FARMINGTON — Road maintenance was the topic of the night at the annual Town Meeting Monday, prompting an increase in the recommended budgets, for a total approved amount of $5.34 million, up 6.3 percent from the year before.

About 50 residents gathered in the Farmington Community Center for the meeting, approving the warrant articles in two hours for a budget that was $91,000 more than the $5.25 million selectmen recommended and $86,000 more than what was recommended by the budget committee.

The difference was primarily because of an additional $83,000 approved for roads above the amount recommended by both selectmen and the budget committee.

The Public Works Department was granted a request for $215,000 more than last year, contributing to a $1.24 million budget, up 20 percent from the year prior. The request was granted with the a show of hands vote, with scattered opposition from around the gymnasium.

Outgoing chairman Ryan Morgan said the increase was in part because of an addition of two full-time positions, in replacement of two seasonal positions, in an attempt to get more proactive with road maintenance.

Morgan said he told the public works department to come to him with what additional resources they could use to stay ahead, and this was the budget he was presented with.

“If we can stay ahead of our roads … maybe in the long term it would save us money,” he said.

Resident Peter Tracy said the constant increases in the overall budget and property taxes are unsustainable burdens on the residents.

Town Manager Richard Davis said the level of increase would be unsustainable if it happened year after year, but this was a one time correction to help the public works budget get back to an acceptable level of funding.

“This is a one time catch up provision,” said Davis.

A $166,248 public works overdraft was approved by voters to reimburse the 15 percent budget overdraft spent the year before because of heavy snow and rain washouts.

Residents debated at length whether to raise $233,000 or $150,000 for road construction projects like rebuilding Porter Hill Road.

After 20 minutes of discussion, residents approved $233,000 for the roads against the recommendation of both the selectmen and budget committee.

Porter Hill Road is the third road in the town’s five year road construction plan, intended to fix the worst roads in town.

Public Works Director Denis Castonguay told the voters that Porter Hill Road hasn’t had an overlay for about 12 years, and hadn’t been rebuilt in possibly 50 years.

Davis said if the voters approved $150,000, as recommended by the budget committee and selectmen, then the Porter Hill Road project would only have enough money for preliminary engineering and possibly a 100 yard section of road.

“There would not be enough money to do very much at all on the Porter Hill project this year,” said Davis.

Willard Hatch, a resident of Porter Hill Road, moved to amend the amount to $333,000, but it was overwhelmingly defeated.

Selectman Josh Bell said the town “could put a million dollars in the roads if we really wanted to,” but he proposed the $150,000 to offset the tax increase that the town would experience if they approved the full $233,000.

For the second year in a row, residents overturned a recommendation from the selectmen to reduce the Farmington Public Library budget.

The budget committee recommended flat funding for the library, while the selectmen recommended cutting $8,000 from the library’s request, primarily due to the $14,000 rise in the cost of salaries.

Neither panel recommended fully funding the library’s request for $146,666, which is up 2 percent over last year’s funding. With a show of hands vote, the majority of residents approved a motion to fund the library at $146,666.

A $1.2 million police department budget and a $401,513 fire department budget with little discussion.

Residents approved an ordinance for fire and life safety, but voted down another requesting building inspections and permits.

The Fire and Life Safety Ordinance gave the fire department formal authority to conduct safety inspections. Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said before the ordinance was passed Monday that the law gives the state fire marshal authority to inspect buildings to determine whether they are fire hazards or present safety issues, but the Farmington department generally conducts the inspections.

“We’re already doing this work, what this does is codify it locally,” said Kaiser. “Its’ just making it easier and more effective when it comes to this code.”

Fire Chief Terry Bell said the life safety ordinance also can help with the area’s Insurance Service Office ratings — the higher the rating is, the lower the cost of home insurance.

The building permit ordinance, which was voted down by all but one voter, would have required a permit from the code enforcement officer for construction, alterations or demolition work on structures in town. The fees for the permits would have varied by project. It also could have created a record of the construction that could be used to adjust property tax valuation on the property.

Residents who opposed the ordinance said it was another burdensome regulation without a clear reason why.

Attorney Paul Mills spoke at length in opposition to the article, saying that the ordinance would expand “already someone onerous requirements.”

He criticized the wording for not giving a deadline that the code enforcement officer would have to reply back to an application with a permit or rejection.

Kaiser said the ordinance was something periodically considered for the past 15 years to make the current system of building rules more unified, with a project registration form to supplant old ordinances.

Kaiser said the feedback from the town was helpful in going forward with any alternative plan in the future.

“If we do anything different in the future, I guess we might want to do a little more research,” said Kaiser.

In elections before the business meeting, budget committee member Matt Smith was elected unopposed to the Board of Selectmen and incumbent Iris Silverstein was elected unopposed to the Mt. Blue Regional School District board of directors.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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