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New Ipswich

Building No. 2 on ballot

New Ipswich: Proposed budget up $86K

  • Building No. 2, the former district SAU office and Police Department, will remain standing, after a $46,000 warrant article to demolish the building was defeated during a ballot vote on Tuesday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Residents urge Select Board members to demolish Building No. 2.
  • Voters had the final say on the fate of Building No. 2 at the polls on Tuesday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — Residents will once again be facing the issue of what to do with Building No. 2 at the voting polls this year. The options are to knock it down, or once again establish a building committee to devise a plan for the building’s future.

At a budget hearing Monday, the Select Board presented a proposed budget of $2,652,842, $86,464 more than was approved in 2013. The default budget is $2,556,729. The town is requesting $1,161,934 in warrant articles, with $969,496 to be raised through taxation.

The board also presented a warrant article calling for $120,000 to destroy the building, clear out any materials of value, and reroute systems, including phones, electricity and radio communications — which are cycled through Building No. 2 for the rest of the buildings in the compound, including the town offices and green center.

The building has been a topic of debate in town since it was abandoned due to a black mold infestation in 2008. Since then, the town has put more than $221,000 into the building to attempt to remediate the mold and update the heating and cooling units, in hopes of improving air quality so the building could be occupied once more. Mold remediation failed, however, and for the past year, since a $46,000 article seeking the building’s destruction was reduced to $0 during the 2013 deliberative session, the building has been left untouched. In a public meeting in September seeking opinion from the town on what to do with the building, the consensus of the attendees was to destroy it.

Should the article to demolish Building No. 2 fail again this year, there is another option, said Select Board Chair George Lawrence. Last year, the town’s building committee disbanded, after many months of attempting to come up with an action plan for the building. If there is no plan in place to destroy the building after the March vote, the Select Board will be attempting to reform that committee, which would be tasked with making a study of the building to see what use it could be put to.

Dealing with Building No. 2 isn’t the only big-ticket item on the warrant this year, though. Last year, the town approved $600,000 in road improvement. The town will be seeking an additional $500,000 raised through taxation in two separate articles — one for $300,000 and one for $200,000 — to continue road reconstruction and paving. While the decision won’t be finalized until the Highway Department can make determinations about the potential damage winter weather has wrought, Wheeler Road, North Road and Perry Road are all candidates for reconstruction this year, according to Road Agent Peter Goewey.

The town will also be asking permission to accept $124,438 in state grants from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for road reconstruction.

Another potential large expense will not be on the warrant this year. Following Monday’s hearing, the Select Board voted to strike an article that requested $401,000 — $201,000 from capital reserves and $200,000 from taxation and grants — to purchase or lease a new fire truck. Because the hope is to cover a majority of the $200,000 with FEMA grant funds, the town would have been required by law to hold a public hearing. Due to an oversight, that never happened, said Town Administrator Roberta Fraser, and that means the article cannot legally go on the warrant.

In an interview Wednesday, Fire Chief David Leel said the money would have been spent to replace a 1988 engine, the oldest one the Fire Department owns. The vehicle is in usable condition, he said, and will serve for another year, though the department will probably have to put in some additional maintenance on it. Leel said he would move forward with requesting the FEMA grant for a new engine, which could potentially cover 75 percent of the cost, and in the 2015 budget season will make another request.

The total operating budget as proposed includes allowing for up to a 3 percent raise for all town employees. In June during staff evaluations, each employee will be eligible for a merit-based raise, explained Select Board member Mike Connolly. Although the raises will only take effect in June, and not all employees will receive the full 3-percent increase, the budget reflects a full year with all employees receiving the full increase, he explained. This is to ensure that if the 2015 budget fails, the 2014 budget can be used to create a default budget that takes into account the pay raises for the entire year.

The proposed police budget will see the largest increase, if approved, going from $808,999 in 2013 to $850,228 in 2014 — a $41,229 increase mostly attributed to salary and insurance cost increases.

Other articles on the warrant this year seek to raise funds to support services that contribute to the town. One requests $68,196 for contracted licensed ambulance services and emergency support. Another, $35,000 to fund the library, which covers the library employees’ salaries. The town is also seeking to raise $7,800 for various regional health services, such as Meals on Wheels, Home Healthcare and Hospice, Family Services and the American Red Cross.

The town’s Deliberative Session is on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Mascenic Regional High School.

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