August 15, 2008
Economy Holds Up Public Projects in Goffstown
By STEPHEN BEALE
GOFFSTOWN - The ailing economy has led an influential planning committee this summer to postpone several significant town projects.
For the past four years, the conservation commission has asked for a bond to buy open space land and, for the fourth year in a row, the chances of such a bond appearing on the 2009 ballot are slim. The commission had asked for a $2 million next year, but the Capital Improvement Planning committee pushed it out to 2014 in the plan, which it updates every summer as a guide to the town and school governing bodies.
Members of the CIP committee said they were reticent about asking voters to approve large expenses for the town when they were facing higher costs in their personal lives.
“Overall I think the consensus of the CIP committee was that we were very cognizant of the economic conditions,” said selectman Scott Gross, one of the members. “In cases where we thought we could defer a project we certainly tried to do that.”
Nearly every area of town government was affected by the deferrals. The library said it wanted to buy some land and expand its building in 2010, but the CIP committee instead slated the $2.8 million project for 2012. Construction of the new town fire station, estimated at $4.8 million, is set for 2010, even though the plans will be done this fall and the land could be purchased next year.
Again and again the minutes from the four meetings the committee held in the past two months show repeated efforts to lighten the load for voters and taxpayers in the near future.
Among the other delays recommended by the committee were: a $125,000 Public Works dozer moved from 2009 to 2011, a $280,000 Sterling Vaccon truck from 2010 to 2012, the Rosemont drainage project from 2009 to 2011, and the $234,000 engineering work for the reconstruction of North Mast Road and Main Street from 2010 to 2011, according to the meeting minutes.
Fred Plett, a long-time member and former chairman of the committee, warns that there is a cost to postponing projects. “You can keep cutting short-term then it all builds up and then in the long-term you have to address a worse cost,” Plett said.
But even Plett said he thought the short-term cuts were appropriate this year to avoid hitting financially-strapped residents with high tax bills next year. He said he could relate to other people in town who were struggling with rising utility and transportation costs. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this winter paying oil bills so I put in a wood pellet stove and I’m not alone,” Plett said.
In some cases, however, the committee avoiding waiting on some town projects. The committee voted 4 no and 3 yes to move a $125,000 recycle trailer compactor from 2010 to 2011.
The committee also changed its mind on a $1.2 million ladder truck replacement. After saving it for 2011, members put it for 2010. Gross noted that the town has only one ladder truck, which is 20 years old. “I don’t think we can fool around with that one,” Gross said.