P/sunny
75°
P/sunny
Hi 74° | Lo 52°

Claremont City Council Begins Budget Review

Claremont — The snow, ice and cold from this winter may be gone finally, but they are far from forgotten.

In its review of the streets and roads portion of the proposed $15.8 million city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the City Council Tuesday night honed in on the line item for clearing sidewalks and removing mounds of snow in the downtown area.

While the council had strong praise for Public Works Director Bruce Temple and the department’s snow clearing efforts overall during one of the worst winters in recent memory, members wanted to know how much more Temple would need to clean up after storms more quickly, not only downtown but around the schools as well.

“We’ve got to do better somehow,” said Councilor Keith Raymond, a view shared by his colleagues.

“I have real concerns with kids in the street,” added Councilor Charlene Lovett, who asked about possible solutions and the price tag.

Others said downtown merchants should expect to have the sidewalks cleared so customers are not deterred from shopping.

The $2.7 million streets and roads budget includes $180,000 for winter maintenance. The council asked Temple to return with cost estimates for more immediate snow removal downtown and around the schools. During the discussion, Temple said under his current budget and staffing it can be two to three days after a storm before they get around to that work. When a storm hits, and his employees are spending as much as 16 hours plowing, he sends them home for rest. When they return early the next morning, finishing the roads remains the priority.

“That is our focus,” Temple said, emphasizing that allowing people to get to work and school is first and foremost.

Temple estimated that if the city contracted with a company to come in at night to remove piles of snow it could cost in the area of $60,000 a season, depending on the number of storms.

Additional money would be needed to get clear the sidewalks more quickly.

Councilor Kyle Messier said before the council adds money in the budget, it is important that residents understand the additional cost for faster and more efficient snow removal and what it would mean in taxes.

The budget proposed by City Manager Guy Santagate projects no increase in the municipal portion of the overall city tax rate.

The paving line item for next year is $400,000 and Temple named several streets they plan to do but made it clear the list is “not cast in stone,” because the price of asphalt can rise. One possibility for paving is West Pleasant from Drapers Corner to just past the cemetery.

Also Tuesday night, in its preliminary review of the budget, the council tentatively approved a $731,000 planning and development budget, which is about $17,000 more than recommended by Santagate. The additional money is for a part-time administrative assistant position that had been eliminated last year.

Lovett said the city places a priority on economic development, which is part of the Planning and Development office, and therefore should adequately staff the department.

“If we are going to focus on economic development, we need to get that department the personnel they need to do the job,” Lovett said.

The council will continue its budget review on May 13.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com