Unhappy Hebron voters reject Town Report
Mar. 18—HEBRON — Claiming that some reports were missing, including the audit, and concerns with some of the numbers not making sense, voters took out their frustration Saturday by rejecting the 2022 Town Report in a near unanimous vote at the annual Town Meeting.
Nearly 60 residents attended Saturday's annual meeting at Hebron Station School, which took 2 1/2 hours to review and vote on the 53 articles.
Accepting the Town Report is one of the housekeeping articles that normally gets automatically passed by voters with little, if any, discussion. One observer afterward said he could not recall any Town Report getting rejected by voters.
Prepared each year by town officials, the booklet contains municipal and financial reports and gives an overview of what happened in town during the previous year,
But it came under immediate attack when one resident complained that the ending amount for the 2021 fiscal year did not match the beginning balance for 2022.
When Select Board Chairman Elizabeth Olsen explained that was due to adjustments made by the auditor during work on the town audit, which is still ongoing, residents fought back, deploring that lack of transparency with no listing of where those adjustments were made and for what amount.
Another resident wanted to know why the audit wasn't done in time to get inserted into the Town Report, especially when the Town Meeting is usually held on the same weekend each year.
Others were bothered that some of the financial reports that are usually included in the Town Report were not available until Saturday, preventing residents from reviewing them beforehand.
When Olsen could not provide an explanation to satisfy the residents, voters simply rejected approving the report.
When asked what happens next with the report rejected, Olsen admitted she was unsure and would check with state statute.
Voters then rejected the next article that covered paying off all of the overdraft accounts. Town officials listed the total overdrafts at $15,590.08, but one resident said by his estimate that the number was nearly twice that amount. Olsen expressed confidence in the number provided by town officials, but blamed the lack of a finished audit for causing the confusion.
With doubts on the numbers, voters rejected the overdraft request.
Residents then went on supporting the $1 million municipal budget, making only a couple of minor tweaks.
Considerable discussion centered around a Land Use Ordinance change concerning accessory dwellings, which was passed by voters.
The amendment would allow homeowners the ability to add a second dwelling unit on their property — either within the structure, such as an in-law apartment, or as a separate building. The living area would be restricted in size to "800 square feet or 50% of total square footage of the primary dwelling, whichever is more restrictive."
Planning Board members told voters that passing this would allow the town some control by restricting the number to one accessory dwelling per property. A new state law coming in July would allow up to four such dwellings per property.
Voters did reject an effort by Code Enforcement Officer Kingston Brown to repeal the town building code. Currently, the code states the town will follow the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, including automatically adopting any state amendments.
Brown argued that by repealing that ordinance, it would remove some of the regulations coming in the next few years that could raise construction costs. He added that the town's fire and plumbing codes would still be followed.
Citizens approved the acceptance of more than $154,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds and appropriated nearly 90% of those funds for various projects, including putting $51,335.85 back in the Fire Truck Reserve account to cover a recent purchase.
A $40,000 expenditure will allow the Fire Department to replace turnout gear for at least a dozen firefighters, said Fire Chief James Trundy. The current gear, which costs up to $3,800 per firefighter, is more than 10 years old and is beyond its lifespan, he added.
Derek Pike was elected as selectman. He replaces Curtis Smith, who is stepping down after four years on the board. Trundy was reelected to the Budget Committee.
No one was named to the Moody Library board of trustees. That board held no meetings last year.
Woodstock's town manager, Vern Maxfield, served as moderator.