Soup’s on again
by Trisha Ingalls
IRASBURG — For the first time in several years, the town of Irasburg brought back its soup potluck dinner to kick off Town Meeting. Many residents showed up early to enjoy the food and each others’ company before heading to the top floor of the town hall for the business of the evening.
Ron Holland reprised his longtime role of moderator and led a lightning-fast, 30-minute Town Meeting. In response to a suggestion from Bernard Peters at last year’s Town Meeting, an American flag had been brought to the meeting room and voters recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Dr. Holland also took a moment to read the names of Irasburg’s deceased from the past year.
The 2022 town report was dedicated to the memory of Tom Stelter, an active member of the Irasburg community. Dr. Holland said Mr. Stelter was also responsible for creating the meeting space in the town hall.
“In this room we had the vote on wind turbines,” Dr. Holland said, “which changed the course of policy in this state.”
With that, he turned the floor over to one of Irasburg’s state representatives, Mark Higley of Lowell, who gave an update on bills currently making their way through the State House.
Before the voting began, select board chair David Lahar gave an overview of the budget residents were being asked to vote on. He said the bad news is it represents an 8.9 percent increase over last year. Fuel has been volatile, and the town has experienced other cost pressures, such as insurance. Mr. Lahar said the select board, when building the budget, did its best to control and contain whatever was in its power to contain.
Mr. Lahar pointed out Article 18 in particular. He said it is important to the select board because it raises the cap on the allowable reserve fund balance for unanticipated revenue shortfalls from $400,000 to $600,000. The current cap was set in 2013. Since then, the “Halloween storm” of 2019 caused over $300,000 in damages, and it took FEMA until the end of 2022 to reimburse those expenses. That caused cash shortfalls over the course of those years, and the while the select board didn’t ask to add more tax dollars to the reserve this year, it wanted to raise the cap in order to do so in future so as not to need to borrow money in case of an emergency. Furthermore, the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money sits in that account, which brings the balance over the capped amount. When it came time to vote on Article 18 later in the meeting, it was approved without further discussion.
Similarly, the other articles on the warning were voted on quickly and without discussion. Danielle Ingalls was voted in for another year as town clerk and treasurer, and Mr. Lahar, whose seat was up for re-election, was given another three-year term.