Wilton’s operating budget increases about 9 percent

WILTON – The town’s operating budget is up about 9 percent, due mostly to the bond payments on the new fire station and state-mandated increases in retirement share. A storm water control program, which will cost $75.000, was called “another unfunded mandate” by Wilton officials.

To keep expenses down as much as possible, the Budget Committee has postponed almost all contributions to capital reserve funds.

The approved operating budget totals $4,644,590, and does not include special warrant articles.

Last year’s budget was $4,321,789.

About 30 people attended the two-hour hearing on Feb. 4.

Prior to the public hearing, the committee made several last minute adjustments to its presentation.

Recently discovered dampness and mold problems behind the walls of a restroom will require about $20,000 to repair, according to Selectman Bill Condra. “It’s an urgent situation,” he said, “health and safety issues.”

The Budget Committee approved the expenditure.

The amount requested for the replacement of the Frye’s Measure Mill Road Bridge was reduced from $88,000 to $80,000 at the request of the selectmen.

Public Works Director Steve Elliott said the bridge has been on the state’s “red list” since 2007 but is not on their replacement list until 2022.

“It won’t last that long,” he said, noting that it is the only access to the area and would not support a fire truck.

It was noted that the town can replace the bridge for “about what our 20 percent would be if the state does it,” Elliott said the lower figure was adequate.

The selectmen have requested $4,500 for legal fees to transfer a 100-foot strip of town-owned land to three small abutting properties. The land involved is part of the Frog Pond project and is off of Maple Street.

“It would be cleaning up a long-standing problem,” Conservation Commission Member Spencer Brookes said, one that dates back to the Abbott Mills era.

The Budget Committee said no, the landowners involved should bear the costs if they want the land.

A request was made to restore $1,500 for the proposed Community Center.

Committee Member Dawn Tuomala noted, “A lot of people are working on this. The $1,500 would help them. Who will work on a committee if we don’t support them?”

Member Don Davidson countered, “We can’t continue to fund everything. There are a lot of nice things to have.”
Selectman Chairman Dan Donovan said, “I’ve been very impressed by these people’s dedication. The amount is hardly worth discussion.”

The committee did not restore the funds.

A new ambulance is needed. “The present one is 13 years old,” Ambulance Services Director Gary Zirpolo said. “We’re looking at safety issues.” The warrant article includes a power cot, which raises a stretcher automatically, and more powerful radios.

“We cover everything from the Temple-Greenville line to Lyndeborough-Greenfield line,” Zirpolo said, “and you know how cellphones can be.”

The committee recommended the purchase, as well as two trucks for the Highway Department, a rescue vehicle for the Fire Department, and some repairs at the library.

The committee voted to not support $80,000 toward a conservation easement on Frye Arm property on Abbott Hill, members saying they saw no benefit to the town.

At the close of the hearing, Davidson proposed cutting the bottom line to $4,500,000.

Town treasurer Jerry Greene called the suggestion “an insult to department heads” who had worked hard to prepare their requests.

“Why can’t they be trusted?” he asked.

Donovan said, “It seems to be a bad practice to cut bottom lines,” and member Harry Dailey said, “It’s too late for us to go back and ask the selectmen to deal with it.”

The committee did not vote the decrease.

Town Meeting, where the budget will be voted, will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 13, in the Florence Rideout Elementary School gym.