CRANBERRY ISLES — The annual Cranberry Isles town meeting held at Neighborhood House in Islesford saw participation of nearly 90 people – with several arriving by ferry – on a windy and unseasonably warm Saturday morning.
Following debate and discussions, voters authorized $250,000 for a new fire truck for Great Cranberry Island and voted against appropriating $50,000 for future construction of a town office building, among 29 warrant items during the six-hour meeting.
Residents breezed through the re-election of Richard Beal for the position of selectman for the term of three years. But the matter of compensation sparked a lengthy discussion.
One resident questioned why the salary was so high.
“I think the selectmen should be compensated for their service, but when I look at the other employees of our town, we have a ton of residents who serve without pay,” she said before putting forward a motion to reduce salaries from the recommended amount. “There is a lot of work being done in this town by people who get no paycheck for it.”
The compensation for the chairperson of the selectmen was increased to $8,000 from $2,000 last year, and pay for others on the board went up from $1,700 to $7,500 after seven nominees declined to serve and the majority of voters felt the appropriated amount was insufficient.
“If you want to cut the pay, go ahead, but we’ll be back to where we were last year when nobody wanted to stand for that position,” another resident said. By a majority vote, the compensation remained unchanged from that of the previous year.
The school budget for the July-June fiscal year was unanimously approved at $583,146, a reduction of $20,205. The reason was lower costs associated with the completion of extensive renovations at Longfellow School on Great Cranberry Island.
But the plan for classes to be held there next year instead of at Ashley Bryan School on Islesford brought forth questions about keeping both schools open the entire year.
“This budget is intended to keep both schools functioning, but to make one to be the primary,” School Committee Chair Kelly Sanborn said. She added that an additional amount of $30,000 to $50,000 would be required to keep both schools open full time year-round.
When one resident shared concerns about sending children to school on a boat, Superintendent Howard Colter weighed in on the benefits of keeping all the children of the town of Cranberry Isles in a single school.
“The best shape of the children comes from having kids working together and to be able to have the strengths of the teachers to compliment each other,” he said. “The collaboration goes on all day. The benefit is clear, and I think it strengthens our towns.”
Other big-ticket items that were passed included the appropriation of $67,700 for the continuation of Cranberry Isles commuter ferry service and $20,000 for the purchase of a new plow truck for Islesford.
Voters also decided to support the proposed Fiberight plant in Hampden for solid waste disposal instead of extending a contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Company in Orrington past 2018.
The total town budget approved is $2,185,317, which is a decrease of $77,323, or 3.4 percent, from last year.