POLAND — Saturday’s annual town meeting almost didn’t happen.

Ten minutes after the scheduled start time of 9 a.m., moderator Ed Rabasco Jr. took the microphone and appealed to people with cellphones to call their friends and neighbors.

“Only 85 registered voters have shown up,” Rabasco said. “According to the Town Charter, we need 100 to do the town’s business. We’ll wait a while, but we may have to adjourn and meet another day.”

At 9:30, Deputy Town Clerk Lynda Carey signaled that the 100th registered voter had arrived. At 9:31, Rabasco called for order and it was smooth sailing from there.

The only debate over any of the several spending articles, which totaled about $5.5 million, came with the motion to approve the selectmen’s recommendation to set aside $883,710 for the capital improvement program.

“A friendly disagreement” is what Budget Committee member Lionel Ferland Jr. called it in throwing his support to a counter-proposal that would lop $50,000 from the request.

Much of the money, over $500,000 of the $883,710 requested, was earmarked for Public Works vehicles and Fire/Rescue equipment.

Several residents suggested the town was obsessed with working with shiny new equipment.

“The town crews take good care of the equipment,” Artie Pennanen said. “I think we can stretch the trucks out longer.”

Town Manager Bradley Plante noted that several towns he had worked for lacked strong capital improvement programs and paid the price when they had to borrow money for equipment.

“Poland has done an extremely intelligent thing in setting up this capital improvement program,” Plante said. “Poland has saved a lot of money by not bonding.”

A motion to cut funding for the capital improvement program by $50,000 failed by a 56-44 vote. The call for a compromise to fund it at $858,000 failed by a vote of 58-39 before a strong majority of voters passed a motion to fund the full $883,000.

This summer’s road paving program, which will finish up the Johnson Hill and Herrick Valley roads project, at $262,000, will go forward.

The proposed Public Safety budget, with $949,328 allocated mostly for the Fire/Rescue Department, dispatch and the police service budget, passed unchallenged as did the $792,883 budget for the Public Works and Solid Waste departments.

Plante noted that, as passed, the overall operational budget to run the town is about $100,000 less than the current year. However, because of an expected reduction in other revenue sources, taxes could increase by $12 on a property valued at $100,000.

Voters also approved 10 articles that amended the town’s comprehensive land-use plan, including changes that will lower the sizes of lots in areas served by public sewer, changes to the sign ordinance and changes to provide conditions for driveways to serve property owners’ back lots.

Voters also passed the Conservation Commission-sponsored plan to establish a conservation reserve fund, primarily for purchasing and preserving open space. Net profits from the sale of timber on town-owned lands, penalties assessed and collected by the town for the withdrawal of land from taxation under the Tree Growth Tax law and private donations will go into the reserve fund.

In a special awards ceremony, Poland’s 2015 Business Award, made through the town’s Community Economic Development Committee, went to Northeast Bank; the W. Ballard Nash Sr. Community Service Award went to Susan J. Ellis; the town’s Boston Post Cane, awarded by the Poland Historical Society, went to Frank Bartasius; and Girl Scout Troop 1141 received Poland’s Spirit of America Award.

Carey reported that a total of 115 registered voters had attended the meeting and noted that the number never fell below the Town Charter’s required quorum of 100.


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