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Hopkinton voters asked to fund highway garage

HOPKINTON - A $1.3 million bond for a new highway garage is the big question voters will face at town meeting this year.

The town is seeking to bond for $1.3 million to replace the highway garage which burned down last summer. The funds will cover all aspects of the new building, from planning and design to construction and the equipping of the facility, but voters will only be on the hook for paying back part of the cost.

After contentious negotiations with the Local Government Center (LGC), the town's insurance provider, over the value of the destroyed building, the town settled with LGC for $769,434, according to Select Board Chairman Jim O'Brien. All of the proceeds from that settlement, part of which the town has already received, will be used to offset the bond. However, taxpayers will have to fund the remainder of the cost of the building - around $530,566.

The town's proposed operating budget, totaling $5,707,011, marks an increase over last year's budget of $108,352 and is recommended by the board of selectmen and the budget committee.

The board is also asking voters to return more than $300,000 to the general fund after it was determined by a committee of residents that the money, set aside for a future community center, wasn't needed.

Last year during town meeting, the selectmen asked the voters to discontinue the community center capital reserve fund after determining that a community center wasn't needed. Voters rejected that request because the majority wasn't convinced that the issue had been thoroughly considered.

Following the town meeting, the board of selectmen established a committee of residents to study the issue. After conducting numerous meetings with different organizations throughout the town and putting out a survey, the committee found that a community center wasn't a priority. The goal now is to put the money back into the general fund to offset the tax rate.

Voters will be asked to withdraw funds from other capital reserve accounts to support various purchases, including $31,000 for a new police cruiser and equipment for the department, $70,000 for fire department vehicles and equipment, $175,000 for Department of Public Works vehicles and $60,000 for a new ambulance. In total, the town is seeking $388,000 from its savings for the purchases.

A petitioned warrant article has been put forward to end the town's pay-by-bag trash program that requires residents to pay to dispose of household waste.

The town meeting will be held on March 12 at 7 p.m. at Hopkinton High School. Polls will be open the same day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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