Board trying to figure out equipment maintenance plan

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STRONG — Selectmen on Tuesday discussed ways to address the long-term costs of purchasing and maintaining highway equipment.

In the past, taxpayers have been reluctant to raise and appropriate more money for the highway crew, but lack of essential tools and modern maintenance equipment means that routine jobs take much longer than necessary, according to one selectman.

Selectman Rob Elliott asked Highway Foreman Duayne Boyd about his maintenance schedule for equipment. Elliot suggested that such a plan that would save money over the life of the vehicles.

Selectman and Highway Department liaison Mike Pond said some of the problems will require more funding. He explained that when he first started as the department’s liaison, he learned they were using an outdated grease gun that was hard to operate and they were keeping nuts and bolts in cans on a shelf.

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He told selectmen the Highway Department needs to be “brought into this century.”

“We’ve got a couple of air jacks, but at $1,500; it’s hard to stay ahead,” Pond said. “You’ve got to get them equipment to work with.”

Pond said some of the jobs require very specific equipment, especially for painting and sanding.

The federal Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s safety standards require personnel to use approved equipment, he said.

Still, painting won’t save older equipment, like snowplows that are 10 to 15 years old, Pond said. Work trucks have gotten bigger, he noted, and the equipment garage was built when the trucks were much smaller.

Boyd told selectmen that some of the maintenance, like washing the salt off the trucks, can’t be done when the weather is cold. Sometimes equipment has to stay outside, as well.

“If we can’t get a truck into the garage, we have to deal with frozen sand,” he said.

Selectmen agreed to review options to address these challenges.

Elliott suggested that Boyd could use a bay in his commercial garage, rather than leaving a truck outdoors next winter.

In other business, selectmen interviewed three candidates for library director and agreed on a starting hourly wage of $11.50 an hour. They agreed to hire Erica Ouellette of Strong when Cheryl McCleery retires in May. Ouellette is McCleery’s substitute when she is absent.

In another matter, town Treasurer Sandra Mitchell told selectmen she mailed 30-day past-due notices to 90 property owners who have unpaid taxes.

“That’s about normal for this time of year,” she said.

Selectmen also agreed to support the community’s baseball teams with a $600 donation.

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