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Joyce Endee

Only minor changes made to Alton town warrant

February 17, 2011
ALTON — The Alton Town Deliberative Session was held at Prospect Mountain High School on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

More than 70 registered voters signed in to show support for the different warrant articles.

Pat Fuller presented the State of the Town address at the session. Fuller, the vice chairperson of the board of selectmen, presented the address in the absence of Chairman David Hussey, who was out of the country at the time.

Fuller presented Town Moderator Mark Northridge with a special first edition of the 2010 town report. The report is being dedicated to Northridge and his wife Nancy for their years of service to the town.

Fuller highlighted progress that the board of selectmen has made in the past year including the purchase of several of pieces of equipment that the town has put to good use: backhoe, dump truck and combination snow-clearing/mower.

Fuller thanked the budget committee for its work and couldn't recall the two entities agreeing on a budget down the line, except for a line item of $16 in postage.

She also talked about projects in the town and the changes to the septic guidelines that the board recently accepted.

Lastly, she thanked volunteers for making Old Home Day a success and town employees, citizens of Alton and members of the different town committees for their work in the past year.

Steve Miller, the chairman of the budget committee, gave a message on behalf of the budget committee.

Miller stressed the committee's commitment to questioning every line of the town budget and keeping the taxpayers' best interest in mind.

"The budget committee is aware that the taxpayers own the town buildings and the town assets," Miller said.

Northridge moved onto the warrant articles that will be voted on by the citizens of Alton on March 8.

Article 10, which will authorize the planning board to require preliminary review of major subdivisions and major site plan review, was supported by town planner Ken McWilliams.

McWilliams explained that the preliminary review is the "meat of the process," and that currently it is optional to the developer.

Virgil MacDonald questioned giving the power to the planning board to require a preliminary review.

McWilliams again stressed the importance of the preliminary review on major site plan review and major subdivision, which would involve four or more lots.

Article 11, which presents the voters with 13 lots to be sold at a public auction. The lots are valued at approximately $246,000, and board of selectmen member Peter Bolster spoke in favor of the article.

Bolster explained that the list has been reduced down to 13 lots and that money will be raised at a public auction, not an absolute auction.

The money raised will help offset the purchase of a piece of contaminated land next to the town landfill that needs to be purchased.

MacDonald and Dave St. Cyr raised objection to .97-acre lot located on Echo Point Road.

Bolster explained that this lot has no parking and that town has tried to find a use for it in the past but has been unsuccessful.

Article 12 is a vote to raise and appropriate a sum of money to purchase the Dahle, Donovan and Gunsel property located at 18 Hidden Springs Road.

The property has been contaminated by the landfill. Fuller presented an amendment to the article to change the original sum of money from $500,001, with $500,000 coming from the fund balance and $1 from taxation to $397,500, with no money coming from taxation.

The reason for the amendment is because a settlement for the sale price was recently agreed upon. Once the sale goes through, the Dahle family is going to donate a 10-acre lot back to the town.

Dave St. Cyr suggested buying a portion of the land, not the entire 57-acre lot.

Bolster explained that buying the entire property is the best way to handle it and the cheapest. The other alternative would be removing the dirt load by load and would cost much more.

Town attorney Jim Sessler said that if the town went to court on the landfill they wouldn't have the option to buy just a portion; they would have to buy the entire lot.

Krista Argiropolis questioned how long the town would have to continue to pay for studying the landfill and was told the town would have to continue paying for the study of the landfill indefinitely.

Article 13 establishes a Capital Reserve Fund for the purpose of Town Hall Building Improvements and raises and appropriates $45,000 to be put in that fund.

The board of selectmen is appointed as an agent of the fund, and member Loring Carr spoke in support of the article. Carr highlighted several projects on the town hall that need to be addressed including replacing the handicapped lift, putting in a new boiler that will be more energy efficient, shingles and refinishing the brick exterior.

Carr said the estimated cost of the improvements is $135,000, the $45,000 will help the town start the improvements. In addition to the $45,000, a donation of $15,000 is coming to the town.

Article 14 is a vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $50,000 to be added to the Police Department Improvement Capital Reserve Fund. The sum will come from the fund balance and no additional amount with come from new taxation.

Police Chief Ryan Heath explained that there are many improvements that need to be made to the station including expansion of the building that is in line with the original architectural plan of the building.

Bob Longabaugh asked why a request for a new police cruiser wasn't included in this article.

Fuller said the board of selectmen took a 3-2 vote against purchasing a new cruiser.

MacDonald suggested that the police department look at the Boy Scout hall across the street for additional parking.

Article 15 raises and appropriates the sum of $10,000 to be added to the Sidewalk Capital Reserve. Bolster showed support of this article, pointing out that the sidewalk in front of the Town Hall needs a lot of work done to it.

MacDonald asked why the machine purchased to clear the sidewalks hasn't been doing an adequate job and called it a "total disgrace."

Highway Agent Ken Roberts said that they had some problems with the machine and there are parts in town where the design of the road and sidewalks makes it difficult to use.

Article 16 raises and appropriates $40,000 to be added to the Landfill Closure Capital Reserve Fund. According to Town Administrator Russ Bailey, the funds will help deal with the contamination and establish monitoring wells to fulfill state regulatory requirements.

Article 17 raises and appropriates $20,000 to be put in the Benefit Pay Expendable Trust Fund. These funds are recommended by the town auditors and are used to pay benefits accrued by town employees and redeemed when they leave employment with the town.

Fuller supported the article, explaining that some long-time employees who leave could wipe out what is in the trust fund when they depart.

Article 18 is to add $35,000 to the Building and Site Improvement Capital Reserve for the Transfer Station, which also includes the EPA storm water management implementation requirements.

Scott Simonds, the director of the transfer station, said the funds would help reduce tonnage at the station and help the town comply with federal storm water regulations.

Article 19 is to add $12,000 to the Recreation/Grounds Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund, which funds maintenance equipment for the grounds, and the parks and sidewalks snow removal.

Parks and Recreation Director Kellie Troendle explained the funds would be used to help purchase a 2011 lawnmower and all the attachments needed.

Article 20 raises and appropriates $20,000 for the purpose of improving the west side restrooms by making them handicap accessible to the current ADA standards and by siding the exterior. Carr expressed his support for the article and said it is pretty simple.

Article 21 is to raise and appropriate $10,000 to be added to the Milfoil Capital Reserve Fund. Bolster supported the article and explained that milfoil is a problem that isn't going away anytime soon and needs to be continuously treated. The town has applied for a state grant that may help support the fight against milfoil.

Article 22 raises and appropriates $30,000 to be added to the Senior Center Pearson Road Capital Reserve Fund. Bolster spoke in support of the article.

"More parking needs to be added," Bolster said. "There is a lot of work that needs to be done."

MacDonald suggested that rather than add on to the building that is not big enough to support the program, the town should look at another location, The Gilman Home.

Article 23 sets the budget at $6,218,835. Should this article be defeated the default budget would be set at $6,150,760. Fuller spoke in support of the budget, pointing out that the board of selectmen and the budget committee agreed across the board except for $16 in postage.

Article 24 is to withdraw $129,979 from the Ambulance Operation Fund for the purpose of funding the ambulance personnel wages, ambulance supplies and equipment, training and vehicle fuel/maintenance. No funds will be raised from general taxation.

Assistant Fire Chief Ed Constantino said that is the standard procedure for the fire department.

Article 25 raises and appropriates $36,000 for the purpose of purchasing and equipping a command/utility vehicle for the fire department.

Constantino said that this request has been unfunded the last three years and that members of the department have had to use their own personal vehicles for emergency situations in the past.

Article 26 raises and appropriates $50,000 to be added to the Alton Fire Station Capital Reserve Fund. Carr spoke in support of the article, explaining improvements that need to be made to the different stations in town.

Article 27 raises and appropriates $1,750 for the purpose of increasing the firemen retirement and to amend the retirement policy for personnel by increasing the amount of base annual retirement pay by $250 for each individual rank and the annual COLA would be applied to the base on an annual basis.

Constantino explained that only members who have worked for the department for 25 years would qualify for this retirement benefit.

Article 28 raises and appropriates $20,000 to be added to the Bridge Replacement Capital Reserve Fund. Roberts explained that the state pays 80 percent of the bridge projects, with town contributing 20 percent.

Article 29 raises and appropriates $50,000 to be added to the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund. This amount will come from the fund balance (surplus) and no amount will be raised from new taxation.

Roberts explained that there are many trucks that are coming of age and will need to be replaced. According to Roberts, the cost for a new dump truck is $160,000. Raising money each year in this fund will help build it up.

Article 30 raises and appropriates $30,000 for the purpose of purchasing and installing a ventilation system in the highway building, which is needed to properly vent the fumes due to the vehicles and painting that create a health and safety problem.

Carr supported this article and explained that when the board toured the facility they saw the need for a ventilation system.

Article 31 raises and appropriates $750,000 to be added to the Highway Reconstruction Capital Reserve Fund. The amount will be partially offset by the revenues from the Highway Block Grant Fund, which is estimated to be $193,735.13 and is an annual appropriation that helps pay for the reconstruction of existing roadways. According to Roberts, there many upcoming projects that this fund will help pay for.

Article 32 raises $8,996 to help support the Community Action Program, Article 33 raises $8,974 to help support the VNA Hospice, Article 34 raises $5,100 to help support Community Health and Hospice, Article 35 raises $2,314 to help support the American Red Cross, Article 36 raises $10,000 to help support Alton Community Services, Article 37 raises $454 to help support the Medication Bridge Prescription Program and Article 38 raises $1,500 to support New Beginnings.

Article 39 raises funds to help support Genesis. The budget committee didn't support this article but after they were provided with statistics on what Genesis does, they felt more comfortable supporting it. An amendment was presented by Fuller to change the amount from $7,826 to $7,827 and give the budget committee a chance to show support, which they did.

Article 40 raises $2,000 to help support Caregivers Transportation, Article 41 raises $500 to help support CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Article 42 raises $4,200 to help support Appalachian Mountain Teen Project and Article 43 raises $2,500 to help support Child and Family Services.

Article 44 is see if the voters authorize the sale of a small portion of property, 20 feet by 90 feet, that is located off of Depot Road to Robert L. and Kim E. Patterson. The sale price of the property was determined by the town assessor to be $240.

Article 45 is to increase the number of members on the Gilman Library Board of Trustees from three to five. The purpose of this is to ensure a quorum is always present. Holly Brown, the librarian at the Gilman Library, spoke in the support of this article.

Article 46 is a vote to increase the number of members on the Alton Water Commission from three to five. MacDonald questioned this change, saying that having a quorum present with this committee hasn't been a problem.

The salary of the commission, which is an elected position, is currently $4,620 split between the three members. The commission sets their salary, and they could keep the salary at $4,620 even if the commission is increased to five members.

The two-hour and 53 minute meeting is currently being shown on LRPA-TV's Channel 26. Consult Channel 24 at the top of the hour for program times. Both VHS and DVD copies are available also for loan at the Gilman Library.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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