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Ashland selectmen discuss use of old school for town library

December 09, 2021
ASHLAND — At their Dec. 6 meeting, the Ashland selectmen discussed the proposed purchase of the old elementary school for the Town Library, reviewed 2022 town meeting warrant articles, approved a new purchasing policy, and dealt with other issues, such as the planned closure of the landfill now being used by the town.

The Town Library Trustees and Jeanne Robillard, the CEO of Tri County Community Action Group, met with the selectmen to discuss the purchase and renovation of the old school, now owned by TCCAP, for the use of the Town Library. Bond issues for this purchase have failed in the past to receive voter approval. However, an anonymous donor has now offered $400,000 for the purchase, provided that the building be used by the Town Library and be named in memory of Elaine Vaillant. It was announced at this meeting that the bank which holds the mortgage on the property has approved the sale of the building for that $400,000 amount. The architects have estimated the cost of renovations for the conversion to a library at $50,000 to $75,000. Furnishings (bookcases, etc.) are expected to be in the $90,000 to $100,000 range. In addition to the $400,000 gift, the Library has a Library Building Capital Reserve Fund that by the end of this year will hold $137,000. (Later in the meeting, the selectmen approved a warrant article that would add another $25,000 to that fund in 2022.) The Library also has a Building Fund with about $12,000 from other sources, such as private donations. Rural Development grants are available for furnishings, etc. There was some discussion of the operating costs for the proposed library and the future of the Scribner Memorial Building where the Town Library is now housed.

The Library Trustees asked the selectmen how they wanted to proceed with the purchase proposal. After some discussion, the Selectmen voted to have the Library Trustees present a petitioned warrant article, so that the voters could decide on the proposal at the 2022 annual town meeting.

Town Manager Fred Welch presented a dozen warrant articles for the 2022 annual meeting to the selectmen, many of them repeats of prior warrant articles. The selectmen approved articles for $27,142 for the final payment in the lease-purchase of the DPW's loader, $125,000 for the Road and Bridges Capital Reserve Fund (CRF), $20,000 for the Police Department CRF, $25,000 for the Fire Department CRF, $25,000 for the Department of Public Works CRF, $25,000 for the Library Building CRF, and $10,000 for the Building Maintenance and Repair CRF. They also approved the placement of $25,000 from the unassigned fund balance in the contingency fund, the money to be returned if not used. The selectmen also liked the Town Manager's proposal for a

compensation trust fund, setting funds aside to cover sick and vacation time owed to employees leaving the Town's employment. Another article will attempt once again to discontinue Parkway, a short street between Mill and Depot Streets, as past attempts failed because the law for highway discontinuances were not followed. Finally, two

suggested articles were tabled until the next meeting. The sidewalk tractor and plow is nearing the end of its lifespan and is starting to act erratically. A new sidewalk tractor will cost $167,988. It was agreed that was too much to spend in one year, so Town Manager Welch and DPW Director Craig Moore will work on a proposal to lessen the tax impact, probably through a multi-year lease-purchase and use of the DPW capital reserve fund. An even larger price tag is anticipated for the wastewater treatment plant. The Federal discharge permit for the plant has to be renewed next year. The engineers expect the cost of meeting upgraded Federal requirements for that permit will require

about five million dollars. Where to find the money to pay for the required improvements is a real concern. Welch suggested petitioning Congress to help fund such projects in towns like Ashland, where one-fifth of the residents live below the Federal poverty level.

The Town Manager noted that the auditors had recommended a new purchasing policy to replace the five or six purchasing policies now in existence. So, Welch presented the selectmen with a proposed new policy which consolidates the current policies. The new policy met some resistance, but was approved on a 3 to 2 vote. The selectmen then voted unanimously to repeal all prior purchasing properties. It was

pointed out that flaws in the new policy, if found, could be corrected at any selectmen's meeting.

The Town now ships its solid waste to the Casella landfill near Littleton. It is now expected that the landfill will close in 2026. The Town Manager suggested that town officials begin thinking soon about what to do with our waste in that not too distant future.

The TAP grant for the Main Street sidewalk project is now considered completed, so the Board authorized Chairman Eli Badger to sign the final document closing out the project, which took some four years from award to completion. Badger praised the five committee members who worked on the grant application and DPW director Craig

Moore who oversaw the project on behalf of the town.

The Town Manager asked the selectmen if they wished to continue with CAI Technologies proposals for expansion of the GPS mapping of the town, now that the property tax maps have been completed. The consensus was to do so, with a public website providing access to the maps as the first priority. Overlay maps can show other features, such as the water and sewer lines, fire hydrants, culverts, and utility poles.

The selectmen approved the transfer of money to the various capital reserve funds as voted at the March town election. They also signed the assessing contracts for 2022-23. Craig Moore was appointed as an alternate representative to the Lakes Region Planning Commission's Transportation Advisory Committee. Selectmen Bob Letourneau announced that State Sen. Bob Guida will attend the Jan. 17 selectmen's meeting to update them on state activities. Selectmen Andy Fitch reported seeing a commercial hauler dumping bottles rather than recycling them. The DPW Director will follow up on

that complaint. The selectmen ended their meeting with a non-public session.

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