Sunday, May 19, 2013
By Paul Koenig
PITTSTON -- In the absence of any controversial budget items, Saturday's annual Town Meeting may attract residents who are angry with the selectmen for their decision to fire a longtime town clerk last week.
Town Meeting: 9:45 a.m. Saturday, Pittston Elementary School
Total proposed budget: $1,171,967
Issues of note: proposal to spend $184,793 from the local roads savings account and $45,070 of state funding for the Blinn Hill Road bridge reconstruction project
Registered voters: 2,079
Voters at 2012 Town Meeting: 213
Current property tax rate: $12.95 per $1,000 of assessed value
Elections: noon-7 p.m. Monday, Pittston Elementary School
Contested races: Wanda Burns-Macomber, Stanley Byrne and Jane Hubert for one seat on the Board of Selectmen
Town officials say they aren't expecting any particular funding request to cause a lot of debate, but they don't know how much the discussion will veer off to the contentious issue of former Town Clerk Ann Chadwick's removal.
The meeting will be held at 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Pittston Elementary School, with secret-ballot voting scheduled for noon to 7 p.m. Monday at the school.
The portion of the $1,171,967 proposed municipal budget to be raised by taxes increased almost 6 percent compared to last year, from $372,650 to $394,586.
Wanda Burns-Macomber, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said the budget item that probably will cause the most discussion is the Blinn Hill Road bridge reconstruction project. She said the bridge has needed work for a few years.
The budget proposes using $184,793 from the local roads savings account and $45,072 from the Maine Department of Transportation's Urban-Rural Initiative Program for the project.
Supporters of Chadwick submitted petitions to the Town Office on Monday with nearly 400 signatures, triple the amount needed to trigger a recall election for the three selectmen.
A municipal ordinance gives the town clerk 10 days to certify the signatures and pass them on to the selectmen. The board then has 10 days to order an election by secret ballot, which may be held 30 to 60 days after that.
"I don't think there are many people looking at (the decision to fire Chadwick) from an objective point of view," Burns-Macomber said. "It's all subjective, which is unfortunate."
The recall petition aside, residents will have a chance to remove one of the board members Monday during the regular municipal election.
Burns-Macomber is facing Jane Hubert and Stanley Byrne for the seat she's held since 2000.
Selectman Tim Marks said that although the board members stand behind their decision to fire Chawick -- board members said this week it was based on the former town clerk's poor performance -- he intends to resign sometime after the Town Meeting. Marks, also a state legislator for the area, said he couldn't speak for the other board members.
Burns-Macomber said she'll leave her future in office up to the voters. Ted Sparrow Jr., the other selectman, didn't respond to multiple calls for comment.
Besides filling a selectman's seat, the ballot calls for electing a Personnel Board member, a Planning Board member and three Budget Committee members.
Tammy Usher is the only candidate for the Personnel Board, and no one is running for the other positions.
Hubert, who previously served as a selectwoman, said some people encouraged her to run again. She said she thinks the way the selectmen dismissed Chadwick was disrespectful to her time and effort at the Town Office over the years.
Byrne, another former selectman running against Burns-Macomber, said he wouldn't have let Chadwick go the way the board did.
Both Hubert and Byrne decided to run before the board fired Chadwick.
Byrne said the one change he would like to make is increasing the discount provided to residents who pay property taxes early back to 2 percent.
Voters lowered it to 1.5 percent at last year's Town Meeting, and Saturday's warrant proposes lowering the discount to 1 percent.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663