Wilton voters turn out

All warrant articles OK’d

WILTON – The town will have a new walking park along Stoney Brook, new offices in Town Hall for the selectmen and town administrator, and a new ladder truck (new to the town, at least).

It also will hold a townwide planning charrette, start saving for a new highway garage and provide some tax incentives for improving commercial property.

About 150 people attended a three-hour Town Meeting on Thursday, March 16, and eventually approved everything on the warrant, much of it with little or no discussion. The meeting was conducted by Moderator Bill Keefe.

The operating budget totals $5,101,323, a 4.3 percent rise over last year and an estimated 27 cents rise on the tax rate. Line items include computer upgrades in the town office and an improved website.

“We need a higher level of support,” Town Administrator Scott Butcher said, “better security and the ability for residents to pay using a credit card.”

Residents also think turning the New Reservoir into a recreation area is “a great idea.” No one spoke against the idea, which was brought up informally at the end of the meeting.

Fire Department increases include upgrading equipment, such as the air bottles at a cost of $4,000 for recharging.

In the Highway Department, a loader will be leased this year, and there is a 10 percent rise in highway maintenance.

The new riverwalk will follow Stoney Brook from the bridge on Burns Hill Road to the railroad tracks behind the police station. Old lighting will be refurbished, native trees, plants and benches will be installed along the brook, and there will be ecological displays by the Conservation Commission and some items from former mills. Current parking spaces will stay the same.

Money to pay for the park was to come from the Cooley Park Fund, but research by the selectmen showed that the wording of the fund’s purpose might preclude that, so the money will come from the town’s unrestricted fund balance. Next year, voters can change the fund and return the money.

Selectman Chairman Kermit Williams said the change was to make everything “transparent and totally aboveboard.”

The plan was presented by Jennifer Beck, head of the Economic Development Committee.

The ladder truck is a 2008, 109-foot Spartan-Rosenbauer, which the Fire Department found in Pennsylvania. It has 43,000 miles, comes with a one-year warranty and will fit comfortably in the fire station. Fire Chief Jim Cutler said the old one, a 1980 Seagraves, “was tired,” did not pass inspection and parts are almost impossible to find. It was used 17 times last year.

Cutler also made a plea for more volunteers for the department.

“We need your help,” he said. “The only requirement is for you to give up some of your free time.”

A secret ballot was requested for the renovations of the north end of Town Hall, estimated at $300,000. After considerable discussion, the article passed 122-29. The plan was presented by architect Alison Meltzer.

The plan includes installing fire alarms throughout the building, including the theater. Asked about “old knob and tube electrical wiring,” officials said this project will “remove the last of it.”

Heat will be provided by an electric heat pump, windows will be uncovered for more light and more storage will allow records to be more accessible.

The selectmen, town administrator and welfare officer will move into the new section, while the building inspector and town assessor will move into the present offices.

The Economic Development Committee will conduct the two-day planning charrette with the help of Plan New Hampshire, a nonprofit program. Beck said the $7,000 cost “will get us $50,000 worth of help.” She also said the Nashua Regional Planning Commission has chosen Wilton for a study at no cost to the town.

The tax incentive would encourage property owners to upgrade their properties and would not tax those improvements for three years.

In other action, voters accepted a donation of $32,000 to be placed in the library renovation fund for eventual replacement of the roof, established a new fund for a future replacement of the town garage, and established a revolving fund for the ambulance operating budget and for a new heating system for Town Hall.

Contributions were made to existing capital reserve funds for a new ambulance, highway equipment, bridge replacement and police equipment. Bridge repairs are considered for King Brook and Stage Coach Road.

Doreece Miller, a longtime office employee, was recognized on her retirement. She said she would stay on to advise on the upgrade of the website.