Francestown

Nearly $500K is proposed for CIP

At the town’s budget and warrant hearing on Feb. 11, the Select Board presented a 2014 operating budget of $1,592,670, $38,000 lower than last year’s budgeted operating costs of $1,630,942.

The largest portion of the meeting was spent discussing a proposed $350,000 bond to help fund the Town Hall restoration project. The building used to be a center for social events in town, Maureen VonRosenvinge of the Heritage Commission said at the hearing.

If the building is restored, VonRosenvinge said the Town Hall would be useful on both floors. It would be open full-time, year-round and the second floor would be usable for the first time in many years, she said. The building would be well-insulated, have a new heating system and permanent plumbing, meet safety standards and ADA compliance, including a handicap-accessible bathroom.

The restoration is estimated to cost around $880,000, VonRosenvinge said at the hearing. This estimate was made by the project’s architect, Michael Petrovick. The project would not use any money from capital reserves but instead require grants and donations, along with the bond to be fully funded.

The topic of bridges was another lengthy discussion at the hearing, since the bridge over the Scobie Pond Outlet is on the Department of Transportation’s red list and needs to be replaced, according to Road Agent Gary Paige. The bridge was built in 1997, Paige said.

A replacement over the outlet would not require a big, state bridge, he said. His current thought is to have a timber-frame bridge installed, which could last 40 to 60 years. After an inspection in 2013 by the Department of Transportation, the weight limit for the bridge was reduced from 40 tons to 10 tons, according to the article. The town was also advised that the bridge continues to deteriorate and may lead to another reduced posting or closure in the near future.

Paige said that the last time he spoke with the director of the bridge program, through the Department of Transportation, he was told that the reduced weight limit “is a short-term status.” Paige said this tells him that something needs to be done.

The project would require the town to appropriate $110,000 for a replacement bridge, the Article 14 states. The money would come solely from a withdrawal of a capital reserve fund, so a new bridge would not have direct tax impact. This is recommended unanimously by the Select Board and the Budget Advisory Committee.

On the topic of Scobie Pond, Article 18 was recommended by the board to fund chemical treatments of milfoil infestations that would include treatments done by divers. Article 18 seeks to appropriate $17,020 for the treatment, which would be funded by the appropriation of $6,808, $5,280 from taxation and $4,932 from the undesignated fund surplus.

Several residents in attendance at the hearing questioned how long continued treatment of the pond would take, since this has continued to appear on the warrant since 2005.

The board’s position is that through continued treatment, the pond could eventually be rid of milfoil. Board member Scott Carbee said at the hearing that the town has dealt with invasive species in town before, which also took years to get rid of.

A combination of a herbicide and diver-assisted suction harvesting would be used to treat the pond, if voters approve the funding.

Planning Board Chair Linda Kunhardt spoke at the hearing, saying that based on her knowledge of milfoil, the divers work in areas of low infestation and the herbicide works in areas of high infestation.

The treatment would be monitored by the Department of Environmental Services, Town Administrator Michael Branley said. The department would provide a report at the end of the project of what happened and where treatment took place. This project would have an approximate tax rate impact of two-cents per $1,000, according to the article.

In addition to the milfoil treatment at Scobie addressed in Article 18, Article 19 seeks to appropriate $2,500 to pay for boat monitoring at the Pleasant Pond boat launch between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Hardwick said at the hearing that milfoil has been found in boats on the pond in the past, even inside of kayaks. Both the Select Board and the Budget Advisory Committee recommend this article.

The Police Department brought forward Article 21, which seeks to purchase a traffic monitoring device to collect raw data regarding vehicle speeds, number of cars that passed by and when.

“It doesn’t take a picture of your car,” said Police Chief Stephen Bell. The device would be attached to a pole of some kind and simply collects raw data from cars passing it in either direction. This would help police target areas to patrol and give them an idea of the amount of traffic on town roads, he said.

The information could also be shared with other departments to help with projects or decision-making, Bell said. However, the device cannot distinguish if the cars passing by are heading north or south. The device would be funded by $1,800 by taxation and $1,800 by a grant, according to the article, which is recommended by the Select Board, but not the Budget Advisory Committee.

The warrant also includes Article 12, which will ask voters to appropriate $477,200 for capital reserve funds, with $365,000 to be raised from taxes and about $112,200 to come from undesignated fund surplus. These funds, once added to the reserve, would be used to help fund projects already on the warrant, including the bridge replacement at Scobie Pond, a dump truck for the Highway Department and $100,00 for a town revaluation, Town Administrator Michael Branley said in an interview Monday.

Every year the Select Board has an article on the budget to add money to capital reserve funds, Branley said. “The town is also putting in money they will not take out this year,” he said. By adding the $477,200 to reserves, the town tries to level off the tax increase. However a majority of the money will come from taxation. “Indirectly, there is a tax impact,” Branley said. This article would create a increase in taxes by $1.71. “A lot of projects would not be able to be funded through reserves if [Article 12] doesn’t pass,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass as written, we would have to look at alternative funding or not do them.”

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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