SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The firehouse, with doors wide open, was packed with people, safely distanced from one another, for the annual Town Meeting on Saturday. Voters approved every article on the warrant, most with very little discussion.
Even Article 43, a request to apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, passed with no votes in objection and a round of applause. If the grant funding is awarded, it would be used for recreational development of a parcel of land adjacent to Chris’s Pond and the Manset Dock area.
“Both of these projects are still in the planning stages,” said former selectman Kristin Hutchins in a discussion before the vote. “There was an opportunity to apply for as much money as we could, so that’s what we decided to do.”
Hutchins resigned from the Board of Selectmen with less than two months left to her term after that board voted during a May meeting to remove article 43 from the warrant. Hutchins’ vote was one of two in opposition. At their next meeting, with only four members of the board, the vote to rescind the warrant and replace it with one in which article 43 was either removed or reworded died because of a tie, leaving the originally approved warrant to go before voters.
“I was wondering why the two had to be married together,” asked resident Clifford Noyes. “At some point, are the projects going to be separated?”
“This is just to give us permission to apply for the grant,” Selectman Carolyn Ball explained during the meeting.
Planning Board member Jack Ksionzyk asked if the grants required matching funds, if awarded, to which Ball said yes.
“We have to vote again to approve the money if we do get it, right?” asked Ksionzyk, to which Ball also answered yes.
The most votes counted for any one vote was 104, and that was for Article 16. A hand count was held to see what amount the voters would raise for non-state-funded school projects. The recommended amount for that vote was zero.
A few discussions revolved around lumping the nonprofit requests together and whether the amounts listed were correct. Ultimately, voters approved the total amount listed, even though a few of the line items were not correct. Interim Town Manager Dana Reed was able to check the math on the money requests and confirmed the final amount.
When Board of Selectmen Chairman Chad Terry introduced Reed at the start of the meeting, the crowd cheered.
“I’ve never gotten that at Town Meeting before,” he said in response.
There has been a lot of transition in leadership in Southwest Harbor over the last eight months, beginning with the unexpected death of Police Chief Alan Brown, the resignation of Harbormaster Adam Thurston and then the vote to remove former Town Manager Justin VanDongen in January. Earlier this week, Thurston’s replacement, Jesse Gilley, who started in February, announced his resignation.