STARKS – When Larry Farnham raised his hand to speak against adding $5000 back into the fire department budget at yesterday’s annual Town Meeting, he didn’t plan on trying to resolve deep-seated resentments and jealousies that had plagued his relationship with Fire Chief Tom Everett for decades.
Farnham began by noting that the fire department had not even spent all of the $53,000 allocated to it last year, but quickly found himself pouring out his emotions to the 28 registered voters in attendance, including 10 selectmen and school committee members.
“Tom’s been running a lax ship over there,” Farnham said. “They let them trucks idle all the time, wastin’ diesel for no good reason.”
“How would you know,” retorted Everett, “You haven’t set foot in the fire department in 25 years.”
“I didn’t think you wanted me there,” Farnham replied. After a moment of awkward silence, Everett said, “of course we want you there. You’ve always been welcome at the fire department, Larry.”
Farnham took a moment to wipe his eyes, then said, “I though you were pissed off over what happened with Rhonda.”
“Shit, I got over that hussy years ago,” Everett replied. “I was glad to be rid of her, to tell ya that truth, but I don’t blame you for takin’ her for a spin. Christ, is that what’s been goin’ on with you all these years?”
The two men eventually embraced and agreed to meet for a beer after the meeting.
Noticing “a spirit of reconciliation and togetherness” in the crowd, moderator Ralph Currier asked everyone to break into groups of four to share their greatest hopes and greatest fears, with each group reporting out afterward on what they had in common.
Town Clerk Nancy Lyman made two trips to the convenience store to buy Kleenex.
As the evening wound down, Superintendent of Schools Melvin LeBlanc’s explanation of the school budget took an unexpected turn. “As you can see from these charts,” he said, “our fiduciary obligations remain flat-funded, except for contractual increases in employee compensation.”
“Shut up, you pencil-necked asshole,” interrupted Tammy Squires, a resident of Simpson Road who chose her best sweatpants and tee shirt to wear to the Town Meeting. “You been tryin’ to control us and manipulate us with your fancy-ass numbers and graphs for years, and we ain’t gonna to fall for it!”
LeBlanc stood stunned for a moment. “Is that what you think this is about? Manipulation? Just because I’m trying to give you the facts? You think it’s easy to stand up here and present all this stuff? Why don’t you come give it a try, then, if you think it’s so fun to look after 200 kids and try to do the best I can for them. I’m just doing my job up here.”
Moderator Ralph Currier interjected, “We all know you’re just doing your job, Mel. We can see that you’re trying to do your best to give us all the information you can, but some of these folks out here find it overwhelming, and it brings up shame inside them. They feel like they’re back failing 10th grade Algebra again. The shame fuels resentment. We know you’re just doing your best, but you have to consider your audience.”
The elementary school gym was silent for a moment before Currier continued, “would anybody object if Mel gives it another try?”
Seeing no objection, LeBlanc stood up again, took a deep breath, and said, “We’ve got basically the same budget as last year, except the teacher’s union is raping us in the ass again, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.”
This was met with thunderous applause (as thunderous an applause as 28 people can make, anyway), and the relieved Superintendent sat back down to several pats on the back from grateful school board members.
After two more hours of people baring their innermost insecurities and resolving petty jealousies, all warrant articles were passed unanimously.
“That was the most productive and therapeutic meeting I’ve ever been to,” commented First Selectman Charles Greene, “even better than last year’s, when we fired and rehired the Town Manager all in the same night.”