TOWNSEND -- Selectmen came a step closer Jan. 14 to determining how to fund necessary improvements on the town's roads.
The board decided that rather than including major road repair as either a part of the Highway Department's operational budget or the town's capital plan, a separate appropriation article should be put on the warrant each year at Town Meeting to pay for the improvements.
This way, selectmen said, the voters would know exactly where the money is going.
Small patching jobs, such as filling potholes, could be included as an operational expense, selectmen Chairwoman Sue Lisio said.
The discussion came as the result of a Capital Planning Committee meeting on Jan. 9 in which that committee asked selectmen to clarify whether they should be considering road repair as part of the capital plan or if the Finance Committee should allocate the money as part of the budget.
At that meeting, Highway Superintendent Ed Kukkula had asked for $150,000 in road repair funds to be put on the plan.
Selectman Colin McNabb said that Kukkula has made the same request every year, but it has never been granted.
"With the cuts that have been happening to Ch. 90, he's been trying to get as much as possible to improve the roads in town. So the discussion came up at the last capital planning meeting as to whether that should even be put before capital planning," McNabb said.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan suggested making the appropriation a separate Town Meeting article, as it wasn't being funded through either capital planning or the Finance Committee.
Selectmen did not discuss whether road repair costs could be funded without a Proposition 2 1/2 override, which both said earlier in the meeting they would not support.
The board also discussed modifications to the way the CPC operates.
"I think the committee is getting overly hung up on what they perceive to be not enough money," Sheehan said. "Every board, department and committee would like to have more money, and we're living with a finite amount of money. I think maybe in the future we shouldn't give capital planning a finite amount of money. They would be better served if they rank the projects according to need, and get a number after that."
Selectmen also decided to work on amending the town bylaw relating to the CPC in order to present a revision to voters at Town Meeting.
Lisio suggested the revisions several weeks ago after a decision made by the CPC to keep a proposed new fire station project off the capital plan kept it from going before voters at November's Special Town Meeting.
Although she said she didn't think the committee had intentionally blocked the project, she was disappointed with the result.
"I'd like to work with the attorney on wording that to try to meet what we think was the intent, because I don't think that Town Meeting intended that an advisory committee could prevent something from going to Town Meeting. Just to be clear, I don't think that was intentionally done, but it was the result of the discussion," Lisio said.
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