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Frustration Over Garage Shows in Chelsea 

Chelsea — No Town Meeting is complete without a spirited debate on what to do about the decrepit town garage.

And the 130 or so townspeople who showed up for yesterday’s gathering were not disappointed.

Henry Ford’s Model T ruled the roads in 1927 when the garage was built. It’s been a long time since it was suitable for the storage and maintenance of modern municipal vehicles. It was when voters were deciding yesterday whether to put $30,000 into a new roof and other fixes on the tilting structure that Selectman Jack Johnson was forced to acknowledge town officials had now been trying without success for 20 years to come up with a location and solid building plans for a new garage.

His frustration with that lack of progress — and probably with some of yesterday’s comments and questions as to why — started to show.

“I don’t know what to do. We are at a standstill right now. We’ve always got a few people who will stand in the way of whatever we try to do. I’m getting sick of it,” Johnson said.

Regarding the latest request for patchwork financing that would come from a $200,000 fund aimed at building a new garage and purchasing the property it would stand on, Johnson readily admitted that withdrawal to update the current garage is not a sound plan.

“It’s a poor investment. At this point in time, we have no other choice but to make something usable and feasible for the folks that maintain the roads,” he said.

Voters ultimately approved taking $30,000 from the Garage Fund on a voice vote. The work will include adding insulation and attempting an overall tightening up of the garage that would make it more efficient to heat.

Voters approved a town budget of $648,411 for the coming year. With town and school funding requests remaining stable with last year’s totals, there was no budget discussion at either meeting yesterday.

Cemeteries took center stage in three of the 18 town articles. In supporting a request for $8,500 in maintenance money, Frank Keene, a cemetery commissioner, said the graveyards had been particularly hard hit lately by heavy rains and the resulting washing out of roads.

He said the removal of rotted trees had also required labor, and pointed out that the commissioners often volunteer their own time and equipment for such efforts.

Voters OK’d the $8,500, and a separate $1,000 maintenance request, then approved $500 in additional “care and maintenance” money for West Hill Cemetery in town, which is not overseen by the Chelsea cemetery commissioners.

Voters gave the nod to $28,000 to support the town library in the coming year, and applauded when librarian Virgil Fuller and library trustee Susan Elder presented figures that showed 20,000 “circulations,” a 100 percent increase in the public’s use of books and other library offerings since 2010.

There was applause, as well, for Selectman Erik Anderson’s service to the town. He decided against a re-election bid and was succeeded yesterday by Mike Button.

In uncontested voice votes, Bill Field returned as moderator, Karen Lathrop as town clerk, and Jane Cushman as treasurer and collector of delinquent taxes.

A higher-than-usual request of $45,000 from First Branch Ambulance Service was approved for 18 months, rather than 12 months, helping that service switch its finances from a calendar year to a fiscal year. A representative from the ambulance service said that request next year would likely return to the usual $30,000 range.

Before they turned their attention to town matters yesterday, voters disposed of the six-article annual school district meeting in one hour.

The $3,188,513 proposed budget for 2013-14 was approved, as was a plan to transfer to a building reserve fund no more than $25,000 any surplus in the school district’s 2012-13 general fund. Resident Brian Sanborn’s proposed amendment that the money go back to taxpayers instead was defeated.

Bill Field was re-elected school moderator, and School Board incumbents Rebecca Mattoon and Joe Spinella were returned to the board for three- and two-year terms, respectively.

Voter turnout for both the town and school was 124, 15 percent of the 921 voters on each checklist.

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