September 23, 2020

Perry voters decide to keep Australian ballots till 2000

PERRY — In a bit of long-range planning few towns can match, Perry voters Tuesday decided to postpone any change in the way local officials are elected until the year 2000.

The warrant for the annual town meeting contained an article asking whether the town should dispose of Australian ballots and return to the method of nominating and electing officers from the floor at town meeting. This method was practiced until about eight years ago.

The reason for the article, Town Clerk Evelyn Pottle said, was that the town has had a hard time getting candidates recently. This year, for example, no one filed nomination papers for selectman, school board or town treasurer positions. Those posts were filled by write-in ballots in voting Monday.

Several citizens recalled the bad old days, when, as Roland Bechard said, “It would take hours just to elect selectmen; it would be midnight before we got to the rest of the warrant. With the Australian ballot, it’s taken care of, and we can get on with the rest of the town’s business.”

Randy Newcomb made the motion that “we postpone this until the year 2000.” When the same issue came up two years ago, he said, “I moved it be postponed indefinitely. The moderator said I had to pick a year, so I picked 2000. It’s still far enough away for me.”

The next-millenium motion, which passed 51-26, is largely symbolic: it could be rescinded at a future town meeting before the next century.

If those who like their town meetings adjourned before breakfast had a good night, Perry’s firefighters had one even better: voters passed all three financial requests by the volunteer department without change. The requests were $15,500 for an operating budget, $20,000 for a reserve account to purchase a new truck, and $10,000 for salaries for the firefighters. Before approving the operating budget, voters first turned down an amendment to reduce it to $10,000.

On the reserve account for a new truck, firefighter Eddie Smith said that the 1983 truck owned by the town is the only truck that is certified by the state. Smith said the three trucks owned by the department are 1955, 1952 and 1949 models, are not certified, are increasingly unreliable and do nothing to reduce the town’s fire insurance premiums.

Although the article did not state that the money in the reserve account would be used to buy a new truck rather than other equipment, Newcomb, who is assistant fire chief, said the department would have to come back to the voters to spend the money, at which time a specific truck would be identified.

The $10,000 raised for salaries is the first time the town has provided money to reimburse firefighters for their expenses. Firefighter John Spinney told the voters that members of the department turned out 68 times last year: 42 fires, 14 meetings, seven training sessions and five work sessions. The $10,000 will be divided among the department’s 24 members based on their participation. “That’s an average of $127 per man, $6 per call. Weekends, nights, every time that phone rings, every expense, gas, a quick meal, comes right out of our wallets.”

State law requires that each firefighter receive 24 hours of training a year, and four members of the department recently completed a 114-hour Firefighter I course. “You’re asking people to do something where they risk their lives; at least compensate them for gas,” Newcomb said. “This training benefits you, not the firemen.”

The town will not be able to vote on a school budget until May or June, but voters did act on two school-related articles, turning down both. One would have created a three-member committee to look into the financial and legal aspects of withdrawing from School Union 104, which includes Eastport, Pembroke and Charlotte, and having the town form its own union. The other would have reduced the size of the Superintending School Committee from five members to three.

The voters approved most of the Budget Committee’s recommendations without change. One exception was the appropriation for solid waste disposal, which was listed in the warrant as $12,000. First Selectman Clive Dore told the voters that, after the committee’s last meeting, Downeast Landfill Inc. had notified the town that the rate for the year would be $18,480, which does not include the disposal of white goods or construction debris. The voters approved the higher amount.

The voters also approved the full slate of financial requests from 16 different service agencies and organizations, including a $732 request from the Clean Water Coalition to help pay legal expenses from the organization’s successful fight to stop a landfill for incinerator ash proposed for Township 30.

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