OXFORD — Voters approved a $5.5 million municipal budget, including money to update police and rescue vehicles, and OK’d an ordinance banning retail marijuana cultivation, sales and establishments, at town meeting Saturday.

About 100 voters turned out at Oxford Elementary School to dissolve the 39-article warrant in just over two hours.

Voters approved an ordinance that will prohibit the sale and cultivation of retail recreational marijuana along with accompanying social clubs.

Speaking out against what he said could be “multiple and multiple facilities in town,” one resident asked voters to consider the negative impacts, such as the smell of cultivation facilities.

The ordinance will not affect the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana. The town allows an unlimited number of medical marijuana cultivation permits to be issued.

An attempt to reduce the proposed $594,210 capital improvement budget to $575,945 was turned down after Police Chief Mike Ward and Fire Chief Gary Sacco pleaded their cases to retain the higher amount that will, in part, pay to update their department vehicles.

Ward said two of his cruisers have well over 100,000 miles on them and need to be upgraded.

“I really need two vehicles so I can get to your house,” he said.

Sacco said the prices of ambulances are rising steadily and the need to have operating emergency vehicles is critical.

Outgoing Board of Selectman Chairman Pete Laverdiere said the town has not only residents to worry about in an emergency, but thousands of visitors who come to the Oxford Casino and the hotels and other sites. Operating vehicles are also necessary to keep the town’s end of mutual agreement bargains with other towns.

“We need something now, not later,” Laverdiere said, adding that an ambulance broke down 15 minutes after leaving a patient at a hospital. Imagine, he said, if that rescue had broken down 15 minutes before getting to the hospital.

“This isn’t right,” he said.

Officials, including those on the Budget Committee, said there needs to be a rotating schedule of vehicle upgrades so the financial impact isn’t so great in one year.

Voters also spent a good deal of time debating whether an amendment by Tom Cushman to reduce the Recreation Department budget from $89,757 to $87,000 was appropriate.

“This organization, as I see it, is a little out of control,” Cushman said, citing previous Recreation Department budgets that were much lower, such as $54,500 appropriated 10 years ago.

Former Recreation Director Connie Staples said the department took “a hit” last year when many of the budgets were cut by 2 percent.

She and others, including current Director Kathleen Dillingham and volunteer Samantha Hewey, said the money is well-spent in providing and expanding services to children and adults each year. Dillingham said that she hopes to offset the rising costs by bringing money into the department by outside rentals of the community center and other means when possible.

Voters turned down a recommendation by the Budget Committee to raise and appropriate $2,000 for the nonprofit Thompson Lake Environmental Association for milfoil eradication on Pine Point. The association had requested $4,000 and the selectmen had recommended zero.

Selectman Floyd Thayer said he believed people should donate to the association’s work if they desire to, but the money should not come out of taxpayers’ pockets. 

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Oxford voters consider the implications of articles on annual town meeting warrant Saturday. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

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