Originally funded at $66,500 this year, the reserve account balance is currently down to $12,800, an amount the finance board said is too low this early in the fiscal year.
Finance officials argued approval of the article would help the town avoid the need to convene another “costly” special town meeting in the event unforeseen circumstances tap the remaining reserves. But when asked how much it costs to hold a town meeting, no town official could offer even an estimated cost.
But voters decried using an account reserved for unforeseen contingencies to pay $30,000 in settlement costs and legal fees.
Rich Baker was unsympathetic when the finance board argued that the account could be tapped out well before the end of the fiscal year next July.
“Let them deal with a very short budget for the rest of the year,” Baker urged his fellow voters.
And Kristi Devine suggested voters would only be “endorsing bad behavior” by supporting the article.
But Devine was quickly and forcefully asked to take her seat when Town Moderator Kathleen “KC” Swallow deemed that her words had become personal attacks against selectmen and said her comments were inappropriate for town meeting floor.
It was not the only time during the 50-minute discussion that Swallow had to bang her gavel to redirect the tenor of the meeting.
Blais, Kemper, Atwood and McGrath were all in attendance. Blais sat directly in front of current Finance Director Warren Sproul, who was seated at the table she had occupied numerous times during her 19-year span as West Newbury’s finance boss. Several voters were seen approaching Blais to chat and offer her a hug when the meeting ended.