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Patten residents approve municipal budget

PATTEN, Maine — A group of about 40 residents, including selectmen, turned out Thursday evening to discuss town business and approve a municipal budget for 2022.

The group spent just more than an hour hashing over 52 warrant articles, and approving a $1,062,675 municipal spending plan. That budget is down slightly from the 2021 spending plan, but the town’s mill rate is expected to remain at its current level of 22 mills.

Among the warrant articles generating the greatest amount of discussion were a $5,335 increase to the cemetery operations to cover rising fuel costs for mowing lawns, and a $9,000 increase to the town’s street lights account due to rising electricity costs.

Firefighter John Roy expressed concern about the numbers of volunteers with the Patten Fire Department. The department is down to just three volunteers.

“We need more help,” Roy said. 

Patten selectmen Becky Phillips (left) and Nathan Richardson look over the warrant articles at the annual Patten Town Meeting Thursday evening. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

To help boost interest in serving in the department, residents approved spending $15,000 to create a Fire Department Recruitment and Reserve Account. The department responded to 18 fire calls during 2021.

The town does not plan to do any major paving projects in 2022, due to the rising cost of asphalt, which resulted in a reduction of $150,404 to the town’s Highway Capital Improvements account.

The town has gone through tremendous transition in recent years. Patten has been without the services of a town manager for several months following the resignation of Darrell Mims. Former town clerk Lora Ryan also served as the interim town manager for a short time.

The town has not had a consistent town manager since Raymond Foss resigned in April 2019.

The search for a new town manager has been a struggle. Patten has worked with the public administration program at the University of Maine, and advertised locally and through the online platform Indeed. 

“Though several months were spent on this (hiring) effort, the town continues to have a vacancy in the position,” according to the annual town report. “This is not a unique problem, as numerous communities throughout the state are struggling to fill key management positions.”

Turnover on the town’s Board of Selectmen has also made decision-making difficult. Board Chairman Nathan Richardson and Vice Chairman Lana Tucker did not seek reelection this year.

At the polls on Wednesday, Rae Bates and Dennis Kelly were elected to three-year positions on the town’s Board of Selectmen with 38 and 34 votes, respectively. Leslie Gardner was reelected to the RSU 89 school board with 44 votes.

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