Henniker voters green-light money for bridge construction
Voters approved the final step to repair the Western Avenue bridge at yesterday’s Henniker town meeting – the money to fix it.
The bridge has been closed since the state deemed it unsafe in 2008, increasing traffic on the Patterson Hill bridge, which was rebuilt 20 years ago according to historic preservation requirements.
And after supporting the project since it first appeared on the warrant in 2009, voters approved a bond, 83-37, that will raise and appropriate $6.04 million for the cost to reconstruct the Western Avenue bridge. Last year, voters approved an article to cover the $384,000 associated with the design engineering portion of the project.
“We want to send a clear signal to the state and government that we intend to construct this bridge in Henniker,” said selectmen Chairman Kris Blomback before the vote.
The state Department of Transportation and Federal Bridge Aid will cover 80 percent of the construction, expected to begin in fall 2015. The town is responsible for the remaining 20 percent, or $1.20 million of the bond, but with construction more than a year away, some felt the vote should be pushed off.
“My recommendation is to wait till we have an idea of what the real bond amount will be,” said resident Jenn McCourt.
It was one of 19 articles Henniker residents passed at this year’s town meeting, only voting down one brought forward by petition.
Included in the list of approved articles was the town’s operating budget of $4.15 million, an increase of just $25,538 over last year – or less than 1 percent.
Needed upgrades to the ultraviolet disinfection system at the wastewater treatment facility and a water meter for the Cogswell Spring Water Works were passed on votes of 96-5 and 66-17, respectively. Of the $323,000 for the ultraviolet system, $100,000 will come out of the wastewater unreserved fund, with the remaining amount to be bonded.
The $400,000 cost of adding a water meter also will be bonded, at $38 per unit. Operating expenses for both were approved.
“It will provide us another tool to control what’s going on in our system,” Joe Damour said of the meters.
The transfer station will receive a new solid waste trailer after voters approved its replacement cost of $85,000.
“It’s not all the rust on the outside that’s the problem, it’s the inside of it that’s quite bad,” said Bill McGirr, superintendent of the transfer station. “We’ve scratched out as many years as we can.”
All three articles associated with the Tucker Free Library passed, including $210,593 for its operations, $6,000 to come from the Ann S. Soderstrom Trust for furnishing the youth services area and a grant for $10,000 to restore the stained-glass windows.
One side of Academy Hall and the police station roofs will get a face-lift after residents allocated money to help with those costs. Taxes will account for $9,812 of the $17,712 needed to redo the police station, and 60 percent of the $8,900 for Academy Hall.
“I should have brought my bucket of shingles I picked up one day off the roof,” said resident Martha Taylor.
Voters added $50,000 to the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund, as well as $20,000 to the Fire Truck Capital Reserve Fund, although not everyone felt it was enough.
“This fund has been badly underfunded in my opinion,” said fire Chief Keith Gilbert. “This fund needs to be funded at $100,000 to $110,000 per year.”
The only article defeated was a petition article to maintain the Class VI portion of Browns Way from the intersection of Old Hillsborough Road. Residents Laura and James Roberts said it’s often used for recreational opportunities by those who don’t live on the road, and the 25 residents who live on Browns Way don’t have the equipment to maintain it.
But the majority of the other Henniker residents felt it would not be in the town’s best interest to take it over.
“Wouldn’t it be a very dangerous precedent to accept this portion of road as a town road?” McCourt asked. “It puts the burden on the town to maintain it to town standards.”
“The town shouldn’t accept a road to maintain that’s not maintainable,” added resident Caleb Dobbins.
The approved budget and warrant articles will increase the town’s tax rate by 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.