Alna residents approved every warrant article put before them during a two-hour annual town meeting Saturday, March 25.
Convening at the Alna Firehouse, residents also adopted changes to the building code ordinance, and approved moratoriums on community and commercial solar facilities, and mineral extraction facilities and operations.
Voters approved a $1,074,965 budget for 2023-2024, ratifying an increase of $266,887, or 33% compared to the current year. Factors contributing to the increase include cost increases for the Alna Volunteer Fire Department, town official salaries and stipends, and a new snow plow contract.
During the meeting residents agreed to add $15,000 to the proposed budget, approving a motion by Alna resident Jeff Averill to increase the fire truck reserve account line item almost 43 percent: from $35,000 to $50,000.
Select board chair Ed Pentaleri expressed support for the motion and gratitude towards Averill for putting forth the proposal. Pentaleri said the town has contributed $35,000 over the last several years to the reserve account, which totaled $105,127.58 before the meeting.
“I am happy to admit that is one I looked at,” Pentaleri said. “I was wondering if we were doing enough.”
The remaining budget articles were approved with little discussion.
Voters approved $130,615 for town official’s salaries and stipends, accepting a 56% increase of $46,800. The line item for the town clerk’s salary was raised to $60,000, an increase of $33,000 or 122%.
Pentaleri said the increase was necessary so the town could retain a qualified individual, adding the position requires specific knowledge and skills. Last year the town hired three individuals for the position, and retained one: current town clerk Sarah Perkins.
Also contributing to the increase is a new deputy fire chief position, which includes a stipend of $2,000. Alna Fire Chief Mike Trask said the deputy fire chief has the authority to step in for the fire chief, authority an assistant fire chief does not have.
“The deputy chief, actually on paper, has the ability to do the same job and spend money as the fire chief,” Trask said.
Voters approved increasing the fire department’s budget to $125,809, an increase of $11,569, or 11%.
According to Fire Department President Beth Whitney, the increase in cost is largely related to inflation driving up cost for gas and other items the department uses.
“These costs include electricity, propane, a little bit for the internet,” Whitney said. “A lot of these things are inflation driven.”
The snow plow contract increased to $390,000, rising $150,000 or 63%. With the current snow plow contract expiring at the conclusion of this season, the select board will use the funds approved by voters toward a new contract.
At the end of the meeting residents approved three new ordinances including amendments to the building code ordinance.
Changes to the ordinance clarify the town’s policies related to short-term rentals; ban non-owner occupied short-term rentals, and establishes rules for owner occupied short-term rentals. The ordinance now bans non-owner occupied short-term rentals, only allowing owner occupied short-term to be owned and operated within the town.
During the meeting Alna Planning Board Chair Jim Amaral said the purpose of banning non-owner occupied short-term rentals is to prevent people from out of state buying up homes in Alna just to use them as short-term rentals, resulting in fewer housing options for people moving to town.
Amaral, the owner of Borealis Breads, says the lack of housing options is impacting local businesses’ ability to hire employees.
“I have tried to hire people and because of the lack of housing in the area I have not been able hire someone that was a good candidate to work for my company,” Amaral said. “And I know people in Alna who have had the same problem.”
Residents approved articles 44 and 45 after a short discussion, establishing 180 day moratoriums on community solar energy facilities and mineral extraction facilities and operations.
The moratoriums give town officials time to develop an ordinance for each industry. In the event more time is needed, the select board has authority to extend the moratoriums for another 180 days.
A total of 136 residents of Alna attended the polls to vote on five uncontested races on Friday, March 24.
Steven Graham and Coreysha Stone were each elected to a two-year term to the Alna Select Board. They are replacing former select board members Charlie Culbertson, and Linda Kristan.
Shelby Biddy and Doug Morier were each elected to Sheepscot Valley RSU 12 Board of Directors. Biddy was elected to finish out the last year of former board member Kristina Verney’s term, who resigned last October due to scheduling conflicts. Biddy has been serving on the board since she was approved by the select board last November.
Morier was reelected to the board and will serve a three-year term. This will be his second term on the board.
Jeffrey Verney was elected to road commissioner.