HEBRON – Voters will decide how best to keep their roads clear at a special town meeting this month.

The selectmen and Budget Committee met Wednesday night to discuss options to replace one of the town’s three plow trucks, which failed inspection earlier this year due to a splitting frame. Selectman Jim Reid said officials discussed the issue for about three hours.

Selectman Dan Eichorn said the town will decide whether it wants to purchase a new truck, a used truck, or to contract plowing services along a route.

Reid said it will cost about $35,000 to buy a state surplus truck and outfit it with plow gear. Another possibility would be to purchase a used truck in the $90,000 range. He said a new 10-wheeler truck was displayed by an Augusta dealership Wednesday and the cost would be annual payments of $33,000 for five years, or $165,000.

“What I’m kind of against right now is purchasing the brand new truck because of the cost. The town has a lot of debt,” Reid said Thursday. “Ultimately it’s whether the town wants a tax increase or not.”

Reid said the town increased its budget approximately $70,000 this year, and the tax rate of about $19 per $1,000 of assessed value goes up $1 for every $40,000 increase in spending.

Eichorn said Thursday that trucks available for $35,000 tend to be 10 to 15 years old, while more expensive newer used trucks are more difficult to find. He said a new truck will have lower maintenance costs than an older one, which might not last long before needing replacement.

“In terms of having the least impact on the town, buying the new truck has the least impact in the short term,” Eichorn said.

Reid said there is an option of beginning payments on the new truck in 2009, and that the Budget Committee recommended $28,000 from an escrow account be put toward the purchase of a truck. However, he said the option does not get the town past 2010, when two existing loans mature.

Eichorn said the delayed first payment on a new truck means the purchase will have no impact on the 2008 fiscal budget, while the escrow funds will minimize the effect of the purchase.

“It has the potential to hit us hard in 2010,” he said, but added that the tax situation in that year would be impossible to predict.

Voters at this year’s annual town meeting defeated an article seeking $35,000 to outfit a state surplus truck.

Eichorn said the special town meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 22.

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