Town Warrant Includes Vote on Bond for New Highway Garage

Voters are encouraged to attend Town Meeting

By Kimberley Brown Edelmann
Without a highway garage, vehicle maintenance is done outdoors.  This is highway department employee Mike Campbell working on an electric issue on one of the Highway vehicles as inclement weather approaches. Caption and photo: Kimberley Brown Edelmann

As I write this, it’s the end of my sixth week as Andover’s new Town Administrator. I’m not a resident of Andover, so as one might imagine, I’ve had to quickly learn a lot about various aspects of the Town. It’s been like drinking from a fire hose!

This is the current Highway Department office/break room/meeting room/kitchenette. Caption and photo: Kimberley Brown Edelmann

It’s clear the biggest challenge facing the Town is how to provide facilities for the Highway Department while limiting the tax impact to property owners. The Town voted to move away from the Road Agent model, committing to have its own Highway Department, including equipment and staff. The Town also voted in 2022 to set aside $650,000 towards constructing facilities including a garage and office space.

After a couple years of work, the Select Board now has architectural plans and a conservative construction cost estimate for the facility. The estimate is much higher than expected at just over 2.5 million dollars, but in line with what other Towns are seeing. If given the green light by voters, the plans will be put out to bid, builders will price the project, and the true construction cost will be agreed upon. Until the true costs are known, the Town must work with the estimate provided.

To reduce the potential tax impact, the Select Board decided to present voters the option of completing the project by funding it via a combination of a municipal bond, $400,000 in unassigned fund balance, and $250,000 in taxation. If approved at Town Meeting, bond funds would be available for use this summer and construction could get underway. The first bond payments would be due in 2024.

The Highway Department makes use of a portable toilet as their “bathroom facilities.” It is unheated and extremely basic. Caption and photo: Kimberley Brown Edelmann

The New Hampshire Municipal Bond Bank (NHMBB), created in 1977 by the New Hampshire legislature specifically to support municipalities with large projects, provided conservative interest rate quotes; competitive compared to other financial lenders. Using NHMBB rates for a 20-year bond, owners of a property assessed at $250,000 would pay $108 towards the new facilities in 2024, with annual contributions reducing to $53 in the final year.

If the bond article is voted down, the Town will be asked if they want to appropriate another $650,000 towards the Highway Department garage, as was done in 2022.

This year, the Town will also consider entering a six-year lease for a six-wheel dump truck.

The Operating Budget warrant article this year is set at $2,338,523. Other warrant articles ask the Town whether they want to appropriate funds towards capital and expendable trust funds that are considered most years. These include the Forest Fire Labor EFT, the Town Buildings ETF, the Transfer Station Projects ETF, the Revaluation CRT, the Highway Equipment CRT, the Highway Projects CRF, Police Cruiser CRF, and the Bridge Rehabilitation CRF.

This year, there are some unique articles voters will be asked to consider. One regards a $26,000 contract with Hoyle Tanner to provide a Bridge Evaluation and Bridge Capital Improvement Plan. Another asks if the Town supports having the Town Clerk receive benefits and additional wages. The Town will also be asked to readopt the Veteran’s Tax Credits RSAs as the programs were recently enhanced by the State.

The last article on the warrant is a petition presented by the Conservation Commission. They will be asking the Town to place a Town-owned property into a non-lapsing Conservation Easement.

Yes! There is a lot on the warrant this year. Come to Town Meeting, say hello, listen to the presenters, share your own thoughts, and vote.

And please say hello to the lady drinking from the fire hose.