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March 15. 2014 9:30PM

No changes made to town warrant at deliberative session

MERRIMACK - The town's deliberative session ended in just under an hour on Wednesday, and no changes were made to the warrant that will be voted on next month.

About 70 residents attended the meeting, which focused primarily on the town's proposed budget of nearly $32 million, along with a request for $3.3 million for a new highway garage.

If approved at the polls, the recommended operating budget - a hike of $3.5 million from the existing spending plan - will increase the town portion of the tax rate from $5.29 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to an estimated $5.49, according to Councilor Finlay Rothhaus.

Half of the budget's increase will address neglected infrastructure needs in town, and will also replenish various capital reserve funds, according to Rothhaus.

Alastair Millns, a member of the local planning board, said the proposed budget represents about a 14.1 percent increase.

"I am sorry, but I think that is a lot," said Millns.

Councilor Tom Mahon explained that if the capital reserve accounts are not replenished, the funds will eventually be depleted.

"We have a lot of infrastructure that we have to deal with and have to maintain," said Mahon. " . The tax rate is remaining relatively stable over time, relatively."

Local resident Mike Thompson stressed that local taxpayers will not see a 14 percent increase, but may experience a jump closer to 3.8 percent on their town tax bills.

The recommended budget includes funding for infrastructure needs such as road repairs, milfoil cleanup, new fuel pumps, a new town website and more.

There was significant discussion on the proposed construction of a new highway garage and suggested upgrades to the existing garage that will ultimately be used for storage if voters approve the $3.3 million bond.

Adam Jacobs, operations manager for the Department of Public Works, highlighted several reasons for a new garage, including an aged facility more than 40 years old, cramped highway bays, limited head space and other overcrowding problems at the existing facility on Turkey Hill Road.

Some residents said they support the need for a new garage, but questioned the length of the recommended 25-year bond and the estimated $500,000 to refurbish the existing garage for storage.

Election Day is April 8 in Merrimack. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School, 26 Baboosic Lake Road.

khoughton@newstote.com


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