NEW SHARON – Residents passed a $1,029,035 budget Saturday morning, up slightly from the originally proposed figure due to an amended article regarding the Jim Ditzler Memorial Library. That number represents a 3.6 percent, or $36,051, increase over the previous fiscal year.
The library budget was moved to be amended by Selectperson Lorna Nichols to include a $15,000 increase. Nichols said the board was approached earlier in the week by the fire marshall who said the library building would need several renovations in order to be in compliance of the law. Things such as updated fire sprinklers and crumbling sheetrock would need to be addressed within the year, Nichols reported. The increase was approved by voters in order to cover the anticipated expense of renovations.
All other budgetary items were passed with little discussion, aside from article 15 which asked voters to approve a sum of $403,963 for road construction and maintenance. Several residents voiced concern over the small sum designated for the task of road maintenance and paving. Road Commissioner John Pond told the crowd that it takes $154,000 to completely redo a one-mile section of road, which then has to be repaved in five years. The Public Works department is planning to repave less than a mile of road this summer. The Board of Selectmen suggested that if the town wants to address the road issue they could explore the idea of a larger loan to cover more mileage. The article was approved by voters at the proposed $403,963.
Articles 49 through 51 drew considerable discussion from the town regarding the process of choosing a treasurer, tax collector and town clerk. Pamela Adams was reelected by 79 votes Friday night to the position of tax collector/town clerk in an uncontested running. That election process was up for question, with the alternative process being an appointed position controlled by the selectboard. The same question was being asked of the treasurer position, currently held by Erin Norton.
By changing the selection process from elected to appointed, the treasurer and tax collector/town clerk will have more job security, selectmen said, and the town will face less risk of having an under qualified person in the position.
“There is no job requirement because it’s an elected position. Anyone can run, even if they have no experience whatsoever. It puts the town at great risk,” Nichols said.
Nichols said if the positions were to change to appointed ones, the board would treat it like any other job- requiring resumes, interviews and qualifications. The hired employee would hold the position unless there was good cause to remove them, Nichols said.
Some residents, however, felt that taking away the election process would eliminate their ability to have a say in who represents them.
“You can give away a lot of responsibility but it’s hard to get it back. We should be able to vote on the people who represent our town,” resident Juniper Thompson said.
Residents chose to approve changing the position of treasurer from elected to appointed, while voting down that process for the tax collector/town clerk positions. Those jobs will remain elected positions.