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Sandwich approves nearly $500,000 budget increase for 2010

Outgoing selectman Russell Johnson sports his new pink fishing hat to match the Pink Lady fishing pole presented to him at the conclusion of last Wednesday's Town Meeting by moderator Lee Quimby. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
March 17, 2010
SANDWICH — For the 247th year, Sandwich residents gathered to conduct the town's business last Wednesday, addressing nearly 50 warrant articles that included a nearly $500,000 budget increase.

The articles concerned vehicle purchases, road repairs, employee insurances, capital reserve funds and sundry trust fund donations for services to Sandwich residents, which resulted in an overall increase of $490,418 over the 2009 approved budget.

Most of the evening's warrant articles passed unanimously, but not without a lot of conversation prior to the vote. Road construction projects found Ed Shambaugh asking the town to consider bonding their larger projects.

"We're not keeping up with expenditures for keeping up the infrastructure and equipment. If we borrow funds, the town can get an incredibly good rate right now. I can't name a town that doesn't bond," he said.

Carl McNeil pointed out that bonding was wiser for larger one-time expenses, such as a sewer system, not for road projects that were an annual expense.

Shambaugh's plea to vote against the article for repairs to Maple Ridge Road in lieu of bonding the project at a later date was not enough, though, and $40,000 will be withdrawn from the Paved Roads Capital Reserve Fund, with the rest of the $80,000 project to be raised through taxation.

Police Chief Doug Wyman was called upon to explain the request to trade the department's 2006 Chevy Impala for a fully equipped 2010 Ford Expedition Police Cruiser for approximately $39,723, $20,000 of which $20,000 would come from the Police Equipment Capital Reserve. Wyman explained that four-wheel drive capabilities in the Expedition, compared with front-wheel drive in the Impala, made more sense in a rural community. The Impala, he said, had become pretty "maintenance intensive" and voters ultimately agreed.

A debate also occurred over whether voters wished to rescind Article 18 from the 1982 Town Meeting, which required the town to pay the full cost of the medical insurance premiums for all town employees and their eligible dependants. Currently, selectmen said, the costs sit at $9-10,000 for a single person, $22,000 for a family. Some residents were concerned that should the previous article be rescinded it would place too much power in the hands of the three selectmen.

"You are not putting power in our hands. Effectively we have already had it and haven't used it," Selectman Leo Dwyer said.

Budget Committee member Joanne Haight explained it would give them options in health coverage, where employees may simply have their benefits reduced to paying for eligible dependants should expenses rise too high.

"There's no thought of taking something away from employees- just to give the town options," she said.

That article passed.

While most of the evening's voting was unanimously a "yes," one article toward the end brought about a vote that was too close to call for Moderator Lee Quimby. To give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, Quimby called for those voting yes to gather on one side of the school gym, while those voting no to stand on the other side.

The article concerned $3,000 of funding for the Carroll County Transit Project, an initiative to bring public transportation to the region. Some residents felt that a contribution by Sandwich, should another town failed to fund the program, would not be fair and felt countywide funding would be a more acceptable solution.

Howard Cunningham, who has been working on the project, stood to amend the article as written, asking to make it conditional on the Winnipesaukee Transit's application to operate within the City of Laconia. Winnipesaukee Transit would tie into the Carroll County service if approved for funding, offering rides to residents within the Laconia city limits. Under those conditions, the article passed by a slight margin.

Other items that met voter approval included $22,000 to complete the Master Plan, $246,000 to be added to the Capital Reserves Fund, $135,306 for Fire Protection and $407,707 for General Government, Welfare and Debt Services.

The Town of Sandwich will now operate for fiscal year 2010 under an approved budget, including warrant articles, of $2,636,058.

At the end of the meeting, outgoing Selectman Russell Johnson was honored for his service to the town with the presentation of a fishing rod and reel. Not to be outdone, Quimby said he heard Johnson's favorite color was pink and handed him a Pink Lady miniature fishing pole and a pink floppy hat.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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