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Salem seeking road, school fixes

SALEM – Infrastructure and school facility issues take center stage as town and school officials begin drafting preliminary warrants for the March Town Meeting.

The town warrant may include two bond articles, according to Town Manager Keith Hickey. The first, Article 6, seeks $1.6 million to replace bridges at Bluff Street and at Providence Hill Road. Both bridges are on the state Department of Transportation “red list.” Design has been completed on both replacement structures.

The second preliminary bond article, Article 7, asks the town to appropriate $5.6 million for work outlined in the 10-year roads program. The article includes $976,000 in bonds to replace the water main pipe beneath Pond Street between Lawrence and Copper Beach roads, on Sand Hill Road and on Stiles Road. The article would require 60 percent voter approval to pass the road program.

Voters will also decide on an article requesting $250,000 for snow removal in Article 10. The operating budget contains $500,000 for snow removal, which would have to be expended before the additional $250,000 is withdrawn.

A nonbinding referendum question asking if voters are for or against casino gambling at Rockingham Park will also appear on the ballot this March at the request of Rockingham Park president and general manager Edward Callahan. Voters supported expanded gambling in similar straw votes held in 1994 and 2003.

Voters will be presented with a proposed $37.5 million operating budget for 2013 in Article 8. The budget represents a tax decrease of .08 percent. If the article is defeated a $36.9 million default budget will take effect.

Other preliminary articles include:

• Article 11 to see if the town will raise $125,000 for engineering design, cost estimates and bid documents for the Shannon Road bridge replacement over Providence Hill Brook. The design is eligible for 80 percent state reimbursement.

• Article 12 requesting $250,000 for an ambulance replacement.

• Article 13 asking $354,708 to purchase two six-wheel dump trucks and a 4x4 pickup truck. The equipment may be eligible for 80 percent state reimbursement.

• Article 14 seeking $58,153 to fund outside human services agencies.

• Article 15 requesting authorization for the Board of Selectmen to sell property located at 287 Lawrence Road.

The deadline for citizen petitions for the town warrant was Jan 8. Submitted petition articles were to be reviewed by the Budget Committee on Jan. 9, and by the Board of Selectmen Jan. 14. On Jan. 15, the Budget Committee will hold final votes on petition articles.

The annual deliberative session of Town Meeting is Feb. 2 in the high school auditorium.

School warrants

The School Board will ask for voter support this March in pursuing phase two of the school facility master plan. Two preliminary warrant articles were presented to the Budget Committee on Jan. 3.

A $16.2 million bond article would fund renovations and additions to the Soule and Fisk Elementary Schools. The article includes $369,682 for mechanical and electrical improvements at Haigh Elementary School, including a sprinkler system, ceiling demolition and replacement, a fire alarm system, lighting replacement, security system and roof repair.

If passed, Fisk School additions include small group instruction space, a reconfigured staff room, multipurpose room, two additional classrooms, and an improved library.

The Soule School would receive a gym addition, classroom and small group instruction space, and a reconfigured entrance.

A separate $805,237 article proposed for the school warrant would provide a new HVAC system, ceiling replacement and asbestos removal at the Haigh School if passed.

An article seeking $21.5 million to renovate the Haigh, Soule and Fisk Elementary Schools failed to get the 60 percent required to pass last March.

The Budget Committee will take its final vote on the School District articles Jan. 10. The annual deliberative session of School District Meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7 at Salem High School.

Ballot voting takes place March 12.

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