WILTON — Residents at annual town meeting on Monday, June 17, largely accepted the recommendations of the Select Board, approving the board’s request on all but one spending item while rejecting one ordinance amendment recommended by the board.

Meeting at Academy Hill School, about 70 Wilton residents added money to the request for the food pantry, rejected a request to rezone part of the Weld Road (Route 156) to accommodate more home businesses, adopted a resolution asking the Franklin County Commissioners to resume and restore funding nonprofit social-service agencies and amended the town’s marijuana ordinance to permit new medical marijuana operations.

Among the 55 articles were three spending articles on which the select board and the finance committee had disagreed. On all three, voters chose the select board’s option.

The fire department article asked whether voters wanted to raise $179,670 or $181,270. While initially the higher amount was moved, when the select board explained that $1,600 in stipends for the East Dixfield fire company had been accidentally entered twice, the amount was amended down to the $179,670 recommended by the select board. The favorable voice votes on the amendment and the final article were overwhelmingly in favor.

Funding recommendations for the highway department had been $944,850 by the select board and $954,954 by the finance committee, a difference of $10,104. Selectman David Leavitt said the board favored the lower amount because the board had begun the process of assessing future equipment needs for the highway department. “We need a plan first,” Leavitt said, before raising money for equipment.

Board Chairwoman Tiffany Maiuri said the $10,104 would have sat unused in a reserve account until equipment needs had been determined. An amendment to support the lower amount was the only vote that went to a full count. Moderator Ron Aseltine said the vote to raise $944,850 was 40 in favor, 16 against. The main motion for the lower amount was approved by voice vote.

Life Flight had asked for $1,029 from the town for 2019-20. The select board had recommended $250, and the finance committee recommended zero. By voice vote, residents approved the $250.

The discussion about nonprofits, such as Western Maine Community Action, Community Concepts and Western Maine Transportation Services, moved between specifics of how some nonprofits use their funding and which is the appropriate governmental agency to consider requests for the funding.

State Sen. Russell Black, R-Franklin and a Wilton resident, said when he was a selectman about 15 years ago, “five or six towns were supporting these organizations, but everyone got the services. A lot of towns weren’t paying for them.”

That was when Wilton turned to the county commissioners to deal with the funding, Black said. He favored the resolution, saying that funding the agencies on a countywide basis makes more sense the funding them piecemeal, town by town.

Resident Mike Wells said the nonprofits do not use their funding efficiently. He said the executive director of Community Concepts is paid more than $140,000 a year and the training director about $138,000. He cited spending at other agencies, as well.

While much of the funding for these agencies comes from grants and donations, Wells said that in the end, “95% of nonprofits’ funding comes through government.”

Moderator Ron Aseltine asked for a show of hands on the issue and said about six people voted no. He didn’t finish counting votes in favor because the majority was overwhelming.

Residents voted against rezoning on Weld Road (Route 156) between Main Street and Woodland Avenue. The rezoning would have allowed more types of home businesses, including an antiques store that sought permission to set up. The Select Board had proposed rezoning to Residential II from Residential I to allow the business.

The Planning Board, however, said it preferred changing the zoning regulations to permit antiques businesses. Residents at the town meeting rejected the rezoning.

Voters also amended the town’s marijuana ordinance to allow new medical marijuana businesses. This vote conformed with a state law requiring communities to opt in on marijuana growing, production and sales.

Wilton’s one marijuana store was grandfathered, but no other businesses could operate without the amendment.

On other items, the town:

• Raised funding for the Wilton Food Pantry to $3,000 from the $2,500 recommended unanimously by the by the Select Board and the Finance Committee. That was the amount requested by the food pantry, but voters decided to return to the $3,000 raised the past two years.

• Voted to raise $3,000 each for Safe Voices and for Sexual Assault Prevention. Spokeswomen for the two agencies said each served about 20 Wilton residents a year.

• Approved a drinking water ordinance to protect Varnum Pond from contamination. The ordinance bans swimming in the pond by humans but not by dogs. However, dogs may not be bathed in the pond.

• Recognized Hazel Flagg and Paulette Cahn as recipients of the Spirit of America Award. Flagg coordinates the Wilton Day Extension Homemakers project to install and maintain American flags around the town, and Cahn coordinates the Tyngtown Club’s care of flower beds around the town. Both also received recognition from the legislature, presented by Black and by State Rep. Randall Hall, R-Wilton.

 


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