A proposal to reduce the number of selectmen in town from five to three was shot down March 15 at the polls in Cushing.

Residents voted 165-91 against Article 3, which stated, “Shall the town vote to reduce the number of selectmen from five to three and to be accomplished by the removal of seat number four and seat number five at the annual town meeting of the year 2011?”

Townspeople voted by a similar margin to reject a proposal to purchase a used town tractor. Article 4 stated, “Shall the town vote to raise or appropriate $6,200 for the purchase of a front end loader for the purpose of loading sand on town trucks in an attempt to save $15,000 in a five-year period?”

Residents voted 152-102 to reject the proposal.

In the races, Alton Grover was re-elected by 197 votes in an uncontested race for a seat on the Cushing Board of Selectmen.

According to results provided by the town office, write-in candidate Willard Payson received 126 votes for selectman seat three. This was more than the votes received by the official candidate, Robert Stackpole, who was seeking re-election. Stackpole received 104 votes.

Payson said March 16 that some friends approached him before the election and asked if they could write him in as a candidate.

He said they expressed concerns over the controversy that had cropped up after a recent public hearing on the two citizen initiatives on the ballot. One dealt with whether the number of selectmen should be reduced to three and the other with whether to purchase the tractor.

Payson said he told them he loved the town and would do everything he could to help the town. At one point, he said he was still thinking about whether to accept the position as selectman, but later in the interview, he said he had told people before the election that he would and he would likely serve the town as selectman.

He said the high number of write-in votes he received came as a total surprise to him.

He said he has not served previously as a selectman or on any town committees.

More than 30 residents turned out in Cushing for a sometimes heated public hearing Feb. 22 on whether to buy the used front-end loader from one selectman or continue to lease a tractor from another.

Stackpole said at the time the town’s practice of paying Grover $4,800 per year to provide the town with a tractor for loading sand was a conflict of interest.

Stackpole circulated a citizen initiative petition to put his proposal on the ballot. Stackpole said he had purchased a tractor he hoped to sell to the town for $6,200. He said he purchased it because he felt it would be good for the town and he did not expect to make any money in the deal.

For the past six to eight years, Grover said in previous comments, the town has paid his company, Grover Construction, $1,200 per month for four months out of the year to lease his tractor. He said the town is only charged for the rental of the tractor. He provides the fuel, repairs and insurance.

The actual work is done by Grover and public works drivers.

Asked if this was a conflict of interest, Grover said in previous comments that the town checked with the Maine Municipal Association and it said it was OK as long as he abstained from voting on the tractor or related issues.

Payson said the issue is whether the town should be doing business with selectmen in the first place. He said he would favor putting town work out to bid to avoid conflict of interest.

“This issue got out of control,” he said.

Stackpole said he had suggested to the selectmen in the fall that they put the work out to bid, and they voted against doing so.

Stackpole said some in town felt he was too controversial.

“It wasn’t a vote for Will Payson. It was a vote against Bob Stackpole,” he said. “I spoke up when I thought something was wrong. I am not a good old boy.”

Evelyn Kalloch received 229 votes in an uncontested race for a three-year term on the Board of Assessors. John David Farmer received 212 votes for a five-year term on the budget committee. George Mele received 39 write-in votes for another vacant seat on the budget committee.

The town meeting will be held Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. at the Cushing Community Center.