Board signs bridge loan to complete bridge
by Margo Avakian
Jul 08, 2014 | 3505 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- The board opened July’s first meeting with an expensive flourish, voting to sign on for a $350,000 line of credit from Peoples United Bank. The loan will assure a free flow of funds for this summer’s bridge construction on Old County North Road.

The bridge will be completed before town taxes are due. Board chair Lewis Sumner noted that FEMA has approved the last of the town’s reimbursements for Irene recovery work, but, “We’re just waiting on the state (to disburse the funds).” Board member Edee Edwards reminded her colleagues that, “Technically, we ended the last fiscal year in deficit. We’re going to be in tax rate hell soon.”

A proposal to increase wages for the two least senior members of the road crew sent board members into lengthy huddles with their computers. Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus reminded the board that the more senior crew members, in earlier negotiations, made it clear they want to see their colleagues’ pay brought closer to parity. “We didn’t budget for a percentage increase,” said Edwards, but payroll costs for the last quarter came in under budget, despite a tough winter. That, the board felt, allowed some leeway. Raises of 20 cents and 4 cents per hour were ultimately approved. No action was taken on the commissioner’s wage, which has not increased in four years, though the work load has increased. Some of the paperwork may be passed along to the administrative assistant, when one is hired. Board member Earl Holtz urged Rafus to “keep pushing us.”

The board also officially voted to raise the town clerk’s stipend to $2,000 per month. Provision for that raise had been included in the budget.

Health officer Susan Kelly came before the board to request a health order against a landlord who is in violation of state statute. Kelly said her efforts to secure voluntary cooperation have failed. The board signed the order.

Cara Cheyette asked the board for permission to attach privately made signs to the Hall Road signpost. Cheyette’s signs warn that the road provides only limited access and is a trail suitable only for four-wheel drive. Because of bad GPS information, trucks, buses, and hapless tourists often stray onto Hall Road and other semi-impassable roads in the area. Permission was granted.

Ray Combs asked whether the town would derive any money from the proposed schist quarry. Sumner told him that there would be some change in tax assessment, with a chunk of land taken out of the use value program and put to commercial use. Beyond that, Sumner said, it is impossible to know.

“I spoke to (District 2 Coordinator) April Hensel,” Edwards reported. Hensel was “not too receptive” to the idea of pre-hearing conferences, but confirmed that the district environmental commissioners will probably schedule the initial hearing for the quarry application on a weekday at 5 pm.

In other quarry-related business, the board voted to have the Windham Regional Commission do a traffic study to assess the venture’s projected impact.

The board also voted to accept a bid of $77.50 per hour for 80 hours of roadside mowing. Rafus had researched the cost of renting equipment and having the road crew do the work; that option would cost more than hiring the work out.

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