WOODSTOCK — About 50 voters turned out for Woodstock’s unique outdoor annual town meeting Monday, approving the formation of a committee to study the feasibility of creating a community forest with the Buck’s Ledge property.

They also approved the relocation of a ball field, the purchase of a highway truck and the replacement of the Bacon Bridge, according to Town Manager Vern Maxfield.

The meeting took place outside the town office, with voters staying in their cars because of the coronavirus situation. There were 27 cars and 56 voters who checked in, Maxfield said.

The community forest idea, if ultimately pursued, would involve application for grant funds and possible use of Spruce Mountain community benefit funds as the local contribution.  Buck’s Ledge, a popular hiking spot, is currently owned by the Bayroot LLC land management company. It has 644 acres of land overlooking North, South and Round ponds. Town officials and interested citizens heard a presentation earlier this year on purchase options and processes from the Northern Forest Center, which has advised other towns with such purchases.
Voters also approved buying a highway plow truck with plow and sander for $185,000, to be appropriated from the Major Highway Reserve Account. The truck will replace a 2005 Sterling truck, to be traded in or sold with proceeds going to the purchase.
Residents also gave the okay to raise and appropriate $50,000 for the replacement of the Bacon Bridge on Old County Road. Selectmen had considered a more involved replacement project but deemed it too expensive and instead propose replacing the bridge with a large culvert.
Another plan up for a vote was whether to relocate the small ball field from its current location beside the big ball field on Route 26 to the vacant lot behind the beach playground on Trail’s End Road, using up to $10,000 from the Recreation Reserve Account, plus up to $10,000 from the Spruce Mountain Tangible Fund. Safety concerns have been cited in the potential move to relocate the field. It was easily approved, Maxfield said.
Voters again considered the discontinuance of a 2 percent discount on taxes paid in 30 days – but unlike in the past, this time they approved doing away with the discount, Maxfield said. Town officials say that this year the move would reduce the municipal budget by approximately $39,000.
All other money articles were approved, said Maxfield.
The municipal budget will require that $2,688,392 be raised in taxes, compared to $2,680,362 this year. The estimated mil rate would rise from 13.05 to 13.15, factoring in estimated school costs, according to town officials.
In the election of town officials, Selectman Shawn Coffin and library trustees Sonja Davis and Ed Howe were re-elected unopposed.
Also at the meeting, Sterling and Irene Mills were honored with the annual Spirit of America Award.
The meeting was moderated by Steve Wight of Newry.
Maxfield said the unusual meeting format worked “as well as could be expected, all things considered.”  Two-way radios were used for communication and instead of voting cards to hold up voters held small American flags out their windows, he said. Maxfield praised the work of the Woodstock Fire Department in handling much of the logistics of the event. He also said several residents expressed their appreciation for the town officials getting the meeting done this year.
His take on the format:  “I’m used to seeing people’s faces and their expressions, and this year I just saw windshields,” he said.


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