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February 05. 2013 10:14PM

Pelham voters discuss moving school offices to Town Hall

PELHAM - Residents attending Tuesday night's town deliberative session seemed open to moving the school administrative office to Town Hall next year provided the bond making it possible has a limited lifespan.

The $895,000 bond article to renovate six former classrooms inside the town's municipal complex for use as the town's new school administrative offices would cost the town $99,700 in the initial year if it passes at next month's polls.

William McDevitt, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the town of Pelham would serve as a landlord for the school district.

"The space belongs to the municipality and will continue to belong to the municipality," he said.

Resident Paul McDonough asked what impact the item would have on taxes. Town Administrator Tom Gaydos said there would be no increase on the town side should the item pass, though those changes would be reflected in the school budget.

Pelham's school budget will be further debated during a separate deliberative session on Wednesday evening, though funding for the bond payments is already included in next year's proposed school operating budget.

McDevitt said the renovation plans include new windows and roofing. The space was previously used as classrooms about 12 years ago. Town and school officials agreed this is the most fiscally sound plan for addressing Pelham's separation from the Windham school administrative unit next year, though the facility has fallen into disrepair over the years.

"It's definitely seen better days," McDevitt said.

School board member Andre Ducharme said the district considered various options and felt this was the best one for the town.

"It makes sense to keep everything here," he said.

A move to amend the article to limit the bond payment schedule to five years was approved. The proposed $13,093,475 municipal budget, which reflects a $242,000 increase in employee health costs, was moved forward to the March ballot with little discussion.

A $62,813 warrant item for the hire of a new communications center supervisor and the purchase of necessary equipment includes $61,823 for salary and benefits and $990 for communications gear. Both would be funded through the police department's operating budget.

Police Chief Joseph Roark said the new hire in question would be a 40-hour, salaried, non-union and civilian employee to oversee administrative tasks, supervise staff and cope with the department's technical aspects. The item was moved forward to the ballot.

Also moved forward was a $30,000 capital reserve fund to manage future repairs to the fire department's 76 underground water tanks.

Resident Larry Major asked whether this would reflect a one-time cost or ongoing costs.

Fire Chief James Midgley said: "The idea is to have this $30,000 when we need it. This isn't going to be a yearly occurrence."

Gaydos said a $175,000 item asking voters to approve engineering and cost estimates for replacement of the Willow Street Bridge would allow the town to be proactive in addressing the aging bridge before it becomes a further nuisance.

Selectmen Edmund Gleason said it's a serious situation as the bridge is dangerously narrow. At the same time, town officials aren't holding out hope for full state funding. The bridge currently is listed as deficient though isn't yet red-listed.

"This bridge is an accident waiting to happen," he said, noting that the bridge's guardrails are nonstandard.

If passed, the item would be fully refunded by capital reserve funds at no impact to taxpayers. A move to amend the article's wording to fully state it would have "no tax impact" in the future was passed and the amended article was moved forward to the March ballot.

Official ballot voting on all warrant items will take place on Tuesday, March 15, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Pelham High School, 85 Marsh Road.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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