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Weare: $675k for highway garage passes first test

WEARE - Although the meeting got off to a late start, there was plenty of discussion but few changes to the warrant that will go before the voters in March.

The more than 50 people who showed up for the town's deliberative session at Saturday at the Weare Middle School found themselves waiting for more than an hour until some technical difficulties with the microphones could be worked out. The meeting started off with a discussion about bonding $675,000 for a new highway garage, a 33-year-old structure that has long since outlived its usefulness, according to Public Works Director Tim Redmond.

The current garage, which Redmond described as a pole barn, houses the town's refueling station, but lacks both a ventilation system and a fire detection and suppression system. There's nowhere to wash the vehicles and no separate welding area for maintaining town equipment, and the garage is lacking in other health and safety areas.

Some residents were concerned that $675,000 wouldn't be enough money to build a garage large enough to meet future needs, so an amendment to add $100,000 to the cost of the project was proposed. Voters, however, ultimately decided against the increase. The 10-year bond wouldn't increase the tax rate, according to Redmond, because it would go into effect at the same time the bond for the town's safety complex was retired.

Over the objections of Police Chief Gregory Begin and other residents, the proposed operating budget was reduced by $10,800 to $4,883,567, with $10,000 of that reduction coming out of the police department's overtime budget. The town had an audit done of police overtime by Municipal Resources Inc., which determined that there could be some cost savings if some policy and coverage changes were made. Begin said the reduction in overtime could result in less coverage, but the reduction - made by amendment - was narrowly approved, 24-23.

Collective bargaining agreements for both the police and public works employees survived the deliberative process unscathed. If voters approve the one-year agreements in March, the police will be looking at a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase along with step increases for some officers, and the DPW workers could see 5 percent pay increases.

Other items that will be on the warrant in March include a proposal to pay a $20 stipend to firefighters to be on call during weekend and evening hours; approval to raise and appropriate $1,655,000 through a combination of unexpended funds, state grants and funding; and taxpayer money to repair the Peaslee Road Bridge.

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