Effingham readies for budget hearing and new fire chief
February 03, 2011EFFINGHAM — Voters here will have the chance to mull over the town's proposed 2011 budget at a hearing Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the municipal office building on School Street.
Selectmen here hope the voters will support a $4,000 warrant article that will pay for an engineering study and 20-year plan for the town's transfer station, including ways to optimize operations, suggested improvements and future costs of those.
A new police cruiser is being requested at a cost of $34,000. Selectmen plan to pull money from different funds to pay for this instead of raising the total from taxes. If approved, they will withdraw $20,500 from a reserve fund that has been funded little by little for years in anticipation of the purchase and will take $13,500 from the undesignated fund balance. This money represents fees that were paid to the town after officers did special duty details in Effingham, Conway and other towns for stand-by at road construction and utility company projects.
In other warrant articles, selectmen plan to continue saving for the future by adding a total of $31,800 to various funds including invasive plants, fire truck and equipment, municipal maintenance garage, police cruiser, public safety buildings, rescue vehicle, salt shed, bridges and transfer station.
New on the warrant this year is the recently formed technology development committee. The group submitted a petitioned warrant article asking for $2,500 for the purpose of evaluating and pursuing the expansion of broadband (high speed internet) access to underserved areas and updating the town's Web site. They want the money to come from the franchise fees Effingham receives annually from Time Warner Cable Company. Cable customers pay this fee on their monthly cable bill. Usually, the money is deposited in the town's general fund and not assigned to any specific purpose. Eve Klotz was recently appointed to the committee that also includes Jim Morris and Theresa Swanick.
Another petitioned warrant article does not involve money but asks voters to approve the exemption of farm stands from the requirements of site plan review and not consider them commercial operations, providing the police department does not find a traffic hazard created by them.
A third petitioned article asks for $1,000 to purchase audio/video equipment to record all public meetings.
The town's total operating budget had not been finalized as of press time as the Budget Committee planned to meet Tuesday night to put their final stamp of approval on it. Initial review indicates the budget is up slightly over 2010.
Selectmen are asking for $230,000 in road reconstruction and resurfacing funds. The main project planned for this year is the first third of Town House Road from the Route 153 end. This section will be totally reconstructed and given a base coat of pavement. The project is planned to continue for the next two years with the next two sections being done. Then, in 2014, a top coat of pavement will be applied to the entire road.
At the last selectmen's meeting, resident Jory Augenti registered complaints about some of the back roads in the Granite Road area of town. "The ditches are so deep you could lose a small car in them," he said. He also asked the board why town roads are not being sanded for safe passage and why dirt roads are not being graded properly, calling the condition of town roads deplorable.
Selectman John Meisner defended the current road contractor stating he is doing a great job and the roads in Effingham are better than the back roads of Wolfeboro. He also blamed the condition of the dirt roads on the poor work done by the previous road contractor.
Augenti came with a list of concerns about town operations, including what he thinks is a lack of pride at the fire department. Of note, Augenti said, is the inability or unwillingness by current members to take the time to shovel snow from in front of the fire station doors. By the looks of the outside of the department, he said, how can people be sure that the million dollars' worth of equipment inside the station is being taken care of properly?
Meisner responded that, unfortunately, the selectmen have to wait for the new chain of command and can't do anything to force the hands of the department members. "We can ask but we can't make them do it," said Meisner.
Currently, the town pays a person to shovel the library and town office and the transfer station employees shovel their work site. Meisner said the town shouldn't have to pay for the fire department to be shoveled and the members should do it.
Incoming Effingham Fire Chief Randy Burbank was present at the meeting and said that when he takes over in March members will be assigned duties including routine maintenance tasks at the station.