Maine Department of Transportation grant to rebuild sidewalks from Trecartin Park to the corner of Bridge and Main streets, which may also include a new sidewalk from the town’s hardware store to Depot Street. The town already has $21,480 set aside, Hubbard said, and taxpayers must raise $38,960 to meet the $60,000 contribution. The MDOT work schedule has not been confirmed, but the town will be added to the list of approved projects only if voters are willing to raise the remaining finds.

“We’re spending $60,000 to get a quarter of a million,” resident Dick Matthews said. “Sounds like a bargain to me.”

Pam Matthews said the town’s Revitalization Committee and municipal officials applied for the grant, but they had slim hopes that the town had a chance to get the money.

“It’s amazing that we got this grant,” she said. “It will bring some pride back to this town, and people will be able walk on the sidewalks again.”

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