WELD — At the annual Town Meeting Saturday, March 7, some 50 voters approved a higher than proposed 2020 budget, not counting county and education taxes, of $619,120. Approved increases were $419 for Life Flight and $3,500 for cemetery stone repair.

Resident Laureen Pratt said, “For $1 per person in this town (for Life Flight) it’s well worth it.”

The budget committee had requested social service agencies provide documentation of their services in Weld.  Those that did not respond before the proposed budget was finalized were not funded.

Selectman Chairman Tom Skolfield said cemetery stones don’t get better with age and recommended adding $3,500 to that account. The budget committee had reduced the line for stone repair to $500 as scheduled work had been completed.

“We need to keep ahead. If we get behind on that, the cost will be much more,” he said. “Every winter we lose stones, there are a few more tip overs. They look beautiful in September, it’s different the following May.”

Resident Joe Demers suggested funds not used be carried forward.

Treasurer Colleen Stewart said there is $145 in a cemetery stone repair reserve account.

Pratt said instead of raising the money, she would rather appropriate the funds from surplus.

Selectman Richard Doughty said the budget committee was trying not to increase the budget significantly to keep the mil rate steady. He supported raising the money from surplus.

Voters supported appropriating $3,500 from surplus for stone repairs with any leftover funds carried forward.

A proposal to elect budget committee members and an article to amend the building ordinance to meet changes in state law were other questions that drew debate.

The Board of Selectmen proposed electing budget committee members, beginning in 2021, rather than the current practice of appointing them. Six residents make up the committee with Doughty an ad hoc member. A motion was made to not support the change.

The vote by voice was too close to call. The vote by hand found 22 favored not electing the members with 20 against.

Skolfield said having the Selectmen appoint the members was becoming problematic; it was being looked at as an extension of the Select Board.

“The budget committee does a lot of the prep work, makes Town Meeting flow much better,” he said. “I felt it would be more transparent to elect them rather than appointed by the board.”

Resident Joan Braun suggested if members were elected, candidates’ experience be made available as many townspeople don’t know unless they talk with candidates.

Budget committee member Becky Durrant-Vining said this is her second year on the committee.

“I’m just getting my feet under me this year,” she said. “Six new people will have their hands full with the learning curve.”

Budget committee member Ernestine Hutchinson said she seconded the motion.

“It’s very important, our committee members are a very diverse group,” she said. “All have backgrounds in budgeting practices. I think the process now works well. It takes time to learn the process, where monies come from.

“It’s very important for you to know who is on the committee and the knowledge they have. Some of us work full-time, it would be difficult to educate voters.”

Amendments to the town’s building ordinance were rejected over a change from 150 to 100 feet minimum frontage. Several amendments were proposed, most to be compliant with the new Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which voids and makes unenforceable all other existing building codes.

According to “Citizen’s Guide to Town Meeting, published in the town report, ordinances may not be amended from the floor; votes must be up or down.

Resident Michael Graham said the 150 foot requirement was enacted to prevent long, narrow lots being built in nearby towns 20-plus years ago.

“We didn’t want that,” he said. “Keep 150 feet road frontage. That’s the way it should be in the Town of Weld.

“I also think voters (not Selectmen) should decide on fees.”

Planning Board member Thomas Wheeler told of instances where people lacked the required road frontage for board approval of applications.

“If people own property in town they should be able to develop it. The town would benefit from increased valuations,” he said.

Selectman David Rackliffe said, “If we don’t accept this as it is written, we won’t have building ordinance in town.”

The Weld Town Meeting was held at the town hall on Saturday, March 7. Selectman Richard Doughty at left and Board Chairman Tom Skolfield provided information on several of the articles taken up by voters. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Doughty recommended passing the article as written then push to address road frontage as soon as possible, perhaps with a special town meeting in April.

Skolfield favored voting it down and have the planning board do their homework and deal with it a year from now.

Also approved was allowing the Selectmen to develop a plan for All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) use in town.

Skolfield said ATV use would be permitted on portions of some roads, not all. Selectmen would develop rules that would include among other things speed limits and requiring headlight usage.

Voters approved a change that will have town elections coincide with the Tuesday Presidential primaries to eliminate two elections in one week. Town elections are currently set for 4-8 p.m. the Friday preceding the annual Town Meeting, held the first Saturday in March. In years with no primary, the elections will be on Friday.

“It will give a bit of breathing space for Carol (Cochran, Town Clerk), others, prior to Town Meeting,” Skolfield said.

The town report was dedicated to Jerome “Jerry” Nering, who moved to Weld in 1986. He and his bride, Dot began new lives then as proprietors of Welds General Store.

“When not behind the cash register, Jerry chose to dedicate his spare time to many of the town’s civic groups,” the dedication read in part.

The Weld General Store was destroyed by fire in April 2019.

Friday election results:

Selectman: David Rackliffe received 69 of 72 votes

Regional School Unit 9 Director: Deborah Smith  70 of 71 votes

Planning Board: Incumbent Ernestine Hutchinson 37; Patrick Lowe 36.

Comments are not available on this story.