WARREN — After enduring years of residents bouncing checks with impunity, the Town of Warren will impose a tough penalty from now on.

The Select Board at its Aug. 24 meeting, after hearing about lower fees elsewhere, unanimously agreed to impose a $35 fee for any check written to the town and returned for insufficient funds.

Board members acted at the urging of Town Manager Sherry Howard.

The reason, she explained, is all about just what effort and how much time it takes for town staff to process bounced checks.

“We have to do work,” she said, including tracking check signers down and sometimes mailing certified letters — all of which takes up time and money.

Noting that fees imposed for insufficient funds are common, she cited examples from ranging from $10 to about $30.

“I think we should charge” to cover the costs of postage and staff legwork, Howard said.

Although the five-member board’s decision was unanimous, John Crabtree cast his vote with obvious reluctance. “These are hard times,” he said.

The meeting began behind closed doors when Chair Wayne G. Luce pulled an item from the public portion of the agenda and asked colleagues to discuss it privately.

The matter involved employees, so should be talked about in executive session, he said. The board agreed and immediately retired to closed session.

The private discussion of personnel matters, including compensation, is permitted under Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.

Item #11 was originally agendized as a public discussion of the town’s “…approved ARPA Fund Disbursement.”

And that is a personnel matter, because at the annual Town Meeting, voters approved the use up to $60,000 of Federal ARPA money for employee stipends in recognition of their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, town manager Sherry Howard later explained.

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021.

It provided $350 billion in COVID-related economic stimulus money, including $65 billion for municipalities, according to the non-profit Government Finance Officers Association’s website.

The funds are to “Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency; replace lost public sector revenue; provide premium pay for essential workers; and invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure,” — and it must be spent by the end of the 2024 calendar year, according to the association.

After about 20 minutes, the board emerged from closed session with no action to report on financial awards to town workers.

All three Aug. 24 executive sessions dealt with personnel matters, Howard later said. No action was reported out of the sessions.

In other public business, the board reappointed 35-year Warren resident Helene Randeau to the Payson Park Committee.

Appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals was Nicko DeMaria, owner of an IT/computer business. DeMaria has lived in Warren most recently for one year, and previously for 12 years, according to his application.