Originally published in Castine Patriot, March 9, 2017
Henrys, Shorey honored at annual Penobscot town meeting
by Monique Labbe
It took residents of Penobscot three hours to pass 58 municipal and 20 school warrant items during the annual town meeting March 7, but the highlight of the event was not passing a $1,837,212 school budget or approving $23,700 for the first payment of the new fire truck loan.
The highlight came by way of State House Representative Karl Ward, who presented Jim and Pat Henry, former longtime owners of Northern Bay Market, and Stanley Shorey, a selectman stepping down after 25 years, with official sentiments from the state house.
“Jim and Pat Henry turned their store into the nerve center of this town,” said Ward. “In many ways, they are the pulse here.”
Of Shorey, Ward noted that “no matter how you cut it, 25 years is a long time.”
“[Shorey] can do just about anything, and fix about anything,” Ward added. “Every town has a proverbial jack of all trades, and Stanley is ours.”
The presentations were surprises for all recipients, who thanked the townspeople after receiving standing ovations.
After the presentations, moderator Sherman Hutchins began the business meeting portion of the night. The first 15 articles were approved without much delay, but article 15, to raise funds for Eastern Area Agency on Aging, stirred some chatter.
Maggie Williams, who works with the agency, asked the townspeople to amend the article, asking for $2,000 instead of the requested $1,200. Last year, the town voted in favor of giving the agency $1,500. Fred Briehl, a member of the Penobscot School Board, stood in support of the $2,000.
“I see a lot of gray hair in here,” said Briehl. “If we can afford this, I think it will be spent in the right direction.”
Some were concerned with giving the agency more money when it had only requested $1,200. Ultimately, though, the amended article passed by a 42-18 majority vote.
The article to raise funds for the Blue Hill Public Library also proved controversial, despite library board member and Penobscot resident Eleni Koenka asking to amend the article from $3,040 to $2,838, noting that the board asked for more than it had intended.
“I would just like to say that many people in our community use the library,” said Koenka. “Many of our students go on to George Stevens Academy and use it for their studies, and there is something going on there every night for talks and presentations. I think it’s absolutely important that we continue to support the community as a town.”
Some members of the audience spoke against giving funding for the library, including Joan Markley, who noted that because she lives closer to Castine, she is more apt to utilize Witherle Library.
“I think we should be allowed to support whichever library we want to, individually,” said Markley.
Nick Henry, head of the finance committee, said that his issue with giving money to the library is that he would rather let people make their own decisions in where to put their money in terms of generous donations.
After some back-and-forth conversation about the topic, voters decided to approve the donation to the library at the $2,838 level.
Voters approved a total municipal budget amount of just over $564,000.
Several school warrant articles sparked discussion as well, including one to approve $192,033 for Operation and Maintenance of Plant Services. The finance committee only recommended $138,033. Henry explained that the discrepancy was the deletion of $54,000 for paving the school’s parking lot, which is a top priority for school board members this year.
Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt explained that this year’s budget is up 1.2 percent, and because they are not paying as much for secondary education tuition as past years, this year would be the time to get the project done.
Greg Bowden, who gave the school an unofficial quote for the project, said that the town could vote to put off the project, but that the longer they waited, the more the cost to fix it would increase because of the wear and tear. The article was approved by majority after more discussion.
Selectmen, 3 year term, Phil Rapp, 67 votes
Road Commissioner, 2 year term, Bill Hutchins, 72 votes
School board, 3 year term, Charles Brenton, 58 votes
School board, 3 year term, Anne Hayes-Grillo, 60 votes