WEARE — There was lots of discussion, but few changes made to the proposed warrant presented at Saturday’s deliberative session at the middle school.
In March, voters will be asked to weigh in on the proposed operating budget, a new public works facility, two collective bargaining agreements, and a slew of other proposals that, combined, would raise the tax rate to $4.47 from its current level of $3.30. The increase would equal an additional $234 on a house appraised at $200,000.
The first order of business at the deliberative session, attended by around 50 people, is a $967,000 bond for a new facility for the Department of Public Works. Voters have struck down the new building request four times, according to Director Tim Redmond, but the employees are still facing safety problems and the town is paying more for repair and maintenance costs for vehicles left out in the elements.
The revised plan for the facility increases the length of the building by 40 feet, adding space for an additional bay, a ventilation system so vehicles can be run indoors, and a fire suppression system.
“If you don’t go along with this now, sooner or later you’re going to be forced to,” said resident Del Rice. “These guys deserve a safe place to work.”
The town’s operating budget is proposed at $5,110,673 (default budget is $5,040,892), which marks a 2.25 percent increase over last year’s budget.
There are collective bargaining agreements on the ballot for public works employees and police officers.
The three-year public works contract, which would cost an additional $20,198 in the first year, and would then actually save the town $11,334 in the second year, and $34,642 in the third year will help prevent Weare from being a “training ground” for employees who then find work in other towns for more money, said Redmond. The savings would come from higher contributions to the employees’ health care plans.
The police contract would give officers raises while at the same time increasing their contributions to their health care plans. The finance committee refused to support the article because the raises could total 5 percent, which they felt was too high. But board Chairman Tom Clow said the contract also changes important language regarding management rights, shift assignments and overtime — changes the town has been trying to negotiate for years.
“It would be devastating to see it slip by,” he said. “You’ve got to give something to get something.”
Voters will also weigh in on two new police officers, raises for non-union employees, road reconstruction, replacement of several vehicles, including an ambulance and a police cruiser, and smaller ticket items like fireworks, cemetery fencing, and computers for the library.