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Proposed Effingham 2017 budget set after public hearing

EFFINGHAM SELECTMEN have revived the tradition of awarding a replica of the Boston Post Cane to the towns' oldest resident. This year's recipient is 95-year-old Thomas Routses of School Street. Pictured here with Routses are (l-r) Selectmen Lenny Espie, Lawrence Edwards, and Henry Spencer. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
February 11, 2017
EFFINGHAM — Despite a winter storm, about two dozen people made their way to Effingham Municipal Offices Feb. 9 for the public budget hearing. The proposed $1.9 million budget for 2017 is down slightly from 2016. Following the hearing, the budget committee stayed and voted to recommend all but one of the expenses.

The budget now goes on to town meeting for the voters to decide March 18.

This year voters can expect to hear a lot about bridges. As reported last week, Stevens Road Bridge is partially closed to keep vehicle weight off one side as the project awaits a court decision. Voters raised the money for that project in March 2016 and it was carried over to this year.

The second project selectmen would like to complete is the repair and painting of the Elm Street Bridge at a cost of about $35,000. For the past 15 years, there was no bridge work done, so maintaining the good bridges in town is one of selectmen's priorities while they simultaneously work to repair failed or failing bridges. They also want to start a fund with $5,000 in it to save for future bridge repairs and maintenance.

Selectmen are asking for $160,000 to replace the bridge that leads to the towns transfer station on Snow Road. On the NH Department of Transportation "red list" for its deteriorating condition, the bridge was deemed a necessary 2017 project. If the project exceeds the $160,000 estimate, selectmen plan to use funds from the town-owned bridges replacement fund.

A petitioned warrant article by resident Michael Cahalane asks voters instead of funding the bridge project this year that a Snow Road Bridge Fund be started with $1,000 in it. Another Cahalane petition asks voters to remove the selectmen's ability to spend from the bridge replacement fund account without approval of a future town meeting.

In other road projects, the budget committee recommended $15,000 for crack sealing of paved roads, $25,000 for new culverts on Pine River Road and Molly Philbrick Road and work on Bonneyman Road in conjunction with Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance.

There is an across-the-board percentage salary increase for all town employees and money to fund a 12-hour-per-week third person for the selectmen's office. Currently, two staff carry out all functions of the office and attend selectmen's meetings to prepare minutes. The administrator is full-time at 37 hours per week, assistant part-time at 32 hours. The office is open to the public 18 hours a week and very busy according to staff and selectmen. The third person will handle selectmen's meeting minutes and help at the customer service window.

At their Feb. 7 meeting, selectmen voted to extend the 2016 transfer station permits. Issuing those permits takes up valuable time, especially this time of year, said Selectmen Chairman Henry Spencer. The board decided that 2016 stickers do not have to be renewed until April 1.

One transfer station employee is retiring and selectmen considered not replacing that employee, opting instead to operate the facility with remaining three. The facility is open 18 hours a week this time of year and a few residents argued that for safety there should always be two on staff. The budget committee agreed to reinstate the fourth employee salary into the 2017 budget, understanding the person will serve an on-call role.

There is a request this year to purchase a new police cruiser, with funds already saved in a reserve account. Though several people spoke to the value of having an advanced alarm system at the Effingham Town Hall (library), the budget committee struggled with the idea's late entry to the budget process and how the project will be funded. Therefore, they voted against recommending it.

In a non-money article, after months of review work selectmen are ready to recommend the adoption of a purchasing ordinance. The ordinance, if adopted at town meeting, spells out when and how the board of selectmen will administer the bidding process for future projects.

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