Proposed Increase in Highway Budget Goes on to Committee

CHESTER – The board of selectmen passed the highway department’s proposed budget on to the budget committee after quick review Thursday, Jan. 23. The budget, as presented by road agent Mike Oleson, shows an 8.4 percent increase.

While budget review so far has seen the board give few numbers to the public during meetings, Oleson went through each of the lines he’s looking to increase, based on what he termed continued escalating costs around highway work.

Oleson is looking for a $10,000 increase to the road agent’s line, a line that he said is routinely overexpended each year. Instead of taking from other lines to make up that difference, Oleson is looking for more.

The line currently stands at $10,000. Last year it was overspent by $6,890.

The average over-expenditure in the overtime for employees line comes in at about $8,000, so he’s looking for that much more in the line.

Sand and gravel as well as the plowing line are looking at 10 percent increases, from $25,000 and $175,000 respectively. The salt line is looking at a $5,000 increase from $70,000.

Asphalt is up by $10,000, hired equipment by $5,000, coal patch by $500 and roadside clean up by $2,000. The latter is largely for tree removal work.

And 40 percent of the bottom line percentage increase is represented in summer costs, the rest in winter costs.

“This is just what I’m asking for,” said Oleson, noting that it was up to the board members to determine what they consider reasonable numbers.

The road agent went on to state that the rough winter has roads buckling everywhere, and that damage would have to be fixed.

“Harantis Lake Road now is Horrendous Lake Road. I’m afraid we’ll have to put $40,000 on asphalt over it,” said Oleson, pointing to just one of the town’s miles of roadway.

Oleson has long complained about the diminishing state of the roads, but hasn’t been very successful in getting voters to agree to pay to fix them during Town Meeting.

The board had few questions on Oleson’s requests, chair Steph Landau stating that the budget hadn’t gone up that much.

The highway department is also looking for $550,000 for roadwork in a warrant article as well as a new truck. Last year that truck, turned down in a warrant article, cost $185,000.

The road work article, on which Oleson will look to take $350,000 from an existing fund, the rest from taxation, will go to repair Fremont Road from Towle Road to the Fremont town line, and then Great Oak Drive.

Fremont Road would see a shim and overlay. Oleson noted that the road has severe cracking and needs to be fixed before it goes beyond the point of no return, when it would have to be reclaimed at a much higher cost. The other side of Fremont Road, which runs from Route 102, needs substantially more work, said Oleson.

Great Oak would be reclaimed.

The road agent noted that while he would have liked to have tackled East Derry Road or Harantis Lake Road, the cost is much higher and he thinks the taxpayers just wouldn’t agree to the larger sum.

“This is just a drop in the bucket,” said Oleson, after explaining that he seeks to complete roads before moving on to the next project. That way, he said, they’ll be maintenance free for years.

The 2005 dump truck Oleson wants to replace needed $20,000 in repairs last year, but so far it has made it through the winter.

Though a truck was on the warrant last year, Oleson did not want it, as he had no place to store it, but he can’t wait any longer, he said at last week’s meeting.

The question of storage led into a discussion about future needs for the highway department.

The board also made quick work of the assessing, planning board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, building inspector, street lighting, budget committee and treasurer’s budgets.

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