Warrant ready to go for voters at Town Meeting

  • Melissa Gallagher, executive director of the Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center, speaks in favor of an article requesting $6,000 for the Grapevine during Bennington’s Deliberative Session on Friday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Bennington Select Board members Jeff Rose and James Cleary presented the warrant during the town's budget hearing on Friday night at Pierce Elementary School. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 12, 2018 5:40PM

Bennington’s Town Meeting warrant remained unscathed after the town’s deliberative session on Friday night, with no amendments offered from the 24 residents who attended.

Residents offered little feedback on the budget, which is set this year at $1.72 million, a 2.17 percent increase over last year’s budget. Selectmen James Cleary told the crowd that about half of that increase came from a $13,000 increase in recycling costs, and a $4,000 increase in cost to contract the Antrim Ambulance to provide services to Temple.

The default budget, which will go into place if the town votes down the proposed budget, is $1.71 million, and represents last year’s budget, with adjustments required by previous Town Meetings or law. The town also has the option to call one special meeting to address the budget, should it fail.

The town will be continuing to try to catch up on deferred road work, requesting $45,000 to provide additional paving and road maintenance. 

“We know our roads are in rough shape,” said Selectman Jeff Rose, who said this request represented the second year of the three-year plan to address some roads that had been put off and were deteriorating. 

Of money to be expended this year, the second-largest request includes matching a $20,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to create an asset management plan for the town’s water department.

Water Chair Dave Beck spoke in favor of the article, assuring the other residents that some of the money would be offset by labor by the water commission, and would likely result in about $14,000-$15,000 in cost to the town, instead of the whole $20,000 requested. 

His fellow water commissioner Dennis McKenney also spoke in favor, saying, “We are dealing with an aging infrastructure, and we are looking to be proactive and plan ahead, rather than be reactive to what might happen.”

Beck was also in favor of a separate article to re-purpose the water pump replacement capital reserve to be a more general fund for water department maintenance and repairs, and to authorize the Selectmen as agents to expend the fund.

This change is one of several proposed this year to give some reserve accounts or expendable trusts more breadth of scope, including changing a capital reserve to repair or replace the chassis of the fire department’s rescue vehicle to more generally support the rescue vehicle. The town is also requesting to close some accounts to add their amounts to others – transferring $15,997 from the capital reserve for the replacement of the Depot Street/North Bennington Road bridge to the town’s bridge maintenance expendable trust, and $51,631 from the town’s loader/grader capital reserve into the town’s highway heavy equipment capital reserve.

Several articles on the warrant this year would affect how the town’s Conservation Commission could receive and expend funds.

Article 5 requests the town adopt an RSA that allows the Conservation Commission to expend funds to contribute to qualified organizations to purchase property interests. The Commission is looking to contribute funds to the conservation of the west face of Crotched Mountain, a project currently being undertaken by the Francestown Land Trust. 

Two other articles would use half of the year’s timber tax and half of the year’s excavation tax, a total of about $15,600, to the conservation fund. 

The entirety of the warrant and proposed budget is available for viewing on the town’s website. Ballot voting will be held on March 13 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Pierce Elementary School, located at 19 Main Street.