Claremont nixes plan for Washington Street paving assessment

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-20-2024 9:43 PM

CLAREMONT — After listening to objections from a number of business owners, the city council quickly voted 6-0 to end consideration of a special assessment that would have paid for about 75% of the cost to repave Washington Street.

Wednesday’s vote came after the owners of several businesses on Washington Street were united in their opposition to the proposed assessment, which was explained in a letter they received from the city earlier this month. One after another they said the traffic data was flawed, the council was setting a bad precedent, the plan was anti-business and everyone who travels the street would benefit from repaving, not just business owners.

Tony Crawford, owner of Circle T Car Wash, said he paid an impact fee when he opened two and half years ago and now the city wants $8,900.

“You are singling out the tax base that brings in those tax dollars,” said Crawford. “Let’s find a different way to do this.”

Similar sentiments were expressed during the public hearing. Some said motorists would benefit the most and they urged a solution that spreads the costs out so all residents pay a portion. Crawford and other business owners also questioned the data used in a traffic study that was used to calculate their assessment.

“You guys had me down for 293 trips a day. We had 58 today,” Crawford said. “You are penalizing us based on false information.”

Mike Hurd, owner of Maurices Auto and Truck, said the assessment sends the wrong message to potential businesses who might consider coming to Claremont and further burdens existing businesses.

“You can’t expect us to pay for this,” Hurd said.

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The special assessment was proposed by City Manager Yoshi Manale after the council agreed last year to amend a related ordinance by removing the requirement that at least half of the property owners sign on in support of a special assessment, which are allowed under state law.

The city hired a consultant to conduct a traffic study and from that came traffic counts at 61 businesses to determine the amount of each assessment to raise roughly $900,000. Walmart had the largest share at $204,000.

Another concern many had was that if approved, the special assessment would be used again and again for other roads.

“This will set a bad precedent,” said Tom Hubert, of Hubert Family Outfitters. “I hope you can find a different method.”

Before the public comment period, Manale made a presentation that included bonding as an alternative plan to pay for paving the four lanes of Washington Street for a little over two miles and now bonding appears to be likely at some point.

When the council began its discussion it was not long before the motion was made to drop consideration of the special assessment.

“I truly cannot support a special assessment,” said Mayor Dale Girard, who believes bonding or using the city’s fund balance are the options the city should consider.

Councilor Nick Koloski said he would like to maybe see the street paved in sections with the money in the annual budget or coming from a bond so the cost is shared equally. He also said the city would have a hard time defending its argument in a court case that the businesses are the only beneficiaries of the repaving.

Koloski, Girard, Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau and councilors Jonathan Hayden, Wayne Hemingway and William Limoges voted in favor of dropping the special assessment idea. Councilors Andrew O’Hearne and Brian Zutter were absent. One seat is vacant following the recent resignation of Joel Tremblay.

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