Wilton Town Meeting approves bond for pump station generators

  • Select Board Chair Kermit Williams explains a proposal to bond $200,000 for new generators for the town’s sewer pump stations. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Budget Committe Chair Cary Hughes gives an overview of the budget. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Fire Chief Don Nourse advocates for the purchase of a used fire truck. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/17/2023 11:49:56 AM

Wilton voters agreed to a $200,000 bond to purchase upgraded generators for the town’s sewer stations, in a unanimous 71-0 ballot vote to kick off Town Meeting on Thursday, where all articles passed.

Select Board Chair Kermit Williams explained the bond will be used to replace generators at the town’s two pump stations, which were built in the 1980s and have generators dating back to that time. He noted that 40-year-old generators were not very reliable, and pointed to the recent nor’easter that left portions of the state without power for days as a recent example of their importance.

The town anticipates a portion of the cost, about $30,000, will be covered by principal forgiveness from the State Revolving Fund loan program, and the repayment of the bond will be by sewer ratepayers, not through taxation.

Voters also nearly unanimously passed the town budget in a voice vote. The budget will be approximately $6.05 million, which Budget Committee Chair Cary Hughes said was a $161,435 increase over the current budget, representing about a 2.74 percent increase.

“This includes the fact that the employees of this town got a well-deserved 4 percent increase,” Hughes said.

Aside from the budget, the most-expensive item on the warrant may have felt like deja vu to voters, Williams joked, as residents agreed to repair the King Brook Road bridge for the third time since 2016.

The $1.24 million project has had delays while the town secured a new engineering firm, after the first one fell through after completing only a portion of the engineering work. The funds for the project include 80 percent of the cost from the State Bridge Aid Program, and Wilton’s $248,000 contribution already raised in a capital reserve account.

Williams said the bridge is one of the access points to the Wilton business Kimball Physics, as well as being a historic stone arch bridge, and though he said the town expected to have the project completed years ago, it is poised now to finally complete the project.

In the only change made Thursday evening, voters agreed to increase a request for $75,000 for the Public Works Garage Building Capital Reserve Fund. Resident Kellie-Sue Boissonnault proposed to increase that number to $100,000, seconded by Deb Mortvedt. The amendment passed, and then the article passed as amended.

A new public works garage has been in discussion in town for several years, but the issue was exacerbated by a fire in the building earlier this year.

Selectman Matt Fish said the building was “woefully inadequate” even before the fire. Boissonnault said a new building should be “a priority.”

The town has, in previous years, raised $375,000 for the fund, which is expected to be used this year to pay for architectural plans, engineering and possible land acquisition. The building of the new garage, expected to be a multimillion-dollar project, is likely to be bonded. Selectmen told the crowd they expect to come to Town Meeting in 2024 with a complete plan for voting.

The crowd also agreed to put funds toward other future infrastructure improvements, including $150,000 for the expendable trust for dam repair and maintenance. Both the Reservoir and Frog Pond dams have been deemed in need of improvements by the state Department of Environmental services, with a current estimate of $510,000 to repair the Frog Pond Dam.

Voters approved $40,000 for the capital reserve fund for emergency communications, to solve remaining radio communication gaps in town.

The town created three new capital reserve accounts, to add to the 17 existing accounts, to save for future projects, including the replacement of the police station roof, which has a current life expectancy of another five years; unanticipated legal expenses; and an emergency building repair reserve. Voters approved all three funds, and to allow the Select Board to spend from them as needed.

The town approved several payments for existing vehicles, and the purchase of new or used vehicles for the town departments.

Three leases for town vehicles will be continued after Town Meeting on Thursday. All vehicles are on a lease-to-purchase program, and the town will own them after the final payment, but can exit the lease at any time, and return the vehicle.

Voters approved a $62,531 payment for a fire engine, a $29,000 payment for the Highway Department’s 10-wheel dump truck and $13,762 for the Highway Department pickup truck.

Voters added $36,000 to the Police Cruiser Replacement Capital Reserve, with the expectation to actually spend the funds and purchase the vehicle next year.

In outright purchases, the town agreed to $150,000 for a new backhoe and $85,000 for a used ladder truck, which will replace the town’s current ladder truck and rescue truck, which will be traded in for the purchase of the vehicle.

Fire Chief Don Nourse said the truck consolidates the uses of the two vehicles, which allows the town to be more flexible when responding to emergencies with a small crew.

“This is about doing more with less,” Nourse said.

In other Fire Department-related articles, the town also approved $15,000 for the repair of out-of-service water holes and fire ponds, $15,000 for the purchase of hydraulic cutting rescue tools and $7,500 for the air packs capital reserve.

Last on the agenda on Thursday night were articles similar to ones in towns across the state, after a legislative change in who is eligible for veterans’ tax credits.

Wilton had already adopted $750 in tax credits for all veterans in town, through either the optional veterans’ tax credit or the all veterans’ tax credit. When it was adopted, the credits were available only to members of the service who had been honorably discharged. A legislative change expanded the qualifications to those currently serving in the military, and towns must readopt their existing credits with the updated definition, which Wilton did for both its tax credits in unanimous voice votes.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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