By Ray Carbone
WARNER – Town leaders concerned that voters might reject a proposed new fire station because of its costs are making last-minute budget adjustments to lower the price of the bonding project.
Last Tuesday, Alfred Hanson, a member of the budget committee, suggested at his group’s annual public hearing on the proposed 2018 town budget that the $2.8-million price tag could be too high for some residents. He concurred with town officials that the structure is needed but said that town leaders should find a way to lower the bottom line about $300,000, to $2.5-million.
The idea (involves) cutting some department budgets and warrant articles that would earmark money to go into capital reserve funds.
The idea spurred a flurry of ideas and the budget group voted to support Hanson’s idea, reported Kimberly Edelmann, a member of the select board. Before the meeting adjourned, the selectmen decided to schedule an additional meeting of their own for the following Friday, she noted.
Late Friday afternoon, Hanson gathered with the selectmen, some other budget committee members, a few other residents and Jim Bingham, the town’s administrator, at the town hall to address the issue.
Hanson outlined the basics of his idea, which involved cutting some department budgets and warrant articles that would earmark money to go into capital reserve funds. He suggested that a proposal to add $190,000 to a capital reserve fund for future roadwork could be trimmed by $50,000. “I’ve talked to Tim (Allen, the town’s public works director) and he said he’s not going to start that work (on Pumpkin Hill Road) until 2019, and that’s a full year away,” Hanson said.
Selectman Clyde Carson said that he hoped that the fire station bond could be funded without adding to residents’ property tax bills. He suggested that the selectmen could trim the annual operating budget and still keep its cost increase to 2-percent or lower.
Carson noted that the proposed budget included about $20,000 to deal with possible legal fees associated with the long-running gun range proposal; since that issue now appears to be resolved, that line item could be reduced to its more typical annual $1,000 amount. The selectmen’s annual legal expenditure budget could also be reduced, he added.
Brown said that the addition of the town’s new solar energy panels at the transfer station was projected to produce a savings of about $1,700, which could also be available for the fire station project.
With Bingham’s help, the selectmen decided that by using money in the current fire station capital reserve fund, as well as some in the town’s unassigned fund balance, the bond could be set at $2.5-million. They approved the proposed changes to the annual budget, which reduced its bottom line from $3,153,115 to $3,131,033.
The budget committee scheduled its final meeting in advance of the annual town meeting for Monday, Feb. 12, with the selectmen slated to meet the following night, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 6 p.m. at town hall. The annual town meeting is set for Saturday, March 17, at 9 a.m., at the town hall.
A final public hearing on the fire station bond is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., Brown reported. She noted that if town meeting voters approve the project, construction could begin as early as April 1, with a tentative completion date of December 1.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.