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Canterbury voters okay money for bridge projects, new police, fire equipment

  • Boscawen/Canterbury bridge has been closed to traffic since 1965. . Photographed on March 5, 2014. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Boscawen/Canterbury bridge has been closed to traffic since 1965. . Photographed on March 5, 2014.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Staff photo by Don Himsel<br/>Unique Gould looks back to the spectators in the courtroom after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday, March 14, 2014.

    Staff photo by Don Himsel
    Unique Gould looks back to the spectators in the courtroom after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday, March 14, 2014.

  • Boscawen/Canterbury bridge has been closed to traffic since 1965. . Photographed on March 5, 2014. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel<br/>Unique Gould looks back to the spectators in the courtroom after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday, March 14, 2014.

Voters agreed to knock one bridge down and rehab another at last night’s town meeting in Canterbury.

Nearly 100 years after the Boscawen-Canterbury Bridge was built over the Merrimack River, it will be demolished with money from both towns – including $175,000 approved by Canterbury residents last night.

“It’s too far gone to save,” Selectman Tyson Miller told the 160 voters.

The state Department of Transportation will pick up 80 percent of that bill, so Canterbury’s taxpayers will pay $15,000 toward the bridge’s demolition.

Earlier this week, Boscawen voters approved $200,000 for the same project, $40,000 of which will be covered by the town.

“I think we ought to grab this while we can,” Miller said.

Without debate or protest, residents agreed. The metal truss bridge has been closed to traffic since 1965, but voters also approved money to fix a path still used by Canterbury traffic – the Clough Pond Road bridge.

“The Clough Pond Road bridge has rust holes through the beams . . . underneath it,” selectmen Chairman Robert Steenson said.

The town was originally going to ask voters for $180,000 to build new concrete decks on three red-listed bridges. But Steenson said new information from the state slowed two of those repairs – the Randall Road bridge and the Clough Tavern Road bridge – until the town could learn more about how to best fix them.

“We’re still kind of working in order, down the ones that were worst to best,” he said.

The Clough Pond Road bridge is first on that list. Steenson said the repair will most likely be done later in the year when school buses aren’t running, and he anticipated a contractor could do the work within a week.

“It’s our endeavor to get it done during as short a time as possible,” Steenson said.

The $60,000 to pay for that repair will come from an unreserved fund, so property owners won’t see any effect on their tax bills.

Also on the warrant were several upgrades for the town’s police and fire departments that will affect the property tax rate. Voters approved a new vehicle for each department – a new cruiser for the police and a new command vehicle for the firefighters – and replacements for several pieces of fire equipment.

The cruiser, which will cost more than $37,000, will replace an existing vehicle for the police. But the fire department’s command vehicle will be new to its fleet, added because the chief has been using his personal vehicle on calls. Rather than continue to reimburse Chief Peter Angwin for mileage and other expenses on his truck, voters decided to spend $20,000 on another vehicle to be owned by the town.

On a table in the Canterbury Elementary School gym, Angwin displayed some of the equipment he stashes in his personal truck to use it as a command vehicle on calls.

“When you’re doing command . . . it’s gotten to be more than just running out of the back of your pickup,” he said.

Some suggested using a vehicle already owned by the department, like its rescue truck, as a command vehicle to avoid the expense of buying another.

“If we can save a dollar here, it is probably advisable to do that. . . . A little economy here may be well advised,” resident Fred Norton said to applause from the crowd.

But the chief said it is “not feasible” to use a fleet vehicle as a command vehicle on the scene of an emergency, and voters overwhelmingly approved money for the purchase.

The town will also spend approximately $12,000 to upgrade its thermal imaging camera and $15,000 to buy two heart monitors for the fire department, in addition to about $7,500 if the town wins federal grant money to cover the rest of the cost of new air packs.

“I would think $12,000 is a small price to pay if you can find a body in a burning building,” resident Jan Cote said during discussion on the new camera.

In total, voters approved more than $92,000 for the police and fire departments on top of their operating costs for next year. The town’s overall budget also passed last night at about $2.5 million.

Last week, Steenson estimated the total tax impact of the budget and the approved warrant articles will be 23 cents, bumping the town’s portion of the property tax rate up to $7 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The budget itself is up 2.2 percent from last year, Steenson said last night. That increase is greater than it has been in past years.

“This year, we’re up a few tenths higher than we were in prior years, and the reason for that is that we were really tight in prior years. . . . That’s just catching up with us,” Steenson said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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