EMBDEN — Voters will be asked this week whether the town should take over the work on all its roads by establishing its own Highway Department.

The town now contracts out all of the road work for winter and summer roads, so having a Highway Department will save the taxpayers money, supporters say.

The question is part of a referendum ballot to be voted on Friday, when polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Embden Town Office on Embden Pond Road. The Town Meeting and voting on the annual town budget are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Embden Community Center in the former elementary school.

Ballot voting on Friday also will include a contested race for one three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. Longtime Somerset County Commissioner and past town official Robert Dunphy is on the ballot, as is former Selectman Wayne McLaughlin.

Bonnie Baker is on the ballot for a one-year term as town clerk and treasurer. Ruth Blake is on the ballot for tax collector, also for a one-year term. Michael Witham is running for road commissioner for a one-year term. Terriann Lamontagne is running for a three-year term as assessor. The seat for a three-year term on the school board is vacant.

Write-ins will be accepted for all positions.

Article 4 on the voting ballot Friday asks Embden residents if they favor creating a town Highway Department, using the proposal developed by a four-member exploratory committee. The committee recommends passage.

Selectman Scott LeHay and residents Tim and Torry Wahler, all committee members, said the town now pays private contractors to tend to all of the winter and summer road work at a cost of nearly $490,000 annually.

The proposal developed by the committee has a projected annual operating budget of just over $330,000, once the town buys all the needed equipment and hires a crew. The change, if approved by voters, would take place in the spring of 2018. LeHay said in 2018 — the first year of the new plan — the town would need to spend about the same amount as in the past in order to purchase equipment and set the department up.

After that, he said, the town would save money every year.

“The committee feels that after the first year, we could save approximately $160,000 a year by forming our own Highway Department,” LeHay said in an interview.

Lehay said Witham, the town’s road commissioner, pays several local companies to do the summer road work. The winter roads contract currently is held, by bid, by Nitram Excavation and General Contractors, of Benton. In order to do the work, Nitram maintains a small fleet of trucks at the Embden sand and salt shed for easy access to town roads when it snows.

If approved, the highway plan would result in the hiring of a road foreman full time and a 40-hour-a-week laborer and truck driver. In the winter, another half-time person would need to be added to round out the crew.

Article 3 on the referendum ballot Friday asks voters whether to change the length of office for the town clerk and treasurer from one year to three years. The question also asks residents if they want to change the tax collector’s term of office from one year to two beginning in 2018, then to three years thereafter in order to stagger the terms.

A proposal at the 2016 Town Meeting to make the town positions of tax collector, town clerk and treasurer appointive rather than elective was rejected.

Voters also will be asked to transfer $37,189, which is the remaining balance from the School Administrative District 74 withdrawal expense account. The money would be used to pay for repairs to Slipp Road and Mill Stream Bridge. The proposal also includes taking $11,000 from excise taxes to do the work this summer.

Embden residents in November voted in favor of stopping the effort to withdraw from the North-Anson based school district. The vote was 294-227 to end the yearlong withdrawal process.

Spending articles on Saturday’s 42-article town warrant is expected to increase by about $27,650, up about 2.36 percent, according to LeHay. The approved spending package for the current year, not including schools and the county budget, was approved at $1,172,390 at last year’s Town Meeting, which 55 people attended. The projected amount for the coming year, if all articles pass as written, is about $1,200,041.

The current tax rare is $12.81 for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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