PRINCETON — It was a year of change in Princeton when voters grappled with rising costs and declining income and decided to eliminate their Police Department and town-manager form of government.
The year began with concerns about the town’s budget. In April, town officials decided not to present money articles at the March town meeting. State budget problems earlier in the year left towns uncertain about how state budget cuts would impact local budgets. Because Princeton’s school budget was so dependent on the education subsidy, the selectmen decided it would not be appropriate to propose a budget to residents until the Princeton School Committee had a firm idea of what the state subsidy would be.
With no budget issues on the warrant for the March town meeting, Princeton voters were faced with policy considerations. Among the items they approved was an article that required the town manager to live in the town and a requirement that elected or appointed town officials be required to make progressive payments on any of their personal property-tax bills left unpaid for one year or more.
In May, Princeton residents mourned the death of 21-year-old Kenneth McDowell who was fatally stabbed by William Moholland Jr., 21, also of Princeton. Moholland was arraigned in 4th District Court in Calais on a charge of murder in connection with that incident. He remains in the Washington County Jail awaiting trial.
An upheaval in town government also began in May, when Town Manager Jerry Storey resigned to take over as town manager of Milbridge. He was replaced by Charles M. Stafford. Stafford had only been on the job for a few days when a petition was submitted to the selectmen that asked for the elimination of the town manager form of government. Stafford, who held the job only for two weeks, resigned to accept a town-manager position in Vermont.
In October, voters met at a special town meeting to consider two articles, each placed on the warrant as a result of a petition. The first article, to abolish the town manager form of government, was overwhelmingly approved by more than 200 residents who attended the special town meeting.
On the second issue, the proposed abolition of the Princeton Police Department, voters were divided. Opponents of the article claimed abolition of the Police Department would end an element of local control and increase response time when police were needed. Proponents argued that the local Police Department was a needless expense and that police coverage could be provided by the Washington County Sheriff and the Maine State Police. After a lengthy discussion, voters abolished the Police Department by a vote of 111-65. Both the elimination of the town manager form of government and abolition of the Police Department were set to be effective at the end of the current fiscal year.
Even though local voters had decided to abolish the Police Department, the Board of Selectmen in October, elevated Sgt. Michael Takach to the position of chief of the local Police Department for the remainder of its existence.
The Princeton residents saw an improvement in local services during 1991 with the opening of a new medical center. Earlier this year, the town decided to sell the former Princeton Elementary School building, and an upgraded portion of that building now houses the St. Croix Regional Family Health Center.
Princeton ended the year with yet another special town meeting. Some of the issues considered included the transfer of certain powers to the selectmen to enable them to run the town without a town manager.
The Dec. 9 meeting attracted only 15 voters and lasted about 30 minutes. The voters quickly approved four articles: to authorize the selectmen to act as a board of road commissioners, overseers of the poor and code enforcement Officers; to combine the office of treasurer and tax collector and fill the office by secret ballot at the annual town meeting; to lease the Princeton Airport access road to the Princeton Regional Airport Authority; and to implement a road subdivision highway construction plan.