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Winter has been tough on the Londonderry snow removal budget

Union Leader Correspondent

March 05. 2014 8:18PM

LONDONDERRY — As town officials contemplate a spending freeze, they’ll first need to tackle a more immediate issue: the snow removal budget.

During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Kevin Smith said the town has already spent 64 percent of its general operating budget, with factors such as firefighter overtime and legal fees from the ongoing lawsuit concerning the town’s impact fee collections rubbing additional salt into the wounds.

According to Finance Director Susan Hickey, the town usually has spent about 58 percent of its overall budget by this time of the year.

Smith said the town has already exceeded its snow removal budget for the entire year by 18 percent, having spent a total of $189,521 by Feb. 1 compared to last year’s $44,305.

Multiple snowstorms last month and the likelihood of more snow in March mean that number can only increase.

“There’s no need to panic just yet,” Chairman John Farrell said. “But we do need to start battening down the hatches.”

Resident Reed Clark said there are a lot of things that just need to be done.

“And I think all of them should be looked at very carefully by the incoming board,” he said, noting the upcoming town elections.

As councilors continue planning for the future, the board voted unanimously to use Maintenance Trust funds to address winter projects that can’t be delayed.

The board voted unanimously to use $5,442 in Maintenance Trust funds for snow removal at the town municipal complex and across the street at the Londonderry Cable Access Center. Another $2,570 will go toward plowing and snow removal at the Londonderry Senior Center, and $3,000 will be used to address the challenge of ice buildup on the cable access center’s roof.

“This has to be addressed before water damage spreads through the ceiling, walls and worse, the equipment inside the building,” Smith said, noting that the project entails adding rigid insulation inside the ceiling compartment to address weight and wetness from the spring thaw.

Council Chairman Tom Dolan stressed that the approved Maintenance Trust projects are funded separately from the overall operating budget.

“These are two entirely separate sources we’re talking about,” Dolan said.

Later, the council granted permission to the Londonderry Police Department to use capital lease and police detail special revenue funds for the purchase of a $22,000 Ford heavy-duty truck.

Police Chief William Hart said the department had been using a truck that was donated from the fire department quite a few years ago to plow the parking area around the police station, but police recently learned the aging truck wasn’t sound enough to pass inspection.

“It’s definitely reached the end of its useful life,” Hart said.

The truck is also used to tow equipment to various sites during police staging and training exercises.

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