NEW SHARON — Nearly 75 residents turned out to determine the 2020 budget and conduct other business Saturday morning, March 7, at the annual Town Meeting.

Nearly 75 voters turned out Saturday, March 7, for the New Sharon annual town meeting. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

 

The meeting started with a somber moment of silence to honor residents who have passed away.

“As Town Clerk, one of my duties is to keep track of vital statics for the town,” said Pamela Adams, who also serves as tax collector. “It is always joyful to announce births and marriages. It is sorrowful to announce those we have lost.”

According to her report in the Town Annual Report, there were 14 births, 6 marriages and 14 deaths recorded in 2019.

The report was dedicated to the town’s many volunteers.

“These folks come from all walks of life, different backgrounds and families,” the dedication said. “They serve our town in many capacities, ranging from Rec Department coaches, planners, groundskeepers, town library volunteers who make great programming available to residents and children, the Planning Board who oversees the ordinances that the legislative body has voted into effect … the list goes on and on. We are forever grateful to those who continually donate of themselves and their time in thoughtful service to New Sharon and the greater community.”

Voters passed the majority of the budget articles as written in just over three hours with deputy moderator Dennis Cully leading the meeting from the podium at the Cape Cod Hill School.

The $1.06 million budget set by voters reflects a less than 3% increase over last year’s budget.

The budget does not include debt service on the fire station/town office construction loan, Franklin County taxes or the town’s share of the RSU 9 budget.

The sole amendment made to budget articles involved funding to operate the Jim Ditzler Memorial Library.

“The fire marshals have been in contact with us,” Selectwoman Lorna Nichols said. “There are several issues that need to be addressed in order for the building to be brought into compliance.”

Nichols made a motion to increase the requested $27,908 by $15,000 for a total of $42,908.

Selectman Travis Pond said the building needed fire-rated doors with self-closing hinges, Sheetrock work completed in the basement and a non-slip surface Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking space, among other things.

“We feel $15,000 is enough to do the work,” Nichols said prior to the article being passed.

A meeting with a representative from the Office of State Fire Marshal to discuss compliance is set for March 19, Pond said.

Selectwoman Lorna Nichols, center, speaks at the New Sharon annual town meeting Saturday, March 7, while Selectman Travis Pond and Selectwoman Paula Nason listen. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

Water District Trustee Alvin Harris was nominated from the floor and reelected to a five-year term.

An article requesting $22,500 to increase board salaries drew a few questions from residents.

Pond explained board salaries had been $7,500 but were reduced to $5,000 a few years ago.

“The thought at the time was to use the difference for the assessing agent,” he said. “The board has been working diligently on the new fire station and town office. We are moving items from the old town office to the trailer and the temporary town office. This project has created a lot more work on the board’s part.”

Each selectperson would receive the same $7,500 and the board would not take over assessing duties, he added prior to voters passing the article.

The board was given authorization to borrow up to $982,400 for construction of a new fire station and town office building. Authorization was initially given at a special town meeting in December, however the required Treasurer’s Financial Statement was not included in that warrant.

Voters changed the treasurer position from an elected to an appointed position effective March 2021. Erin Norton’s term as treasurer will expire at that time, she said.

Articles seeking the same change to the tax collector and town clerk positions were defeated.

Adams was reelected to three-year terms in those positions during Friday’s election with 79 and 78 votes, respectively. She said she was concerned about the change because there were no policies or job descriptions yet in place.

Voters attempted to amend the article relating to the tax collector position to make the change effective March 2023. The amended tax collector article was defeated, as was the article relating to the town clerk position.

At the polls Friday, voters also reelected Nichols to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen with 65 votes.

“We were pleased that even though the officer positions were unopposed, we had 79 people turn out to vote,” Adams said.

Also on Friday, a referendum authorizing the state to issue licenses for the sale of liquor to be consumed on the premises of licensed establishments on Sundays passed 57-22.


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