Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 1, 2014
Comp plan, fireworks ordinances pass at Surry town meeting
Andrew Kandutsch studies summary of proposed 2014-15 school budget at the Surry, Maine town meeting on April 28, 2014.
by Bette Britt
Folding chairs and bleachers were essentially filled when Moderator Tony Beardsley called town meeting to order on Monday, March 28. Indications are that the presence of 149 registered voters was the largest turnout in recent memory, drawn to the Civic Center less to debate the $2,363,243 school budget than to voice strong opinions about the need for a Consumer Fireworks Ordinance.
School board members and school principal Cathy Lewis faced citizens as Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt outlined the 2014-15 budget which shows an increase of 4.74 percent ($106,847); there had been decreases over for the past four years. Top four reasons for increase: retirement, a new cost ($21,421); high school tuition ($17,739); school security, phase 2 ($10,000) and teacher salaries ($9,657). The good news followed when Hurvitt outlined estimated state subsidy at $160,000; $400,000 would come from carry forward. In summary, Hurvitt told voters, the increase in the school budget will be “a wash” when increased subsidy and proposed carryover are taken into consideration. Voters approved the 15-article $2,363,243 budget with few questions and formed a line almost long enough to encircle the gym when casting their single written ballot of the evening to appropriate educational funding. The vote was 127 in favor, with 8 opposed.
Selectmen were kept on their toes all evening, passing around microphones so voters’ comments could be heard on many of the 66 warrant articles, all of which eventually passed as written in the town report. An effort was waged to amend the $296,438 town road budget by removing the $118,000 slated for construction purposes. Selectmen indicated the section of new road would be done in two parts, a continuation of previous work that would be built 18 feet wide with three foot shoulders to accommodate a “two fire truck rule.” Objections, including the absence of public input and there being “no plans … no bids,” subsided when fire chief Michael Locke mentioned a recent fire at Toddy Pond and potential safety issues if having to maneuver emergency mutual aid vehicles on Newbury Neck. After that, votes to amend WA 36 failed.
Moderator Beardsley introduced WA 22 as “controversial,” but Surry voters adopted the state-approved Comprehensive Plan with virtually no comment beyond Nina Doak’s saying, “The committee did a wonderful job keeping the public informed.” And the second of two ordinances, “Town of Surry Harbors and Waterways Ordinance,” addressed by committee member Valerie Moon, fared equally well. WA 24 was adopted.
The “Town of Surry Consumer Fireworks Ordinance,” WA 23, came in for its fair share of vocal fireworks, beginning with a comment that it was a violation of personal rights to limit fireworks in any way. That was followed by other opinions, ranging from consideration of pet-owning neighbors to potential damage to the environment. As expressed in the two-page ordinance, Surry residents and guests could shoot off all but specific rocket-type fireworks, as defined by the State Fire Marshal’s rules, except on days when there’s a high fire danger rating. But the main objection to the proposed local ordinance appeared to be that it limited dates of use to July 4 from 9 a.m. to July 5 at 12:30 a.m., December 31 from 9 a.m. to January 1, 12:30 p.m. and January 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Selectmen were attentive to each question and comment during the lengthy discussion, which tapered off when an effort to vote on the issue by written ballot failed. The subsequent vote was the first and only time ballot clerks had to circle the room to count the raised red cards used by registered voters; the ordinance was accepted into law by a 92 - 41 vote.
With polls open at the town office on Friday, April 25, Steve Bemiss was re-elected for another three-year term as selectmen with 86 votes. Running for re-election to another term on the school board, Marlene Tallent collected 73 votes, while Joan Welgoss, seeking her first three-year term on the school board, got 67 votes. There were no challengers for elected office.