PEPPERELL -- Town Meeting voters approved a citizens petition Monday calling for a $400,000 debt exclusion to replace the fire department's inoperable ladder truck.
Chief Toby Tyler said the truck hasn't been in operation for about three years. Since then, stations in Townsend, Groton, or Hollis, N.H. have provided mutual aid. They can take an average of 24 minutes to get to Pepperell, he said.
During discussion, voters said that a ladder truck is necessary, but disagreed about how to fund it.
Another citizens petition that proposed $25,000 funded from free cash to move the start date of a full-time officer position included in the town budget up from October to July passed by an 84-56 vote.
"We should show our Police Department that we are behind them and we can make it happen," said petitioner Crystal Jefferies before the vote.
With the approved money, $16,250 will go to police wages and $8,750 will be for police employee benefits and insurance.
The initial petition proposed funding two full time officer positions.
Voters also approved an article that will direct the Board of Selectmen to place a question on the next available ballot asking whether the town will prohibit recreational marijuana establishments.
Towns like Pepperell that voted in favor of the 2016 statewide ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana would need to pass a town ballot initiative to ban those establishments.
"A lot of people voted (for the state) to have it legalized in other peoples' towns," said town counsel Ned Richardson, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.
The original warrant article proposed zoning to regulate marijuana cultivators, testing labs, manufacturers, retailers, and business in town and would have put a moratorium on the those establishments through the end of the year, but those zoning rules weren't ready in time for Town Meeting.
Town Meeting adjourned just before midnight and approved all but one article.
In other business, voter approved the town's $26.96 million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
During nearly two hours of discussion, voters offered several motions on budget line items in the area of general government that did not pass.
One motion would have reduced the town administrator's salary from $126,000 to $108,740, which is close to his current salary. The others proposed decreased money for the town's law department and eliminate a $13,179 salary for a part-time assistant town clerk.
Voters also approved:
* $5 million to upgrade the town's waste water treatment facility.
* No action to authorize the land sale where the Peter Fitzpatrick School sits.
* A stewardship plan for the Nashua, Squannacook and Nissitissit rivers.
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