December 19, 2012LITTLETON — In another meeting with town officials, the budget committee continued to ponder Littleton spending. On December 11 the committee received information about warrant articles that the selectmen forwarded.
Finance Director Karen Noyes presented some good news to the committee. She said Littleton's revenue situation has been good in 2012. "We've collected more than 100 percent of the revenues" that were projected for this year.
The committee discussed its ability to advise the town without a clear picture from both the town and the school district. Barbara Astone believed the committee could move forward to present recommendations to the selectmen by their December 17 meeting. Conversely, Art Tighe said, "I'm kind of nervous to see what the tax rate is going to be."
Discussion of town warrant articles was a primary reason for the meeting. Noyes handed out a summary of the proposed articles that the selectmen had reviewed. Tighe noted that the total cost for the proposed articles was $1.1 million.
Noyes responded that some of the expenses, like the road maintenance article, are spread out over a five years. She added that the town could bond some of the expenses, or get loans. She said this would ensure that the town is "not hitting the taxpayer all at once."
Chairman Steve Kelley asked Town Manager Fred Moody about the Opera House meeting room warrant article. This would make improvements to the room so that it could be another place for town meetings.
Kelley asked if the article would make changes to turn the space into a media room. This was something discussed in town before. Moody said that the proposal did not go that far.
The wood pellet boiler article, which would allow an expenditure of no more than $130,000, was discussed. Tony Ilacqua, who chairs the committee studying the pellet system, said the town would save a great deal of money on the system. He expected payback in about eight years.
The system would heat the town garage and fire station. "The only thing you have to do is order the pellets, and make sure you don't run out," Ilacqua said. Although the committee did not take a vote, members seemed impressed by the idea. Like Ilacqua, Kelley sits on the committee working on the pellet boiler issue.
One major item of interest was the highway department's new street sweeper. Manager Kelly Butler discussed the need for the unit. She said that the town would spend about $70,000 for parts and labor to refurbish the current, out-dated sweeper.
The sweeper would cost nearly $250,000. It would, unlike the current unit, be able to clean out sewer catch basins. She said the town would receive about $35,000 when the old sweeper was traded in.
Based on his calculations, Tighe said he was not convinced that the new sweeper would be a bargain. The unit would operate about 890 hours a year, but Tighe wondered if the big expense was the best option.
The largest warrant article presented was for road maintenance. The article currently amounts to $469,000.
The six roads and amounts in the warrant article are: North Skinny Ridge Rd, $171,000; Cyr Rd, $110,000; Old Whitefield Rd, $85,000; Reidy Way, $ 50,000; Riverside Dr, $38,000, and; Joe Lahout Lane, $15,000.
Butler said that the list of recommended roads is based on both public input and findings of departmental staff. In a phone interview, she said the department wants to make improvements before the roads are "past the point where it will be really expensive" to replace the surface.
Butler noted that the selectmen may make changes to the list before the deliberative session. At that town meeting, voters could also decide to amend the list.