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Town approves $320K for Farmers Hill; $68K for school
ANDOVER- Citizens zipped through the first several articles at their annual town meeting on Saturday, saving their bargaining power for two big spenders; funding for their school and the repair of a one mile stretch of Farmers Hill.
With Dave Duguay sworn in as moderator over the meeting, citizens jumped right in to approve a $20,000 increase over 2012 to use money from surplus to reduce taxation, bringing the 2013 amount to $140,000.
Selectman Dickie Merrill amended town employees’ salaried and hourly rates to be increased by two percent for the next year, exempting those salaries of the fire chief, deputy chief and 1st assistant chief, per request of Fire Chief, Rob Dixon.
Things remained quiet until citizens were asked to raise $100,000 to allow selectmen negotiating power with SAD 44 for the continued operation of the elementary school.
“I understand the intent of this request,” stated Scott Owings. “But I just can’t afford my taxes to go up. I’m likely to be in the back of this book on the bad list next year if they do. I have no desire to see the school close, but I’m at a financial breaking point. I vote zero dollars for this.”
A round of applause broke out among the crowd.
Dan Wells spoke up, not wanting the increase, and amended the amount to the $68,000 that was granted in 2012.
“Offering money up front like this is a bad sign,” stated Selectman Merrill. “If the school board sees the amount we’ve agreed to, then that’s the amount they’re going to want. It sets a bad precedent for the school.”
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, the townspeople voted to approve the $68,000 amount for selectmen to pay SAD 44 to help keep the school open if a negotiation isn’t made before the July 1 deadline.
Before the meeting began, citizens had the chance to look over a proposal for a new, used ladder truck for the town at the cost of $120,000, created by Fire Chief Rob Dixon.
“This is an opportunity for us to purchase a ladder truck that will bring us up to standards,” stated Chief Dixon. “I stress it’s an opportunity. I wasn’t out shopping. This is just a good deal. I don’t believe we’ll have to put any money into this truck for years to come.”
In 2012, citizens were asked to go into an agreement with Rumford Fire for the use of their ladder when needed, but turned down the offer.
Chief Dixon noted in his proposal, “About this time last year the River Valley towns comprising our mutual aid response area experienced a series of aerial device failures that at one time had Rumford, Mexico and Andover’s aerials out of service simultaneously. This left only Dixfield’s equipment to cover 11 towns.”
Dixon noted that the 40-minute response time was unacceptable and with no funds allocated to repair Andover’s aerial, he had contacted Franklin Fire Company of Pennsylvania to find out the status of their Truck 42.
Citizens asked the current condition of the town’s ladder truck and were informed that, while it is still “operational, but could blow up tomorrow,” it doesn’t meet insurance standards with an open cab and lap belts only.
Townspeople amended the amount down to $100,000, but by a show of hands, they unanimously defeated the purchase.
Before the group broke for lunch, they amended funding for the transfer station down to $48,000 from a recommended $50,000, nominated new members for the budget, recreation and map updating committees, and approved the third of ten yearly road improvement bond payments of $60,729.18.
The other big ticket item weighing on everyone’s minds was the requested expenditure to fix Farmers Hill.
“I drive Farmers Hill everyday and it’s a mess,” stated Roger Sabin. “There are a couple of properties up there for sale and if we expect people to move here, to bring their young children here to attend our school and our road looks like it does, then we have a problem. People are not going to want to travel up that road in its’ current condition.”
Road Commissioner Marshall Meisner informed citizens that Swasey Excavation had given him a quote of $320,000 to repair a one mile stretch, which included digging out, as Selectman Merrill stated, “the growing rocks we see each spring.”
“We’ll be able to repair the road starting at Peter Cole’s to just past Dan Well’s. Not quite to the bottom of the hill,” stated Meisner.
Citizens unanimously agreed to raise the funds to repair the road. It was estimated that the cost of the repair, coupled with the current bond debt, it would increase taxes by approximately 1.28 mils.
As of Monday afternoon, Selectman Keith Farrington stated, “The approximate appropriation for the next year is $656,000, which does not include the road bond for the Farmers Hill repair.”
On Tuesday, citizens were expected at the polls to vote for a three-year selectman’s term, which Selectman Farrington currently holds. That position was uncontested. The town was also looking for someone to run for a three-year term on the school board, but as of Monday afternoon, nobody had taken out papers.