STRONG — Voters at the Saturday town meeting approved a budget that increased 2015 operating expenses by 11.5 percent over last year’s requests.

The low turnout of 41 voters passed 55 articles totaling $626,884 within three hours.

Much of the spending paid for utilities and insurance, including $32,027 for fire hydrants, $9,000 for streetlights and $3,800 for animal control. 

Voters also agreed to pay Town Clerk Betsey DuBois for a full-time position and provide a benefit package. DuBois also serves as the registrar of voters, deputy treasurer and tax collector. She registers vehicles and dogs and fills in on all town duties when office Manager Sandra Mitchell is absent.

Selectmen said that although they had hired her for 24 hours a week, she had been working overtime to get all of the jobs done. Budget Committee Chairman Dean Stanley noted that retaining a qualified employee required a competitive salary and benefits.

Voters asked about the initial $8,000 appropriation to start a proposed $24,578, three-year construction project on the pole barn next to the Town Garage. Selectman Mike Pond said the building needed retaining walls to stop the water running through it year round. The garage houses most of the town equipment, because the barn cannot be secured. The three-year project will involve constructing a retaining wall and storage space within the building.

Voters approved $50,000 for the Equipment Operating Account, $58,000 for roads and bridges, $20,000 for the Fire Department truck reserve account and $60,448 for paving of town roads.

Voters agreed to cut $2,000 from the $30,000 request to pay town charges and approved $2,500 for the Salem United Economic Ministry, although the Budget Committee recommended $1,500.

Voters agreed to support a volunteer effort to expand recreational areas at the town park on Burbank Hill. People use the field at the American Legion Hall next to the Sandy River for Little League games, but the town park land would provide an alternative space for younger children. The Legion field also hosts adult softball teams and other group activities, and some of those attendees don’t set the best example of behavior, Pond said.

Voters passed the Planning Board’s revised Road Standards Ordinance, which had not been updated since 1973. The document now is titled the Street Standards Ordinance.

In town elections, Rodney Cook and Dick Worthley ran unopposed to fill selectmen seats. Barbara Worthley was unopposed for a school board seat. Incumbents Lois Barker and Eloise Stevens ran unopposed for the Budget Committee, and Terry Kenniston was elected to fill the Budget Committee seat vacated by Bill Birden.


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