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Ashland selectmen hear feedback on Thompson Street project

January 09, 2019
ASHLAND — At their Jan. 7 meeting, the Ashland selectmen held a public hearing on the bond for the Thompson Street highway and utility project, discussed an upcoming public hearing on a bond for the septage receiving station project, approved estimated revenues for the 2019 budget, and hired an administrator for a Community Development Block Grant for a local housing upgrade.

The Thompson Street highway, water and sewer project, will again be on the town meeting ballot, having failed to get the required supermajority vote in past attempts, falling short by just two votes last year. Town Administrator Charlie Smith said that the total project cost of $1.79 million has not been changed, as a contractor has estimated that it could still be done for that amount. The project would include the rebuilding of three highways, Thompson Street, Smith Hill Road and High Street, as well as the rebuilding of the water line that extends the full length of Thompson Street and the sewer line that serves the southern portion of Thompson Street. The water and sewer lines reconstruction accounts for $480,000 of the project, which will be paid by the Water and Sewer Commission. The project is funded through the State Revolving Fund, administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which provides lower interest rates and forgiveness of up to 10 percent of the principal. There

would be no property tax impact in 2019.

When asked about the tax impact in future years, Smith explained that that would depend on such variable factors as the number of years that the bond was taken out for and whether the highway block grant was used to help pay for the bond. The selectmen asked the Town Administrator to develop some scenarios for the tax impact to be presented to the public at the budget hearing on Jan. 10 and the deliberative session on Feb. 2.

The condition of the roads, particularly Thompson Street, was discussed. A study by the Lakes Region Planning Commission found that Thompson Street and Smith Hill Road were the worst roads in Ashland. Public Works Director Craig Moore pointed out that Thompson Street continues to deteriorate, due to the freezing and thawing during the

winter. The permits previously obtained for the project will run out this year, so new permits would be required in future years for the same roads. Since the state standards for road drainage are changing, a new highway project will cost more in the future. When asked about doing the project in pieces over the years, Chair Fran Newton

explained that a piecemeal approach would cost more in the long run than doing it all at once. Newton also noted that money will probably never be cheaper to borrow than it is at this time.

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14, at the Water & Sewer Commission office in the Town Garage on a bond to provide additional funds for the construction of the septage receiving station. Water & Sewer Commissioner David Toth reported on the progress of the project. The steel building has been purchased and

will be delivered this week. The equipment has been ordered and should arrive in three or four months. Requests for a contractor are going out this month, and the contractor should be selected in February. Construction will begin soon after that selection. The bond will allow for the borrowing of up to $500,000 more to complete the project. Costs have gone up. New tariffs increased the cost of steel by 25 percent, and construction costs have risen by 5 percent. Changes in the design also added to the costs. The control and data collecting system has to be upgraded. The old grit chamber must be eliminated. Regulations now require an onsite engineer during the construction. There is also some concern about cash flow, as the grants obtained for the project may not be available when the bills have to be paid. The entire cost of the project will be covered by septage receiving fees. For the past two years, those fees have brought in more than $500,000 annually. More details will be available at the bond hearing on Jan. 14.

The Town Administrator presented the selectmen with estimated revenues for the 2019 Town Budget that were developed by the Town's financial consultant. After some discussion on a few items, the selectmen approved the estimates. Smith noted that the estimated revenues will be revised two or three times during the coming year before being used to help set the tax rate in the fall.

The Town was awarded a Community Development Block Grant to rehabilitate the Harvey Heights apartment complex, formerly known as Ledgewood Estates, now owned by Lakes Region Community Developers. The Town advertised for a consultant to administer the grant, with those administrative costs being covered by the grant. The only applicant for the position was Donna Lane, who helped to obtain the grant, so

she was hired.

A draft of the selectmen's report for the annual Town Report had been distributed by Newton, who asked for comments and additions. Selectman Kathleen DeWolfe asked the Town Administrator to research the laws relating to the acceptance of unanticipated funds. Selectman Leigh Sharps reported that she and Susan MacLeod will serve on a

committee studying surface waters in the Squam watershed.

The selectmen ended their meeting with a non-public session on personnel.

Martin Lord Osman
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