ANDOVER — Voters at Saturday’s town meeting decided against selling a 30-year-old firetruck, opting to have the incoming fire chief make a recommendation in the future.
The firetruck, a pumper/tanker, was proposed to be sold for a minimum bid of $5,000. But Jim Adler and Leo Camire, both candidates for fire chief to replace Justin Tibbetts, said the new chief should assess the truck and recommend options.
Adler said a previous estimated figure of $30,000 to make repairs on the truck was unnecessarily high, and other informal estimates have come in much lower.
Some residents were skeptical of keeping the truck, saying repair costs would quickly add up, but others argued it would be better to keep it at least for now, rather than potentially let it go for $5,000.
Selectman Jane Rich supported leaving the recommendation to the new chief, and the article was turned down.
Another article included a recommendation for taking $80,000 from the Surplus Account to reduce taxes, selectmen said.
Resident Wayne Delano, however, moved to approve the warrant article as worded, which was to use money in surplus over $140,000 for tax reduction.
Adler said that under state guidelines Andover should keep about $400,000 in surplus, the amount the town currently has, he said. He argued against taking money out.
Delano said that last year various town accounts had been overbudgeted, and he noted that a total of about $95,000 was sent to surplus.
The motion was defeated, but Delano followed up with another to use surplus funds over $250,000 to reduce taxes, calling it a fair compromise.
He also said that if the town needs money on a short-term basis, it can borrow through tax anticipation notes at an interest rate of about 1.5 percent, while charging taxpayers 8 percent on late taxes. “You’re gaining,” he said.
Others said they did not like the idea of borrowing to cover taxes that other people are not paying.
The motion was defeated, and with no others offered, the meeting moved on without approving the use of any funds to reduce taxes.
In other articles, townspeople approved selectmen increasing the wages of the road commissioner from $18 to $21 an hour, and the highway employee from $15 to $16 an hour. The select board has the authority to set the exact wages.
Also approved were 3 percent maximum-wage increases for most hourly employees, as well as for salaried employees.
Saturday’s meeting was the first of two town meetings this year. Another will take place in June as the town transitions to a July 1-June 30 fiscal year. As part of that transition many of the warrant articles at Saturday’s meeting covered only the first six months of 2018’s town operation.
One money article amended was Highway Operations. Selectman Mark Thurston asked that the town garage figure for six months be increased from $4,000 to $10,000 to cover the recent replacement of the furnace. It was approved.
Another six-month budget article, for operation of the Fire Department, was approved at $26,223, compared to last year’s full-year budget of $40,140. Thurston said some budgets, including the Fire Department’s have most of their expenses paid out in the first part of the year and therefore some requests appeared as more than half of what might be expected for a six-month budget.
On Tuesday, Andover voters will go to the polls to elect town officials. Polling hours are from noon to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.