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Dublin has contingency plan if town meeting vote not ratified

  • Dubln Selectmen held a public hearing on Nov. 19 to discuss the need for a second special town meeting to ratify the results of the Nov. 8 special town meeting, where voters approving raising $225,000 via taxation for roadwork caused by a storm on Aug. 17. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Dubln Selectmen held a public hearing on Nov. 19 to discuss the need for a second special town meeting to ratify the results of the Nov. 8 special town meeting, where voters approving raising $225,000 via taxation for roadwork caused by a storm on Aug. 17. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, November 23, 2018 11:12AM

Winter weather may delay additional roadwork caused by an August storm in Dublin to early next year, but selectmen are working to ensure the money will be there whenever it can be completed.

Selectmen held a public hearing Monday to explain the need for a second special town meeting to ratify the results from the Nov. 8 special town meeting. The second meeting will be held on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. in the town’s fire station.

Voters approved raising $225,000 through taxation – an estimated tax impact of $1 per thousand dollars of   assessed valuation – to fix road damage resulting from rain and heavy flooding by a vote of 67-19 on Nov. 8, but the additional meeting is needed as the first was not properly posted in accordance with state law.

“If the meeting went properly, the work would’ve been done,” Select Board chair Peter “Sturdy” Thomas said. “… it remains to be seen if the work can be done this year.”

Selectmen said Monday that a contingency plan is already in place should the vote not be ratified on the 29th.

The town has received approval from the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) to overspend its operating budget by $225,000, which means the town could tap into the unassigned fund balance – surplus funds retained by a municipality – for the repairs should the ratification fall through.

“I personally don’t think we need to hold the [second] meeting, but since we are on that path, we should follow that path,” Selectman Dale Gabel said. “[Petitioning DRA to overspend our operating budget] is what we should have done originally, we would’ve had the roads done already.”

The problem with doing this, Thomas said, is the town has an ordinance to keep the amount of money in the fund equal to five to eight percent of the town’s annual operating budget. Thomas said the amount in the fund should be at about $300,000. 

Tapping into that money now would reduce the amount in the fund dramatically below the town’s ordinance, meaning a warrant article in 2019 would be needed to replenish the fund. 

“The town voted to pay for it now,” Thomas said. “To me, it was a clear message… if the vote isn’t ratified, we will have to pay for it next year.”

Selectmen said Monday they have filed a claim with the town’s insurance provider to try and recoup some additional funds for the town. 

Town Administrator Sherry Miller confirmed Wednesday that the town has received $50,000 from Primex, the town’s insurance provider, for the repairs. 

With multiple pathways to pay for the road work, the question now becomes when the work can be done.

Thomas said gravel roads are currently passable, but more needs to be done to get them up to pre-storm levels. 

If the highway department doesn’t get a break in snow and other winter weather, it is likely that repairs will not be able to be completed until early next year.

Road agent Roger Trempe said last week that it would take about two weeks to complete all work to gravel roads in town affected by the Aug. 17 storm – Old Marlborough Road, Old Troy Road, Burpee Road, and Windmill Hill Road.

Resident Neil Sandford asked selectmen during the public hearing if there could be other procedural defects in the meeting process after the first special town meeting was recessed rather than adjourned.

Thomas said the town has consulted with the town’s attorney and he didn’t think it would be an issue moving forward. 

Questions were also raised about creating a contingency fund in the event that a similar event happened in the future, but it was stated that the unassigned fund balance functions in that way already. 

With solutions in site, selectmen decided to reinstate some spending that had previously been frozen throughout town due to the highway department having to overspend its budget for initial road repairs.

While all non-essential spending is still frozen until the end of the year, selectmen decided to bring back overtime and part-time hours for the police department, salt and sand purchases for the highway department, and some training for the fire department.

“We shouldn’t be moving any costs to this year,” Gabel said. “We shouldn’t do anymore than what we need to do to get us to next year.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.