Pelham - Windham News July 2, 2010 - 5
Road Discussion Ends with Failed Motion
by Lynne Ober Pelham Highway Road Agent Don Foss met with the Selectmen
to discuss the proposed 2010 paving projects. To pave 5.61 miles of roadway would cost $502,560, which seems like an amazing figure. According to Foss, the pricing for crack sealing had nearly doubled from last year, and he provided backup information showing asphalt pricing in a packet given to the Selectmen. Town Administrator Tom Gaydos said he worked with Foss on the presentation. According to Gaydos, he and Foss realized that when prices spiked in 2008, a lot of work had been put off with the thought that prices would come down. That didn’t happen. He explained how the projects were determined and priorities were set. Foss noted the importance of crack sealing roads to prevent further problems and told selectmen that this preventative measure would be less expensive than hot-topping the roads. Based on increasing costs, he felt the way to proceed would be to keep up with the crack sealing and then repave them when the roads started to get rutted. Selectman Hal Lynde agreed that Pelham roads needed work, and discussed why this work could only be estimated. Foss said that after winter, he knew which roads needed work. He explained that they had been working on Pelham Road for four years, but only doing 1/10 of a mile of road each year to keep in the budget. Foss said that 1/10 of a mile cost $74,000. He said reconstructing the roads would be very costly. Lynde asked for confirmation that the cost to pave one mile of
road was $100,000; to reconstruct a mile of road the cost would be $750,000. He then said the Town should do whatever it took to avoid reconstruction, and Foss agreed and noted that was why crack sealing was so important.
When Selectman Bill McDevitt asked if the items on the project list were being done this year, Foss answered yes. McDevitt then confirmed that the projects would be funded through the Highway Budget as well as the existing Highway Grant money, and Foss again answered yes. At that point, McDevitt commented that last year, with the assistance of the Department Heads, Selectmen, and everyone working together, the Town underspent the budget by $650,000, and the request was to take that $650,00 and place $273,000 back into the Highway Block Grant. When Lynde questioned where the money would come from if they didn’t take from the $650,000, Gaydos said they wouldn’t have the money and the work wouldn’t be scheduled. Foss said if selectmen decided not to move the money, he
would recommend either a $200,000 warrant article or $200,000 budget item for repaving.
When Selectman Ed Gleason asked if the budget put forth for 2010 was adequate to fund the services proposed to be provided, Foss said the department had been level-funded for a few years and prices were increasing. Gleason said he had heard discussions about the necessity of having money on hand in the event that the Town ran into an unforeseen difficulty, such as flooding or a super snow storm, and asked if it was the intent to have some of the money allocated for such. Foss responded they had been keeping one block grant back so
it was not at zero. Gleason asked for confirmation that the intent was to have one year (of block grant) in reserve for contingencies, and Foss answered yes.
During selectmen discussion, it was pointed out that the
Highway Department had $500,000 budgeted this year and if it was spent, the department would only have $250,000 coming in for next year and the Town would never get to a point of addressing the infrastructure needs. Gleason believed that the issue in front of the Selectmen was
whether or not to move the money from the unexpended budgets to reimburse the Highway Grant. Gaydos said they would reclassify those expenses made to the
Highway Department and then allow the Highway Department operating budget to overspend, which would be counterbalanced by the other departments. Foss explained that he gets conservative at the end of the year,
which was why there was money left. Lynde offered an alternate approach of designating a certain amount out of surplus for the road project and bump the highway budget up for construction costs. A buffer of approximately $250,000 was needed to cover contingencies and $700,000 was needed each year for road paving. That offer caused a brief discussion regarding the funding options. McDevitt said he was a little nervous about taking the $650,000 and spending it. He felt going into the end of this year in the fund balance helped him feel comfortable. McDevitt also felt that it was critical to understand that with a town meeting form of government, the roads would never be better than what the taxpayers want them to be. He said it was admirable to make money available for the roads, but felt the voters should make the decision. McDevitt said he would support something for the 2011 budget that reflected the true cost of doing the roads, and not that it wasn’t a good idea to understate the costs for doing the roads, as has been done in the past. He said he would rather not reclassify the money. When Lynde asked how much was spent on crack sealing last
year and wanted to know how much was anticipated for this year, Foss said last year that $74,000 was spent on crack sealing. Lynde commented that he felt all the roads listed should be done this year. He was uncomfortable going back and changing the number in the 2009 Highway Department budget. He said they faced a problem of not putting enough money in the budget
to stay ahead. Lynde said that if the Town didn’t want to put itself in the position of having to reconstruct roads, it should put together a plan that put an average of $700,000 available for reconstruction each year, and more should be added this coming year, so the department had a buffer. He said they could make a case to the Town through a warrant article to use a portion of the fund balance to cover this coming year’s cost. When Gleason asked how much was currently in the fund balance, Gaydos said there was approximately $1.8 million, but would be approximately $2.3 million once the audit came back. Selectmen discussed what direction they would provide to Foss
and Gaydos. Finally, Lynde moved to reclassify $272,672 from fund balance to highway expenses in 2009. McDevitt seconded the motion. When Gleason clarified that the money should come from the under-expended budget, Lynde made a friendly amendment to have the money come out of the surplus in 2009. After more discussion, Lynde withdrew his motion and moved to reclassify $272,672 in unexpended funds in 2009 as highway expenses. McDevitt again seconded the motion for discussion, but said he didn’t intend on supporting the motion. Gaydos said they would be taking $272,000 that was spent out of the Block Grant and reclassifying it as a Highway operational expense. Lynde wanted the motion to reflect Gaydos’ comment and accepted the wording as such. McDevitt seconded the motion. Gaydos said as a result of that, in order to maintain a balanced budget, the funds would be drawn off the surpluses of other departments. However, when the vote was taken, the vote was 0 – 4 – 0, so the motion failed. Foss will have the option of proceeding with a warrant article for next year’s ballot.
Outdoors Discount Camping
Charlie with Chalk
The 2010 summer season marks the 75th anniversary of the state park system under the NH Division of Parks and Recreation. In celebration of the 75th anniversary, the Division is offering a summer camping special. For new reservations that are made, campers can receive $7.50 off a campsite per night during a mid-week stay, Monday through Thursday nights, from July 6 to August 26. To take advantage of this summer special, reservations can be made either by calling 1-877-647-2757, or online at www.nhstateparks.org
using the promo code “75summer.” The Division also offers seasonal options for those who will be frequenting the parks more often. A family season pass is available, which gets two adults and two children into the day- use parks for the season. Coupon books are another way to save money when visiting several times during the season. All the options are fully described on the Division’s Website at www.nhstateparks.org
Charlie Chalk can be reached at email@example.com
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