Pumpkin festival’s future, funding questioned

MILFORD – The Pumpkin Festival receive more attention at the town budget and bond hearing Monday night than did a proposal for major fire station upgrades and the town operating budget.

There is a total of $23,000 for the annual festival and holiday decorations in Article 17 of the town warrant, and during the town’s Jan. 8 hearing, resident Chris LaBonte asked if the money would be better spent on something else. Planning board Vice Chairwoman Janet Langdell asked for a document showing the 2017 festival’s revenue and expenses.

Last year, the 28-year town tradition was organized by the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, because Wendy Hunt, who organized the festival for the town for several years, left as director of the Milford Improvement Team to become the Chamber director.

“Do we get anything back” in revenue, LaBonte asked, and the answer seemed to be no.

Selectman’s Chairman Mark Fougere said he and Town Administrator Mark Bender will discuss the future of the festival with the chamber and MIT, and “get information as soon as possible.”

The $23,000 warrant article would pay for festival support by town public works, police and emergency services.

The town’s proposed operating budget of $14 million shows a small decrease from this year, with cuts in employee health insurance and property and liability insurance some of the main reasons, along with an increase in property assessments. A large addition to Hitchiner Manufacturing, the newly built East Ridge apartments and the new Contemporary Chrysler dealership building, contributed to the revenue.

If all warrant articles pass on voting day, March 13, Bender said, the town portion of the tax rate will decrease for the fourth year in a row, going from $6.65 per thousand to $6.34.

No one commented on the $3.86 million plan for the fire station upgrade, which has the selectmen and budget committee’s unanimous support. The 43-year-old School Street building would get a sixth bay and a second floor with showers and changing areas, to help lessen firefighters’ exposure to toxic substances.

More parking, a sprinkler system and other code upgrades are part of the plan, with upstairs dorm rooms to be finished at a later date.

There also are seven capital reserve funds on the warrant, and Peg Seward, of the town budget committee, asked for something in writing to explain the funds for voters, since this is only the second year the town is using them to save for major expenses. Selectman Kevin Federico also said there should be more explanation of the $175,000 bridge capital reserve article.

There also are several petition articles on the warrant. One is from the conservation commission, for $20,000 to add to its land purchase fund, one for $8,500 for fireworks and one for $25,000 for the Keyes Park capital reserve fund.

The last petition, with no cost attached, is to deem the Brox property as part of the town’s compact area, presumably to make sure there would be no target shooting allowed on the town-owned land.

The town advisory budget committee recommends every article expect the one for a lease-purchase of a sidewalk plow. As of Monday evening, it had not yet taken a position.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.