Saturday’s Town Deliberative Session saw an amendment to Article 13, to purchase a 26-acre easement on Kimball Road, just north of the Londonderry Country Club.
As amended, the article would authorize the Conservation Commission to purchase the horse farm from Leah Doyle outright for up to $500,000. The Commission would offer Doyle a 99-year lease, as well as write into the deed that the property could not be developed in the future.
Conservation Commissioner Mike Speltz said the easement would extend the Musquash Conservation Area, noting open space in the Town preserves clean water, offers flood protection and scenic views, and promotes agriculture and animal husbandry, as is the case with Doyle’s horse farm.
With the addition of the farm, it will be possible to take a four-mile hike through town-owned conservation properties, Speltz said.
The appraised value of the property is $640,000, but Doyle is offering to sell her property to the Town for $395,000.
“If we purchase the property, it satisfies Miss Doyle’s wishes by leasing the land to her. But we have to look at what we’ve gotten for land purchases. Much of our open space is woefully underutilized,” Town Councilor Tom Freda said. “I’d like to see a stewardship plan for how this property will be used. We should not be spending taxpayer money on various lands to add to the surplus of lands that we have.”
“I like the idea, but do we have any indication the owner would be willing to go to an outright sale?” asked David Ellis of 1 Wilshire Drive.
“I spoke with Leah Doyle and she said she would entertain such a proposal,” Town Councilor John Farrell said.
“If the easement goes through, would she continue paying taxes for the current use or pay the full tax rate?” asked Pauline Caron of 369 Mammoth Road.
“(Doyle) would pay under current use,” Farrell said.
Ann Chiampa of 28 Wedgewood Drive added she would like to see an allowance for parking areas.
“If someone wants to go in the winter for cross-country skiing, I want to make sure there’s an allowance for public parking, and I would like to see any conservation land in the future have an allowance for public parking in the deed,” she said.
“Public parking is not in the deed, but given her willingness to allow parking, I think she would be amendable to permitting it in the deed to give the Town the ability to install a small parking area,” Speltz said.
The voters moved Article 13 to the Warrant as amended. The article has no tax impact.
Also proposed for amendment but without success was Article 3, the Town’s $28.57 million operating budget. The Town’s default budget is $28.59 million, the same as last year.
Councilor Joe Green, the sole vote against supporting the budget, called for a $300,000 reduction of the operating budget.
“In the past couple of years we have seen reductions in different departments, with people leaving through attrition,” Green said. “When people leave, we need to do our due diligence and do more with less. This number reflects three situations – the Director of Economic Development for $109,000; the addition of $109,000 to the Fire Department for overtime, which was a temporary measure until the Town and union could work out the schedule, but what we put in rolls over into the default the next year; and $122,000 for the Director of Finance position. That still leaves $40,000 in the budget to hire a part-time person in the Finance Department if needed.”
But the money has been allocated to many areas of the budget that the decrease would affect, including a part-time secretarial position in the Planning Department, a contract for economic development, training for the Fire Department, library books, general assistance to social services agencies, and updates for the Information Technology department, according to Town Manager Kevin Smith.
“If you cut those moneys from this budget, the things I just mentioned would also have to be cut,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty quick to decide about the Finance Director, but the other amount of money I think should be put into a line item so we know exactly where the money is going,” Dan Collins of 4 Park Ave., said. “I don’t think we should be taking money for a particular item and putting it in a slush fund.”
“All the moneys are allocated for,” Smith said. “The overtime money is in the fire overtime budget, and moneys that are being used from eliminating the economic and planning development position have been allocated to particular line items.”
The savings that would have been achieved had the amendment passed would have been $9.
The amendment failed and Article 3 moved to the ballot as proposed.
If passed, Article 3 would result in a tax rate impact of $4.80 per thousand. The Town Council voted 4-1 to support the budget and the Budget Committee voted unanimously in favor.
Remaining articles, moved to the Warrant with little discussion, are as follows:
Article 1, Election of Officers.
Article 2, to raise $100,000 for the Maintenance Trust Fund to support repairs and maintenance to town facilities. The article has no tax impact. The Town Council and Budget Committee recommend the articles.
Article 4, to raise and appropriate $491,523 to fund the Special Revenue Account, which would cover Police Outside Details and would have no tax impact as the services are funded through user fees. The Town Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 5, to raise and appropriate $2.6 million to fund the Sewer Fund, which would defray the cost of construction, payment of interest on any debt incurred, management, maintenance, operation and repair of constructed sewer systems and would have no impact on the tax rate as they’re funded through user fees. The Town Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 6, to raise and appropriate $50,000 for Fire Department Equipment. The allocation from the Town’s June 30 Fund Balance would be used to purchase three mechanical CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) devices for the Town’s life support ambulances. The Town Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 7, to raise and appropriate $500,000 for the Town’s Roadway Maintenance Trust Fund for the maintenance, replacement, removal or improvement of the Town’s roadways; and to authorize the use of $250,000 of the June 30 Fund Balance toward the appropriation. The article would result in a tax rate impact of $.07 per thousand and was recommended by the Town Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 8, to raise and appropriate $120,000 to update and rewrite the Zoning Ordinance in accordance with the recommendations of the Town’s Zoning Audit. The article would have no tax impact and is recommended by the Town Council and Budget Committee.
Article 9, to establish and fund with an appropriation of $28,000 a new Geographic Information System (GIS) Capital Reserve to develop, maintain, enhance or acquire data, software and/or hardware resources to be used by or integrated with the Town’s GIS program and to appoint the Town Council as agents to expend the reserve. The article would have no tax impact and is recommended by the Town Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 10, to appropriate $295,000 to the Capital Reserve Funds to Expand Cemeteries, to Replace Highway Heavy Equipment, Fire Equipment and Highway Trucks. The article would authorize the Town to use June 30 Fund Balance toward the appropriation and would have no tax impact. The Town Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 11, to raise and appropriate $105,000 to hire one or more additional full- or part-time police officers to fulfill the functions of school resource officer. The article results in a tax rate impact of $.03 per thousand and is recommended by the Town Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 12, to discontinue the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund, created in 1996. The funds in the account would be transferred to the Town’s General Fund. The article has no tax rate impact and is recommended by the Town Council and the Budget Committee. Moving forward, the Town plans to lease its ambulances, according to Smith.
Articles 15 through 20 authorize the Town Council to call special meetings on cost items, should they fail in the election.
If all articles on the Town’s 2015 Warrant pass, the tax rate would be $5.17 per thousand. The Town’s election is March 10.