On March 14, the residents of Cranberry Isles mixed municipal business with community pleasure at the annual Town Meeting, approving a $1,536,488 town budget and feasting upon a community lunch of chicken, biscuits and approximately 20 homemade pies.

Held at the Great Cranberry Island Fire House, the daylong event was highlighted by two major issues: the election of selectmen and the need for a new town office.

Related to the selectmen’s race was an ordinance that allowed for the recall of elected municipal officials “if the manner and substance of his or her performance in office is unacceptable.” This ordinance arose from the extended absence of one of the town’s three selectmen, Orville E. Blank, but was tabled because of concerns over the wording of the regulations:

“I agree we should have something to recall [officials] but this ordinance is not it,” advocated Ted Spurling Jr. “It’s so incompletely written it creates more problems than it solves.”

With the tabling of the recall ordinance, the selectmen’s race was reduced to two open positions. Dan Lief was elected to a three-year term replacing David Stainton. Phil Whitney, with a one-vote victory over Erin Fernald Gray, was elected to fulfill the remaining two years of Richard Beal, who had announced his resignation from the board in January.

After an amazing community lunch that was organized by the Great Cranberry Island Ladies Aid Society, the meeting turned to a lengthy discussion of the need for a new town office. The retirement of Franny Jo Bartlett, who served the town for 31 years and was the third consecutive member of the Bartlett family to be elected town clerk, requires that the town remove its records from storage in the Bartlett kitchen and reorganize. Hugh Smallwood, head of the town Municipal Facilities Commission, presented three options for a town office building with a $140,000 difference in price. The town voted to authorize the selectmen to borrow up to $240,000 for a town office with workstations for Denise McCormick, the new town clerk, treasurer and collector of taxes, and an administrative assistant to be hired by the selectmen. The new building also includes meeting space and storage areas for town records and municipal equipment.

The voters of Cranberry Isles also endorsed plans to repair the municipal wharf at Sutton Island, to hold a special town meeting later in the year to decide whether to expand the Board of Selectmen from three to five members and to keep the Longfellow School on Great Cranberry Island open despite an anticipated 2005 enrollment of zero students. Rejected by the town was an article allocating funds to hire a summer policeman for Great Cranberry and Islesford at a cost of $60,000. The approved budget means that the town’s estimated mill rate increased by nearly 20 percent from .66 in 2004 to .85 in 2005.

Cyrus Moulton is an Island Institute Fellow on Great Cranberry Island.