Strong selectmen OK backhoe purchase

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STRONG — After six months of deliberations, selectmen approved the purchase of a new, $120,465 rubber-tire backhoe Tuesday evening.

Selectmen revisited the proposal to spend money from the equipment reserve fund to pay for the Highway Department’s choice of equipment. The agreement includes applying a $5,400 trade-in on the town’s old equipment and using the special equipment fund to make up the difference.

Voters in March approved spending up to $105,000.

According to Selectman Mike Pond, a Maine Municipal Association legal services department representative said using money from the equipment reserve fund was legal. The representative, Rebecca Warren Seel, agreed that taking the $9,000 balance from the reserve account was an appropriate action, he said.

The board can use the reserve fund money because “it is within the scope of the purposes for which the fund was established,” according to the email Pond read to selectmen.

He proposed taking $35,000 from that reserve account when the equipment was delivered.

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“It’s the job of this board to use the taxpayers’ wishes as efficiently as possible and carry out their wishes every way they can,” Selectman Dick Worthley said.

In other matters, Selectman Rodney Stiller presented information about potential costs to plow and sand sidewalks during the winter. He had agreed to do the research after resident Stephen Johnson asked selectmen to consider clearing the sidewalks during the winter.

Selectmen told Johnson in September that they shared his concerns about the safety of children walking in the road, but they said the town did not have the manpower or the equipment to do the job. They also were not sure the municipality owned the sidewalks and legally could or should assume the responsibility.

The town sidewalks would have to be sanded once they were plowed, and the widths were narrower than the equipment they’d be using. They also were concerned about blowing the sand, salt and snow back into property owners’ front yards that border Main Street.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re going to do anything this year,” Worthley said. “It’s too late for us to authorize that kind of money.”

Spiller said the town should expect to spend $90,000 to $110,000 to do the job in the future, and that did not include wages for an employee.

A resident has volunteered to draft a warrant article to bring the issue before voters in March 2018.

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