Wilton Town Meeting set for next week

  • Wilton Town Hall Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/2/2021 4:02:16 PM

Wilton’s delayed and open-air Town Meeting is scheduled to be held next week, where residents will vote on multiple new town vehicles and the town’s $5.3 million budget.

Town Meeting is scheduled for June 10 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting, usually held in the Florence Rideout Elementary School gymnasium, will be held outside this year, at Whiting Park, also known as “the Flat,” the town-owned field in front of Florence Rideout on Park Street.

Town Administrator Paul Branscombe said the town plans to provide informational handouts at the meeting, but urged voters to bring copies of the voter’s guide, available on the town’s website, as the usual overhead projection with information isn’t going to be possible during an outdoor, daytime meeting.

“It’s going to be very different this year,” Branscombe said.

Chairs will not be provided, and residents must either bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. As the meeting is outside, individuals can decide whether or not they choose to wear a mask.

Residents who are not registered to vote may register on June 5 from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Town Clerk’s Office, while the Supervisors of the Checklist finalize the voter roll. There will be no registrations past that date.

The first issue of the day is the town’s operating budget. The budget this year is set at $5,259,397.

This is less than last year’s budget, but the tax impact is still expected to be larger than last year’s budget, by about 2 percent, due to a steep decrease in expected revenues.

“Because of COVID, the revenues were way down,” said Branscombe, who said the town received less than expected in state aid. Several budget requests were reduced from initial department head requests to try to close the gap, but Branscombe said the town did preserve merit and COLA increases for employees.

On the rest of the warrant, Branscombe said many of this year’s requests center around the Fire Department.

“The framework is really around the Fire Department,” Branscombe said. “They have several requests.

The fire department, along with multiple town departments are requesting funds to purchase new vehicles for their fleets, including one of the most expensive purchases outside the budget on this year’s warrant – a request for a new fire engine to replace the 1987 Engine 1.

The total cost of the engine is $650,000, and the town proposes to purchase the vehicle through a 10-year lease-to-purchase agreement. The first year’s payment of the lease is $75,000, which would be raised by taxation this year.

The town already has other ongoing leases for other town equipment, and is requesting to continue making payments towards their ownership. Each lease has a potential escape clause if the town doesn’t approve the funds.

The fourth of seven payments for the 2019 10-wheel dump truck, at a cost of $29,000, and the final payment of $8,942 for the Police Department’s 2017 cruiser are both requests on the warrant.

In addition to the fire truck, the Fire Department is also requesting several new pieces of equipment, some related to last year’s vote to create the department’s first full-time fire chief position. The town is requesting $55,000 for a “fire chief command vehicle.” Fire Chief Don Nourse currently uses his personal vehicle when called to an incident or fire scene, which does not allow him to carry the proper fire equipment. The money has already been collected in a capital reserve, and the total cost of the truck would come from those savings.

The department is also requesting to replace its current 1963 Forestry 1 truck for a total cost of $100,000, which would also come from the Fire Department Equipment Capital Reserve.

The Fire Department is also requesting several items outside of their fleet. The department is continuing its work of repairing out-of-service dry hydrant locations – work started last year – and is requesting $50,000 to repair the current out-of-service fire pond list. The money is non-lapsing and could be used through 2023.

The department is also looking to replace its air packs, using $15,000 from the Air Packs Capital Reserve Fund.

The Police Department is also seeking a new vehicle, requesting $45,000 for the purchase of a new cruiser. Of that, $25,000 would come from the Police Cruiser Capital Reserve, and $20,000 from this year’s taxation.

The Police Department is also requesting to establish a new revolving fund. Funds from special police details would go into the fund, and it would be allowed to accumulate from year to year, and wouldn’t be returned to tax payers at the end of the fiscal year, and be under the custody of the town treasurer. The funds could only be used under order of the Select Board without need for approval from voters, and could only be used to purchase items associated with police details.

There is also a request for $15,000 to purchase a pickup truck for use in the town’s cemeteries. The cemetery shares labor and tools with the parks and recreation department, and in the past has used vehicles handed down from the Highway Department. The current truck used by the Cemetery Trustees was formerly used by the water department, and is aging and in need of repairs. The Cemetery Trustees are proposing to purchase a used vehicle, and would consider any used town vehicles available.

The Wilton Ambulance is also is requesting new equipment, a RAD 57 unit, which can detect carbon monoxide in a patient. The funds would come from the Florence M. Wheeler Fund, not from taxation.

The town is also requesting an increase in the annual stipend for Town Clerk Jane Farrell by $1,375. This would increase the stipend from $68,567 to $70,142. This increase covers associated increased payroll taxes and retirement expenses. This is a 2 percent increase.

Town infrastructure is also on the agenda for Town Meeting, including the rehabilitation of the Old County Farm Road bridge, which has a total cost of $225,000. A portion of the cost of the bridge will come from the town’s bridge capital reserve, some from a highway block grant, and a $77,305 from this year’s taxes.

Branscombe said the project has been put out to bid but the town only received a single bid for the project. While the cost is expected to be less than initially projected – $93,000, rather than $225,000 – the proposal wouldn’t preserve the historic stone arch on the bridge. Branscombe said the Select Board will likely move to reduce the article on the floor. He said it’s unlikely the town will be able to find a company able to restore the arch.

“There aren’t too many people who can handle that project,” he said.

The town is also requesting $50,000 in capital reserve funds for the future purchase of a new heating system for the Town Hall. Earlier this year, the town held an emergency Town Meeting to allow the Select Board to access capital reserve funds at will, after the Town Hall boiler failed to pass inspection. The board intended to use the funds to purchase a new boiler, but told townspeople who attended the emergency Town Meeting there would eventually be a need to address the heating system as a whole, a much more expensive project.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @Ashley  Saari MLT.


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