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West Paris approves $1 million budget
WEST PARIS — Try as they might, officials and citizens from West Paris could not stretch the annual town meeting past an hour and a half last Saturday.
The town voted to approve all of the recommendations from the board of selectmen and budget committee with regard to the town warrant's 38 articles Saturday.
Residents and selectmen credited Town Manager John White with making the town's warrant more compact and easy to understand, leading to quicker town meetings.
"In the time he's been here, John has done a good job streamlining the warrant for town meeting," said Selectman Dennis Henderson. "We used to have around 70 articles on the warrant."
Each article was unanimously accepted by the residents in attendance.
One of the first orders of business was to re-elect Henderson for his third term as selectman. No concerns were raised about Henderson, who has been an active member of the board for six years and said he was looking forward to continuing as one.
Town officials did offer clarifications on a few issues that voters raised concerns about.
One regarded cleaning up snow around the fire hydrants, which White said would be handled by the highway department and fire department together. The first will lift all of the heavy snow from the area, while the latter will shovel out the remaining snow, allowing free access to the hydrants.
Citizens were curious about the direction of the town's waste and recycling disposal system. Leaders said that the town was exploring moving to single stream recycling and had been in touch with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection regarding changes. The system would hopefully be implemented by fall and would prevent citizens from needing to sort recycling on their own, in favor of transporting all recyclable objects together.
"Right now we're in line for going to single stream recycling," said White. "It should be costing us less because we will be spending less on transportation."
"Recycling is going to be so simple that we think it will go up," said Henderson. "Once people see the system, I think they're going to like it a lot."
With that in mind, the town voted to raise roughly $95,000 for the transfer station, some of which would cover up-front costs of the new system.
To save some costs, the town decided to postpone purchasing a replacement for a 1994 dump truck, which could have cost $25,000 from the capital equipment reserve. Officials reported that the truck was in good condition and should easily last another year.
The largest concerns of the day arose when allocations for the town's highway improvement reserve was discussed. One vocal citizen expressed concern that the sidewalks near the elementary school were not being taken care of during the winter, forcing some children to walk in the street.
The sidewalk was described as a "disgrace" and the citizen expressed fear that something tragic would have to occur before the problem was rectified.
"I don't want to see a kid run over and then we do something about it," he said.
White assured the crowd that the town officials were aware of the problem, but said that there was no money to repair the sidewalks.
"There is no sidewalk money," said White, "but we know it is a concern and we will do what we can to take care of it."
Beth McIntyre from REACH, the Rape Education and Crisis Hotline that serves Oxford County, Harrison, and Bridgton, was present to thank the town for its ongoing support. They received $450 from the town this year.
Two thirds of all sexual assaults, she said, involve children, and half of those involve children under the age of 12. REACH has been educating people in the area on the dangers of Sexual Assault since 1981, and depends on towns for a small but important part of its funding.
"We all want our children to be safe, but sometimes we don't know how to talk about it," said McIntyre. "REACH provides the services to help with that."
In one of the last acts of the day, Veronica Poland of the Recreation Department rose to thank the town for its continuing support. Funds in the coming year will go to resurfacing three of the town's baseball and softball fields at Mann Sports Complex, and finishing work on a fourth.
"West Paris should feel very fortunate to have such a facility," she said.
The meeting was dedicated to Rodney Abbott, lifelong West Paris resident, retired teacher, and leading member of the board of trustees for the town library that, thanks in part to him, completed a significant addition last year.