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Bennington

Budget cut $5K after hearing

No changes at Deliberative Session

Bennington’s proposed operating budget to be voted on for 2014 is $1,589,909, a $66,330 increase over 2013’s operating budget of $1,523,579.

At the budget hearing on Jan. 16, the Select Board proposed an operating budget for 2014 of $1,594,609. At a board meeting prior to the Deliberative Session, the board amended the budget so that the budget is $4,700 less than what was proposed at the budget hearing.

This budget was not amended at the town’s Deliberative Session on Feb. 4 because no argument was brought forward from attendees, according to Town Clerk Deb Belcher in an interview Tuesday.

The board cut $2,000 from the line item for town assessing since Bennington hopes to save money in this area because the town will be revalued in 2014, Town Administrator Dee French said in an interview Wednesday. The board also cut $2,700 from the Transfer Station budget under the Highway Department line item, French said. Town officials have previously said the Highway Department overspent their budget last year.

The town’s ballot, with 21 articles, reflects a year to put money aside from purchases down the road as well as upgrading the VFW with the goal of using the building for next year’s Town Meeting.

A committee in Bennington continues fundraising to fix up the VFW, so that it can house next year’s town voting, Belcher said. The building requires maintenance including work on the bathrooms. To upgrade the building enough to house a Town Meeting, according to the deliberative session minutes, the total cost would be $48,686. Minutes also show that the town hopes to achieve this goal through volunteering and grants.

The town will host its voting at Pierce Elementary School again this year. According to meeting minutes, town moderator John Cronin said at the deliberative session that Pierce Elementary is not the ideal location for voting due to the parking situation, children are still in school and many elderly individuals feel intimidated to drive to the school because it’s tough to get to.

The Fire Department is interested in purchasing several pieces of equipment. Article three on the ballot asks if the town should raise and appropriate $9,000 for the purchase of a thermal imaging camera for the department. Roina said the department has already shopped around for a thermal camera and found one with a 10-year warranty, he said in an interview Wednesday.

All of the Fire Departments in the surrounding towns have a thermal camera, Roina said. Some have two. The camera uses thermal imaging to detect heat and can be used to find hidden fires in a burning building. This could help prevent property damage during a fire, since firefighters wouldn’t need to knock down as many walls to find fire sources.

The Fire Department already collected $1,000 from fundraising for the camera, but they will not be able to do any more before Town Meeting, Roina said. The rest of the needed funds, $8,000, would come from taxation, Belcher said. The Select Board and the Budget Committee recommend this article.

The Fire Department also hopes to set aside $20,000 in the Fire Truck Capital Reserve Fund for a purchase in 2018, Roina said. This is recommended by the Select Board and the Budget Committee. The estimated cost of a new truck is between $200,000 and $300,000, Roina said.

Each year, Bennington gives money to the Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center in Antrim, which center serves children in both towns and beyond. The amount Bennington hopes to give this year is $5,000, with $4,000 going to the Grapevine and $1,000 going to the Avenue A Teen Center. This price is no different from the amount given in previous years, Belcher said. The teen center was cut from state aid funding, but has not cut any of its programs, so Bennington plans to continue its financial support, she said.

Like many things experiencing financial cuts, the county-run program known as New Hampshire’s Child Advocacy Centers experienced recent financial cutbacks, Bennington Police Chief Steve Campbell said in an interview Wednesday. The Bennington police have used the expertise of the center’s interviewers to help with investigations for a number of cases, Campbell said. “One-hundred percent, it’s important,” Campbell said.

The town also donates to other local organizations and this is the first year a donation may be made to the Advocacy Center, Campbell said. The article to be voted on asks residents to donate $500.

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

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