PHILLIPS — Voters at the annual town meeting Thursday moved through 43 articles in just over two hours, electing officers and passing a $1.17 million budget.

Town Clerk Evelyn Wilbur was re-elected without opposition, and Selectman Ray Gaudette was re-elected for a three-year term.

Voters also chose three RSU 58 directors: Incumbent Faith Richard for three years; John Foss for one year; and Lori Berry for two years.

The proposed $1.17 million budget was $20,000 more than last year. Voters amended the amount to add another $3,500.

“We’ve spent about 100 hours doing this budget,” Gaudette said. “It’s less than 2 percent more than it was last year.”

Gaudette said Road Commissioner Ward Bredeau saved the town a great deal of money on road repairs. Taxpayers could keep the current schedule of roadwork at the proposed budget level or they could decide to cut back, but there were no other road repair and maintenance costs that voters could cut without impacting services, he said.

Town Manager Elaine Hubbard said anticipated revenues have declined, so financial resources rested more each year on taxpayers. This year’s state contribution for roadwork was approximately $9,000 less than last year, and the town may get even less this year, she said.

“We know how bad the state’s using us,” Tim Abbott said. “Abusing us, actually.”

Bredeau defended his proposal to buy a new plow truck. The road crew needs four trucks to plow the roads, and he only had two working trucks at one time, he said. One truck is 23 years old; one new truck burned, he said.

Last year, Bredeau said, the town spent $25,000 on vehicle repairs, so appropriating $17,871 for the first lease-purchase payment was a more practical choice.

Voters agreed with him and approved the lease-purchase option.

Unpaid taxes have been a burden for the town, and collecting the money also is a drain on resources, officials said. Last year, notices were sent to 199 property owners. This year, 190 notices were mailed.

According to Hubbard, towns are not allowed to charge more than 7 percent interest on unpaid taxes, but voters could decide to lower the interest rate.

Foss offered an amendment to lower it to 3.5 percent, but it failed to pass, 22-24.

The Phillips Historical Society asked for $5,000, but the Budget Committee and selectmen recommended $2,000 if the society would match that amount.

Denny Atkinson suggested the town does not hold other organizations to that same standard and asked that the original request be honored. Voters agreed and the organization received the full $5,000.

Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommended no money be raised for the American Red Cross.

Caroline King and fire Chief Jim Gould urged voters to approve funding.

Resident Mary Wilford said she already gives money and donates blood to the American Red Cross.

“I just don’t want to be taxed for it,” she said.

Voters approved an amendment and raised $500 for the organization.

Voters agreed to hold next year’s town meeting on a Saturday.


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