Townspeople sailed through most of the budget items with barely a question at the annual town meeting Tuesday night, March 19, until the last item mired the assembled in debate.

The question was whether to take $12,000 from the Boat Excise Account with matching funds coming from the state to remove an abandoned barge that has been in Pleasant Point harbor for 14 months.

Residents in attendance asked selectmen and Harbormaster Austin Donaghy why the owner of the barge is not responsible for the removal and its cost.

Donaghy said the owner in question was Randy Martin. His wooden barge, with a crane on it, had become stuck in the mud on the bottom, with one part of the vessel dug 15 feet deep into the muck.

The town has asked Martin to remove the barge, and a few unsuccessful attempts have been made to remove it. So far, the owner has not removed it.

Donaghy said the town is responsible for maintaining and keeping safe its waterways, and this must be done. He said he managed to find an obscure "Abandoned Watercraft Department" within state government and convinced it to help. With the state's funds and the amount provided by the town, the budget for the removal will come to $24,000.

Some residents said the town should not have to pay for this, and that it was up to the owner. Donaghy said the town could seek to recoup the loss from the owner, though he said legal bills for this action could be high.

The project will be put out to bid to find the right firm to remove the barge. It may have to be partly dismantled, and the town will need to find someone with property on the waterfront who will allow the barge to be brought onto their property.

Some residents in attendance said Prock Marine could take it right out of there on another barge. Town officials said they would look into that and other local firms.

It had been requested before the meeting that voting on this issue be done by secret ballot, but townspeople voted from the floor to do the voting by a show of hands. The item was not on the regular town meeting warrant in the town report and was given to the townspeople that night as a separate sheet of paper serving as an addendum to the warrant. Eventually, they approved the measure.

About 50 people attended the meeting at the Cushing Community Center. Mike Mayo served as moderator.

The amount to be raised through property taxes to support town services in the new budget is $408,951, up about 1 percent ($4,554) from $404,397 last year, according to Alton Grover, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

Grover said in previous comments he expects the mill rate will remain at 13.75, same as last year.

A proposal to establish a new site plan review ordinance failed by a vote of 148-101 in the March 18 secret-ballot election.

The town has been without a site plan ordinance since a group of residents voted to abolish it in the 2018 town meeting.

The town provided information about the ordinance on its website, explaining it. "Site plan review is a process, which allows the Planning Board, with input from the public, to review plans for a commercial project before it is built," the website states. "Site plan review is intended to be a collaborative process designed to ensure that developments will not cause unreasonable burden on their neighbors.

"The site plan process can actually help reduce disputes between commercial and residential neighbors by allowing potential issues to be addressed before they become real issues," the website concludes. "This is especially important in a town that does not have zoning, since different types of uses are allowed to intermingle."

Despite efforts to promote the ordinance, residents have resisted any regulation in the community.

Townspeople reelected Grover and Selectman Martha Marchut, who ran unopposed for their board seats.

Craig Currie was elected to the Board of Assessors and the Budget Committee, also running unopposed.

The town presented the Spirit of America Foundation Tribute posthumously in honor of Daniel Remian, who passed away last August. The award commended him for his community service. Remian served on the Planning Board and the Board of Assessors, volunteered time with the town historical society and provided technical advice when the town was buying its generator.