Some clouds
70°
Some clouds
Hi 80° | Lo 59°

Plainfield Approves Budget

Highway Department To Get New Tractor

Plainfield — As residents fi led into the Plainfield Elementary School gym for this year’s floor meeting, Selectman Rob Taylor took to the microphone.

“I can assure you that we hope to get out of here soon, because the sap is hopefully going to start running today,” he said.

“We’ll see.”

At least the first of his wishes was granted when voters briskly passed all of the articles up for discussion, including a $2.25 million budget and $55,000 toward the purchase of a new tractor for the highway department.

The budget, which rose about $44,000 compared with last year’s, was approved by one of the more lopsided votes of the day. The ballot ended with 120 “yes” votes and just six marked “no.”

Town Administrator Stephen Halleran said much of the higher spending came from wage increases for town employees that ranged from 2 to 2.5 percent, as well as upticks in several items in the highway budget, such as additional salt and gravel.

As passed, the budget and all other spending articles will add 17 cents per $1,000 of valuation, making the municipal portion of the tax rate $5.29 per $1,000 of assessed value. On a $250,000 home, that will translate to a $42 annual increase.

Much of the discussion following Halleran’s explanation of the budget focused on the highway department and its tasks.

“Why is it that we can’t build a road that won’t produce frost heaves?” asked Chris Dye, naming the John Stark Highway in Claremont and Newport as an example of one such road without the bumps. “It really irritates me.”

Halleran said the department’s costs have been rising and that rebuilding an entire road is prohibitively expensive.

“It all boils down to finance,” said Boone Rondeau, a resident who works for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. He put a price tag on road rebuilding: about $1 million a mile.

After the budget passed without much fuss, as did $152,500 worth of appropriations to various reserve funds, voters moved on to the next-largest spending article of the day.

The town asked for $55,000 to purchase a new tractor that would replace the town’s current 1977 model, which has been showing signs of age, said Selectman Tom Williams. Also, the newer model, a used tractor, would have four-wheel drive instead of the current vehicle’s two-wheel drive.

“It’s basically replacing an old, tired tractor,” said Williams, prefacing a vote that would get 111 “yes” votes and eight “no” votes.

The motion to appropriate the money was one of the last official actions by Williams, who was participating in his final Town Meeting as a board member. Williams has stepped down; his replacement, Ron Eberhardt, won the seat against Mark Horne during Australian ballot voting on Tuesday.

Also during last Tuesday’s ballot voting, voters approved a trio of zoning changes that would make the construction of free-standing apartments on residents’ properties easier. And on March 8, they approved a $6 million school budget but shot down a proposal to expand kindergarten to full-day sessions.

At Saturday’s floor meeting, two articles that might have been expected to generate controversy passed with without discussion.

The articles — one dealing with the real estate exemption given to Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, and the other giving the Selectboard power to form a committee to review the town-school relationship — have been on Plainfield warrants for a couple of decades, officials said, and can almost always engender long, impassioned discussions on Town Meeting Day.

The votes this year were not entirely different from last year’s. The article regarding the exemption passed 63-31, compared with 80-52 last year, and the other article passed by voice vote both years.

But neither vote was preceded by any discussion whatsoever — in stark contrast to what happened last year. One resident said the lack of an emotional back-and-forth showed that the committee has been working effectively with the school.

“KUA’s part of our community, and we’re part of their community,” Halleran said.

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