Appleton residents approve firefighter pay for calls
Appleton — Whether to pay members of the fire department to respond to calls and to attend meetings generated the most discussion at the Appleton town meeting June 11.
In total, residents approved a $700,455 budget, which is up about 1.3 percent from this year. Residents voted to take $260,000 from surplus to reduce the property tax assessment.
About 40 residents attended the meeting and it lasted about two-and-a-half hours.
Residents will pay $113,795 to Knox County for services, which is down about $3,000. They will pay $431,480 to Five Town Community School District (up $11,000), which pays to educate Appleton students who attend Camden Hills Regional High School. The amount taxpayers will pay to Appleton Village School is unknown since residents turned down the proposal at the polls June 10. Last year, residents paid $1.13 million.
Residents approved paying members of the fire department $10 per hour for every meeting and call out, $10 minimum per call per hour and $10 for each additional hour.
"This is an experiment to see what will happen with enrollment and retention," Fire Chief David Stone said.
Stone said he has a difficult time getting members to attend meetings and wanted to see if a monetary incentive will help obtain and retain members. He said if the idea, which is also done in other towns, does not work, he would not bring it back for approval next year.
Stone said he built a $5,750 estimate into the labor and wages portion of the fire department budget to pay the hourly amount above the $300 yearly stipend firefighters already receive. He gave residents his word that he would not "blow the budget." Stone said he would stop the payment program if he were getting close to the budget amount.
Last year, Appleton firefighters responded to 40 calls with an average of six firefighters at each call.
Resident Gary Sukeforth said he was concerned by the way the article is worded: that the chief could not simply just stop paying after the money is gone.
Resident Debby Kieran made a motion to amend the article to say the town would pay members for a total of up to $5,750 and then the agreement to pay hourly wages would cease to exist for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Residents also voted to purchase a 2014 Ferrara/Ford F550 Forestry Truck to replace a 1973 Ford fire truck. The estimated cost of the new truck is $163,367 and it was approved to allow the town to secure a loan of not more than $125,000, with a down payment of $40,000 from a fire truck reserve account. Annual payments of $35,000 will begin Dec. 1, 2015, for four years.
Residents approved giving the three selectmen a $200 raise and the town's two employees a 2 percent raise.
Other articles approved were:
— $179,618 for general government, up $2,400
— $127,972 for protection and safety, up $3,100
— $333,000 for highways and bridges, unchanged
— $ 21,000 for community, up $5,500
— $7,500 for provider agencies, up $900
— $2,000 for capital improvements, down $1,500
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.