Selectmen propose 8.6% hike in Sanbornton road budget

SANBORNTON — Selectmen have approved a $781,000 Highway Department budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, an amount $62,000 (8.6-percent) higher than what was approved for the current fiscal year.

The approved amount, which still has to be vetted by the Budget Committee, reflects an increase in $10,000 for an administrative assistant said Selectman Karen Ober.

Ober said last week she recalls a part-time administrator being added to the Highway Department budget at least five years ago but the position was housed in the town offices because there was no space in the old highway garage.

She said she knows about the position because her husband Steve was a selectmen at the time and she applied for it.

"Of course, I didn't get it," she said with a laugh.

Ober said she thinks that when one town administrator left — some time around 2007 — and another took over, there was an assumption that the position was for the administration branch and not for the Highway Department.

Now that the town has a new highway department building, she said there is office space for the administrative assistant.

Other proposed increases in 2014-2015 are an additional $7,000 for roller rental. She said the department rents a roller in the spring but the additional $7,000 will allow the roads to be rolled in the fall as well as the spring.

Ober also said selectmen added $12,000 to the vehicle repair and maintenance line. She said historically, the department has spent about $45,000 annually and the increase reflects the true amount spend on repair and maintenance.

She said the Board of Selectmen also voted to increase the construction materials line and the line for sand and salt. For the past two years, she said the salt and sand line has been over-expended from the $100,000 that was budgeted.

She also said selectmen added an addition $13,000 in the materials line that will enable the department to buy more gravel for the roads.

The increases to the Highway Department budget were not unanimously supported, Ober noted, saying that selectman David Nickerson voted against them. Chair Guy Giunta joined her in the majority

The review for the Highway Department budget comes at an interesting time in town, because as this budget was being prepared, the Highway Privatization Committee continues its work.

The goal of the privatization committee is to evaluate Sanbornton's needs verses what it is spending now and see if it is more economical and appropriate to subcontract road maintenance to a private operator.

As it stand now, the Budget Committee is scheduled to review the Selectman's proposed budget on January 28 at 6 p.m.

The proposed highway budget does not include the budget for the transfer station which is proposed by selectmen at $127,413.