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Newbury May Fix Historic Buildings

Newbury, Vt.,Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 4, at 10 a.m. at the Newbury Village Hall. Attendees will act on 11 warning articles. Australian ballot voting for town officers will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

N ewbury, Vt. — Residents at Town Meeting will have the opportunity to approve — or deny — the repair costs for two ailing structures in a year where the budget numbers remain flat.

One warning article asks voters to authorize $15,000 to be put toward repairs for the Boltonville Bridge. Another asks for $11,500 for roof repairs for the Tenney Memorial Library.

Both projects, town officials said, are proactive rather than reactive. For instance, the library roof is just now showing the first signs of trouble.

“It’s not in bad shape right now,” said Board of Trustees member Catherine Kidder. “It needs restoration. Its deterioration is starting and we need to replace certain tiles.”

Specifically, Kidder said, the roof’s slates need to be reset with new hooks, and the cap flashing, a weatherproofing material, has started to deteriorate. Also, some decorative tiles on the hips and ridges are missing, and the trustees would like to replace them, Kidder said.

The $11,500 on the warning article makes up half of the projected repair cost, Kidder said. The board has applied for a matching grant through the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation that would cover the rest of the price tag.

“The town is supportive of the library and the building is a beautiful building,” Kidder said. “Everyone agrees it’s in our interest to preserve and maintain this building.”

Similarly, Bridge 15, or the Boltonville Bridge, which spans the Wells River and connects Route 302 to Newbury’s Boltonville hamlet, is up for an engineering study to gauge future repairs. The town is asking its residents to authorize the use of $15,000 from a bridge reserve fund to pay for the study.

Selectboard chairwoman Alma Roystan said the bridge is “in very poor shape,” though not unsafe.

“We’ve done some work to make sure it’s stable,” she said. Highway Foreman Bob Beaulieu said repairs to the bridge have been in progress for two years.

The proposed budgets for both the town’s general fund and highways are similar to what voters passed last year. General fund expenditures come in at $711,000 this year, not including other articles, said Treasurer Mary Collins. That’s less than a 1 percent dip from last year’s passed budget. The town is asking to raise $505,000 in taxes, a drop of $10,000, or 2 percent, from last year.

It’s also asking to raise $650,000 in taxes for highway purposes, a flat figure compared to the current fiscal year. The projected budget, though, has gone up about $19,000 from last year’s $952,500, Collins said, due to an uptick in the gravel line.

The new tax rate won’t be calculated until the town’s grand list is finalized, Roystan said. The current town tax rate is 23 cents per $100 of valuation, she said, and the highway rate is about 32 cents. The total of 55 cents per $100 of valuation comes out to about $1,375 in annual taxes on a home assessed at $250,000.

One thing that voters likely won’t contend with at this year’s Town Meeting was one of the biggest items on last year’s warning — the 20 acres of town-owned forestland that residents voted against selling in 2013.

“The voters voted not to put it up for sale, so it’s just sitting there,” Roystan said. “It’s not on the radar for this year.”

Stephen Cole, who took over the final few months of former Selectman Phil Page’s term after Page resigned from the board in September, will run for a three-year Selectboard seat. Neither that election nor any other is contested this year.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.