2017 was a good year for Andover in general. Our budget stood up to some challenges which were overcome by the 2017 plan and a bit of ingenuity. Many projects, bridges, roads, and upgrades to Town files and records were completed as anticipated.
There were some difficult moments, such as the October storm which caused so much damage town-wide; the brutal cold and snow from late December; and the surprise of White Oak Pit as presented to us from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT). Let’s start with White Oak Pit.
White Oak Sand Pit
DOT informed us midyear that White Oak Pit, where the Town has been getting its sand, was in fact state-owned property. This claim came as a complete surprise to the Select Board and the Town Administrator.
We challenged the State’s claim and reviewed land records, past Select Board and Planning Board notes, and input from a number of residents familiar with that area. Our Town legal counsel was presented with numerous questions surrounding state actions over decades.
The state has gone back to 1904 and railroad records; however, in our minds, there were numerous inconsistencies and misleading actions by the state. Bu, it appears the state is sticking to their claim. This issue is not resolved, and our challenge to the state will go well into 2018 and possibly 2019.
Due to the state’s position on White Oak, we are forced to look elsewhere for sand. Thanks to our Road Agent’s quick thinking, we have a local source for sand for 2018.
The cost for purchasing this sand is estimated to be $40,000, and that amount will show as an increase in the 2018 operating budget.
Roads and Bridges
We are pleased to report that the Andover Highway Department program begun three years ago with the hiring of two full-time employees and the purchase of a one-ton pickup truck has been very successful. We have been able to show savings in all of our projects by decreasing the high cost of contract work and having a one-ton available for hauling, patching, plowing, sanding, etc.
The project of restoring Old College Road is an example. The Town grader and a rented roller were operated by our Town employees. We saved $5,000 by not contracting this work out through BMI Paving Co.
Other labor performed by our employees and the use of the Town-owned one-ton truck saved an additional $3,119, for a total savings of $8,119.
These savings allow the Town to get more work done within our budget, showing greater value for our money. This is a clear example of the value of investment: putting money out up front for savings down the road.
The dirt portions of Chase Hill Road, Brick House Lane, Putney Road, Bradley Lake Road, and Peters Road were all ditched, with new culverts put in where needed. They were also uniformly resurfaced with four inches of material from our gravel pit. This makes them better able to withstand the forces of nature during flooding and freezing. We plan to continue the improvement of dirt roads next year.
Our main project for 2017 was the restoration of Old College Road.
Old College Road from Maple Street to Route 11 had extensive ditching and drainage work done in preparation for resurfacing. The project called for grinding up the existing road surface, adding material, and rolling it out. Time did not allow for resurfacing before winter so the project will be completed in the spring with funds remaining in the Special Projects capital reserve fund (CRF).
Maple Street Bridge received new decking and a new coat of paint and was reopened to vehicular use. Repairs were also made to Kearsarge Mountain Road Bridge, which sustained damage in the October flood.
Gale Road Bridge was scheduled for removal in 2017. However, we began receiving requests to keep it open for pedestrian and bicycle use.
Inspection by bridge engineers revealed that the bridge structures would support such limited use, and the Highway Department crew cleared off over a foot of dirt and vegetation from the surface to reveal a fully intact concrete surface. Rocks were placed at each end to prevent vehicular traffic, and the bridge is now open for pedestrian and bicycle use.
At last year’s Town Meeting, $65,000 was voted on for removal of this bridge. The money had been placed into the Bridge Improvement CRF and will be used on the Elbow Pond Road culvert that was washed out during the October flood. We plan to reopen that area of Elbow Pond Road as soon as possible.
Since Merrimack County did not qualify for emergency aid after the flood, we are fortunate to have that money available to use in this emergency.
Winter arrived on the heels of the flood, pushing two projects, Last Street Bridge and trimming trees on Maple Street, into 2018.
New Hampshire towns received an extra $86,000 from the Department of Transportation Highway Block Grant (Senate Bill 38) this year to be used on new transportation projects not previously scheduled. The Select Board would like to place the money in a special CRF to be voted on at the March Town Meeting. This will give us additional time to decide how to use the money.
Andover Town Offices Energy Upgrade
Thanks to the support of the majority of voters last year, the Town has completed its energy project on the Town Office and Andover Library building. The program we followed included:
• Conducting an energy audit
• Following recommendations of the energy audit, we insulated and sealed leaks.
• Bringing down electrical consumption by replacing conventional lighting with LEDs and replacing older appliances, such as the hot water heater, with new energy-efficient models
• Upgrading heating and cooling with new super-efficient heat pumps
• Adding solar to generate electricity, approximately equal to the amount the building will now consume after improvements
The insulation work done is expected to save the Town over $900 per year. New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) provided a 35% rebate on the work. With the rebate, the net cost of the insulation and sealing work amounted to only $3,123, making for a 3.3-year payback of the cost and a projected 20-year savings for the Town of over $16,000.
Andover Energy Group members worked with the Town Office staff to eliminate fluorescent tubes that were generating excess light, and then replaced all the building lighting with LEDs, which last 15 years on average. The cost to replace all the lighting in the building totalled $5,200. This work qualified for a 50% rebate from NHEC, so the net cost to the Town was $2,600, and the work will pay for itself in less than five years, saving an estimated $450 annually thereafter for the life of the LEDs.
New air-based heat pumps, typically three to four times as efficient as conventional heating and air conditioning, and are now designed to heat at full efficiency down to the frigid temperatures we get in New Hampshire. The Town used a hybrid approach, installing five heating/cooling pumps and keeping the oil burner for extra cold days and power outages.
The system cost was less than $10,000, taking into account a further efficiency rebate from NHEC, and the system should pay for itself in seven to nine years and save $1,000 per year for the Town after that.
In the meantime, Town Office staff report that they are far more comfortable in cold weather and hot. You can visit and see for yourself: the heat pumps are whisper-quiet, inside and out.
Finally, solar was added to generate electricity equal to the amount the building will now consume after improvements.
For the Town Offices, to minimize up-front cash outlay and to maximize the use of incentives, including tax incentives, the Town opted for a financing arrangement, called a Power Purchase Agreement, with the ability to buy the system at steeply discounted price after the sixth year of operation. The bottom line for the Town Offices is that the price of electricity will now be locked in at a low cost for many years to come, with the Town expected to save, under conservative assumptions, $50,000 over the 25+ year life of the panels.
Residents and others interested in our town can look forward to a new municipal Web site. The Town has contracted with Virtual Towns and Schools, a company used by many New Hampshire towns and cities. A representative met with the Select Board to present their product and showed us several of their Web sites for towns in our area. We will receive a better product, better service, and better security for a lower cost than we currently have.
A new metal roof was installed on the building, which was our biggest maintenance expense. The interior of the building was repainted with some help from the Merrimack County Jail Work Program.
In the Andover Library section of the building, the emergency exit in the children’s room needed to be replaced, and extensive rotting was discovered in the sill, which was also repaired. A leak was discovered in the foundation near the front entrance which required excavation work to repair it.
Still to be done is a new handicap ramp for the library, replacement of the main door to the Town Offices, and a window in the record room for Planning and Zoning.
Because the funds for building maintenance were depleted due to the amount of work done in 2017, the Select Board will be asking the town to vote on increasing funds available for maintenance both in the operating budget and in the CRF.
A new full-time position has been created by consolidating work in several departments. The Police Department Administrative Assistant, the Zoning Enforcement Administrator, the Planning and Zoning Coordinator, and the Recording Secretary for the Select Board will be rolled into one position. The interconnection and cross-referencing from one job to another will increase efficiency and communication.
The Select Board conducted a “dump sticker” check this summer. We found that most folks indeed had stickers, but at least 15 did not, and we found a few who had come in from out of town.
We also found that some residents are using one sticker for more than one vehicle. These stickers, which presently cost $5 for the lifetime of the vehicle, pay for some of the maintenance costs at the Transfer Station and the Town Beach. The buildings in both areas are aging and need repairs, and the beach needs new sand (with New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services approval).
Therefore, the Select Board is requiring, beginning May 1, a $2.50 charge on each passenger vehicle and truck registration annually. The Transfer Station/Beach sticker will be good for one vehicle for one year and will be paid for at the time of your annual vehicle registration.
Costs for disposal of construction and demolition debris and other recyclables are going up. Residents can expect to see these disposal fees increasing to cover the costs.
The tipping fee for solid waste remains stable at $68 per ton. Glass, which is collected separately, costs the town $30 per ton for disposal, and we encourage everyone to separate glass from their garbage. It saves the Town money, and keeping glass out of the incinerator in Penacook helps it burn more efficiently.
We enjoyed a low cost for single-stream recycling (SSR) most of the year at $42 per ton. The SSR market, however, remains volatile, and the cost has more than doubled for January, 2018. This is mostly due to China banning the import of recyclables. There are other markets, including India, Southeast Asia, and domestic markets, that could take these materials, so it’s a waiting game to see what will happen in the months to come. The current costs for solid waste and recycling are posted at the Transfer Station office window near the hopper.
As always, the Select Board appreciates all of the people who volunteer and/or participate in town affairs, whether it’s coming to Town Meeting, donating time or materials, picking up roadside trash after the winter snows have gone, contacting us to let us know how we’re doing, or being thoughtful and caring citizens in your own way. We all do our best to make this town one we can be proud of.