BENTON — Voters at a special town meeting Thursday will be asked to authorize up to $30,000 in additional funding for the town’s road budget, which has been exhausted more than two months before the end of the calendar year.

The meeting will be held at the town office on Clinton Avenue at 6 p.m.

In an Oct. 16 memo to selectmen, Treasurer Richard Lawrence said the town’s road budget had been entirely depleted by wages and expenses and had gone over the 5 percent overage allowed by voters at town meeting this year.

The town has $16,000 in outstanding payable accounts and may need additional money to pay for emergencies between now and the end of the year.

“Without a positive vote, all road spending must remain unpaid until January 1,” Lawrence said in his memo.

The Board of Selectmen has asked Road Commissioner Albert Giroux not to do any more non-emergency work on the town roads until the beginning of next year.

The additional funding will come from excise tax that people pay when they register vehicles with the town. The money will not be taken from the town’s cash reserves or require additional property taxes, said Selectman Melissa Patterson in an interview Monday.

In March, voters approved a $55,000 budget for summer road maintenance and a $123,000 budget for paving projects. Those two warrant articles make up most of the road commissioner’s overall budget for roadwork, excluding winter maintenance. The commissioner uses separate smaller accounts to maintain town cemeteries and cut back roads.

“He has his own budget he sticks to, and he stuck to it very closely,” Patterson said.

But emergency repairs and unexpected maintenance costs busted the budget this year.

Giroux, who was elected to a one-year term as road commissioner this year, replaced Todd Hunt, who did not seek re-election.

When he started, Giroux said he noticed that there was some routine maintenance work that had not been done in the past few years. Both Giroux and Patterson said former commissioner Hunt had been in poor health and didn’t get to some of the work in town.

Many of the issues he tackled were small things, like cutting back brush and tree limbs from the road and cleaning out ditches and culverts, Giroux said in a phone interview Monday.

“It’s numerous things that all add up,” he said. For example, ditching and culvert work typically costs $2,500 a year, but this year, it cost $10,500 because it had been neglected, Giroux said.

Then, there was the emergency replacement of a culvert on Richards Road. Earlier this year, he came across an unfamiliar crack in the pavement on the road, and on closer inspection, he found the 5-foot diameter culvert was almost completely broken through.

“It had started to cave in. It was only a matter of time before someone got hurt,” Giroux said.

But the expensive project had not been anticipated, leaving the town with unpaid bills.

“If we hadn’t had the big problem with the 5-foot culvert we had to replace, we would have made it to the end of the year,” Giroux said.

If approved, the supplemental funding will cover $16,000 in outstanding accounts payable for the Richards Road project and the remainder will be used for emergencies, Patterson said.

Although he has gone over budget this year, Giroux said it was for work that needed to be done, and he has also helped the town save money by closing Bog Road in town. No Benton residents live on the road, and it has a bridge with a 6,000 pound weigh limit, which means Benton vehicles have to come in from Bog Road in Albion to plow or grade the road.

“It’s not feasible.” Giroux said. “All it is doing is costing us money from the start.”

He said the town needs to put more money into its roads, and he will propose a $400,000 roads budget for next year to do all the work he thinks is necessary.

He isn’t concerned about the outcome of Thursday’s vote on supplemental funding, Giroux added.

“I’m not worried about it, if they want to let their roads fall apart that’s their choice, not mine,” he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.