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By Matt Lynch

Correspondent

TOWNSEND — Unlike last fall, when it took several tries to reach a quorum, Annual Town Meeting this year reached the required tally quickly. Voters then moved swiftly through articles on the Annual and the Special Town Meeting warrants, before hitting a delay in approving the town budget.

Gene Rauhala took his customary spot as moderator and opened the meeting shortly after its announced start time, citing a quorum of at least 100 people being present in the Great Hall of Memorial Hall on Tuesday, May 6.

The meeting then began in earnest, in what would prove to be a four-hour process. The town voted unanimously to grant the Board of Selectmen the ability to appoint all town officers, and also approved funds transfers for various accounts.

The Annual Town Meeting was temporarily suspended while a Special Town Meeting was held.

There were only three articles on the special warrant, each seeking approval to transfer monies from available funds. The largest transfer asked $240,603.46 to offset the snow and ice deficit and was passed unanimously, but not before a brief inquiry.

“What will this do to the rest of the budget?” asked Carol Wright.

“The budget is balanced; there will be no impact,” town administrator Gregory Barnes assured her, though he added that it could affect the availability of free cash down the line.

With the special warrant completed, the moderator moved back into the annual session.

Talks turned contentious when the budget articles came, though they were ultimately approved with some changes.

Chief of Police Erving M. Marshall announced the slashing of more than $20,000 from the animal control officer line item in the public safety portion of the budget, citing the discovery of someone who would do the job for a lesser salary.

It was argued that the job would have to be posted and all applicants considered and the chief agreed, but pointed out that setting the salary at $20,000 instead of the initial $40,053 would simply make the process easier and save the town money.

The town took advantage of those newfound savings and voted to amend the Recreation Department’s line item for Culture and Recreation, increasing the budget from $11,101 to $22,051. This came after Alice Kennedy explained that it would be impossible for Recreation to become self-sustaining, without a little more help until the department could pay its own way.

The final town operating budget, excluding the Water Department, was approved at $16 million.

The remaining items were all approved, with two exceptions. The first was a request from the Cemetery and Parks Commissioners for $3,500 to buy an equipment trailer. A discussion with the Finance Committee determined the cost should come from the commission’s budget.

Also rejected was to change the required quorum from 100 to one.

The town also voted to increase the Council on Aging from seven members to nine.

Annual Town Meeting was adjourned shortly before 11 p.m.

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