Proctor passes town money items
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 05,2013
PROCTOR — Voters quickly and decisively passed more than $1 million worth of town, highway and library funding on Monday.
But many residents found it hard to swallow the Select Board’s explanations for the town’s over-budget water project and their consideration of a proposed salt shed, which could be built over the town’s aquifer.
By unanimous decisions, voters approved a general fund budget of $748,835 and a highway budget of $409,187. The proposed $63,846 library budget received one “nay” vote and more than 100 “yay” votes.
Those spending articles combined represent a $15,472 decrease from the budgets approved by voters last year.
But despite the decreased spending, town officials projected a new tax rate of 0.9016 per $100 of assessed value — a slight increase over this year’s tax rate of 0.8980 per $100 of assessed value.
The reason for the increased tax rate, according to Selectman Vincent Gatti, is that the town’s grand list saw a slight decrease in value and the town removed delinquent taxes from its revenue line in accordance with newer accounting standards.
After working quickly through the budgets, residents became divided over the Select Board’s handling of some issues — especially the townwide water project which was described in an anonymous letter circulated to town residents as being more than $3 million over budget.
Select Board Chairman Eric “Rick” Anderson said he didn’t think the cost overrun was that high and he defended the board’s handling of the project, funded by a $6.1 million bond.
“We as a board have a big problem with this,” Anderson said referring to the unsigned letter. “It’s mostly rumors and half-truths and personal agendas ... I feel that accusations are being made to undermine your Select Board.”
The debate over the letter wasn’t over at 8:25 p.m. — roughly a half-hour into the time of the meeting set aside for discussion of the school budgets and issues.
Many of the complaints, including claims that the town was being fleeced by the engineering company it hired to design the new well-based water system, couldn’t be directly addressed, said Anderson, who added there were a multitude of legal issues, which if discussed would “come back to haunt us.”
The Select Board members seemed to have the support of the majority of the residents in the gymnasium, most of whom cheered when a woman stood up and asked why the board should have to respond to anonymous accusations.
But the division in the room was made clear on a vote regarding a $20,000 appropriation of funds to a sinking fund to build a new salt shed.
After board members confirmed that a gravel pit on Field Street near the town’s underground water supply was one of the site’s the board is considering — and which town officials said they are negotiating with OMYA Inc., to buy — a number of residents, including the town’s retired road commissioner, Warren McCullough, said they were opposed to putting a salt shed on the site. Despite the opposition, the $20,000 request passed by a vote of 82 to 33.
“I am 110 percent against any salt shed going anywhere near Field Street,” said McCullough who served as road commissioner for more than 30 years before retiring in 1997. “Please people, remember it’s the only water source we have and will ever have for the town of Proctor.”