Waldoboro selectmen on June 21 responded to the defeat of several warrant articles at the polls last week by scheduling a special open town meeting to reconsider the budgets for departments such as office of the town manager, police, assessing, planning and development, and recreation.

The traditional-style open town meeting will be held Saturday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at Medomak Valley High School.

The articles on the warrant will start with the original budget numbers that were voted down at the polls June 14. With open town meeting, residents can amend the articles and eventually come to agreement. The Board of Selectmen also agreed to encourage voting by secret ballot at the open town meeting.

In the first order of business Tuesday night, Clinton Collamore Sr., who won election to the board June 14, was elected chairman of the Board of Selectmen. He received unanimous support from Selectmen Rebecca Maxwell, Craig Cooley and Steve Cartwright. Ted Wooster was absent.

The town office meeting room was packed June 21 for the discussion of voting results.

“As the board knows, there were a number of articles that didn’t pass,” said Interim Town Manger Eileen Dondlinger. Collamore had a series of questions, and Dondlinger outlined options and asked the board for direction.

The options were to hold another referendum vote or an open town meeting. The original budget numbers could be brought up again, or department heads could revise the figures and have them reviewed by the Budget Committee. Dondlinger said that could take a couple weeks. The warrant would then have to go to the town clerk 45 days before the referendum vote.

“So you’re looking at about two months before we could even have an election,” Dondlinger said.

But Dondlinger said the town would face a cash crunch before an August vote because of the county tax and school district payments.

“We are going to run into a serious cash flow problem if we wait that long,” Dondlinger said.

Cartwright said at an open town meeting, voters will understand what is being voted on, and townspeople can work out a compromise. Maxwell also said she preferred the open town meeting for this election. “Then the people can ask questions and we can answer them,” Maxwell said. Later in the meeting, Cooley said he would only support an open town meeting if the voting was done by secret ballot.

Article 3 on the warrant passed this year, and it gave the town the authority to continue funding for three months for articles that failed at the polls. Many residents said they voted for Article 3 so another referendum could be held if articles were defeated.

“Yes you could do that if we weren’t in the dire straights we are with cash flow, if cash flow wasn’t already an issue because of the lack of a fund balance available to smooth things along,” Dondlinger said.

Ronnie Miller is a big supporter of referendum voting, and he was first to offer comments to the board. He said at last year’s special town meeting, he attempted to amend the articles that were defeated at the polls. But his amendment failed and the original articles passed. “After that everyone went right out the door,” Miller said.

Miller said holding an open town meeting is unfair to the hundreds of people who voted at the polls. He said the only people that will attend town meeting are those who want the original budget to pass.

“You’re pretty much slapping the people that have supported referendum voting right in the face,” Miller said.

John Blamey agreed with Miller, and endorsed a referendum vote. Carl Cunningham also supported referendum voting, and asked Dondlinger about a low-interest loan for the cash flow problem.

Cat Skov said she supported open town meeting for a discussion of these issues. “I agree that people want to vote by referendum, and they did the first time around,” Skov said. “But when we have issues that didn’t pass, there’s so many different ways to interpret a no vote that I don’t think you can do it on paper.”

Bob Kanewske said the town needs some analysis of the vote. Kanewske said the town could be sampled to see what is on the minds of voters. “Bring that information into whatever form you’re going to use, whether it is referendum or open meeting, and discuss that,” Kanewske said. He said the town should take the pulse of the voters.

Other citizens asked for better financial breakdowns of the warrant articles, the tax impact per article, and whether the articles could be split so there are not multiple staff positions in one article (the town manager article includes part of the assistant’s salary).

Duncan Morrell, newly elected to the Budget Committee, said the town needs to restore its savings account (fund balance). He said $270,000 has to go back into the fund balance, and that’s something the Budget Committee will work on.

Scott Murray said he was concerned with public safety because the police department budget was not approved, and with recreational opportunities for children.

Police Chief William Labombarde said budget cuts would equal cuts to service, because the budget is already very tight. “If I’m going to go back and cut my budget it’s going to result in cutting staffing. Cutting staffing is only going to cut service,” Labombarde said. “So I’m going to have to go back to the board and ask what level you expect me to provide for the citizens.”

Ellen Winchenbach, newly elected to the Budget Committee, said she wanted to participate in a new budget review. “As a Budget Committee member I would love to sit in with department heads and selectmen and hear what they have to say, and come up with different numbers on those no votes,” Winchenbach said.

Craig Lewis, also newly elected to the Budget Committee, said the town had chances to cut the budget, whether it is turning off idling cars, having more employees contribute to their health insurance or pay-to-play recreation. “I’ve made suggestions but it fell on deaf ears. Nobody listened. We could have saved a little bit of money we’re talking about tonight,” Lewis said.

The votes on the articles that failed June 14 were:

Office of the town manager
No – 531
Yes – 356

Police department
No – 459
Yes – 411

Recreation department
No – 527
Yes – 355

Planning and development
No – 444
Yes – 435

A.D. Gray Building
No – 520
Yes – 365

Employee benefits
No – 464
Yes – 411

The vote on the assessing department did not pass; it was tied at 440 to 440.