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Town officials in Warren approved the 2011 capital budget at a public hearing held Tuesday, January 25. This year's capital budget includes a $10,000 increase in town building renovations that sparked debate among select board members about unanticipated expenditures.
For the past several years, the town has budgeted $20,000 for building
renovations; funds aren't allocated to any project specifically and
historically have been used to cover unanticipated repairs to town
buildings as well as upgrades.
Select board member Bob Ackland said he'd "like to know where the money is planning on going. We're asking voters for a cushion. If you didn't have the cushion, we wouldn't have spent the money."
Select board chair Andy Cunningham listed the town's library move as a project that was paid for with capital funds set aside over the past several years; he said the capital funds are used for town improvements. "The funds aren't specific until this body gives it a specific use."
Among the examples, Cunningham said, were that "it could be for lighting in the town garage, a gazebo, matching funds for a park and ride, those kinds of things."
Ackland said, "We're sitting here with a major road problem. We should be putting the dollars where they need to go instead of a gazebo. We need to look at the totality of it. I'm not sure we have that."
Select board member Anson Montgomery said, "Road projects are notorious for sucking up money and getting little bang for our buck. We can't say that everything else can't get any money. We do need to fund the roads; it's a problem. It doesn't mean other things aren't important; buildings are infrastructure too."
Warren Department of Public Works director Barry Simpson gave the East Warren Schoolhouse as an example where capital funds are often used to maintain the building.
"I unthawed the pipes at the East Warren Schoolhouse recently. Those pipes have been freezing every winter since I lived there in 1968," he said.
Cunningham said, "We're not doing things that are frills; they really need to be done. I say we leave $30,000 in the building renovations capital budget; it can be changed from the floor at Town Meeting."
The 2011 capital budget also includes a new line item for $10,000 for firefighter training and personal equipment to be allocated to the Warren Fire Department. The capital budget totals $420,500.
Cunningham moved to approve the capital budget. All were in favor; Ackland abstained.