DURHAM — A single vote on a written ballot led to approval 78-77 for purchase of a new truck and snowplow package at the town meeting Saturday.

The decision will make $204,000 available for the truck by transferring $102,000 from the town’s Public Works capital fund and raising an equal amount through taxes.

Voters defeated another article in the town warrant which proposed the purchase of a firetruck with a total anticipated cost of $474,000. That measure failed 76-93.

Fire Chief William St. Michel told voters the funding sought for a new truck would replace a 1994 vehicle. He said that truck and a quint ladder firetruck bought used three years ago have passed all necessary inspections and are in serviceable condition. However, he said buying a replacement for the older fire engine “would be the prudent thing to do.”

Road Commissioner Calvin Beaumier said the condition of the Public Works Department’s seven trucks has reached the point that welding repairs cannot be made in some cases where solid metal can’t be found on a truck.

“If we don’t start replacing them, we’re really going to be in big trouble,” Beaumier said.

One voter called the trucks with snowplows “tired iron.”

Lengthy discussion took place regarding the vehicles’ issues. At times, six or eight voters were waiting in line for their turns at the microphone.

A standing count on the truck and snowplow vote was declared “essentially a tie” by moderator Gary Wood. He called for a written ballot, which showed the one-vote favorable decision.

The issue of written ballots, referred to as secret ballots by several speakers, came up early in the meeting when voters dealt with an article asking if all warrant articles over $40,000 be voted on by written ballot. The show-of-hands vote failed by a large margin, but voters still had the right to ask for written ballots.

Town officials estimated that written balloting on all of the articles involving $40,000 or more could increase the length of the meeting by as much as four hours.

A road construction and paving project amounting to $1,100,000 passed by an overwhelming margin in a show-of-hands vote.

Road Commissioner Beaumier said the work would be “modified rebuilds.” He said he is in agreement with drivers who find “much deterioration” in the town’s roads, but he warned against “the worst first” approach to repairs. He emphasized that maintenance on appropriately selected roads can be more efficient in the long run.

Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Wakeman said, “It’s going to be painful, but we’ve got to start rebuilding our roads.”

Articles relating to revision and adoption of the town’s land use ordinance and the historic district ordinance were passed.

Candace deCsipkes, chairwoman of the Historic District Commission, said the revisions to the ordinance deal mostly with conformity with the objectives of the historic designation, and a number of newer buildings in the protected area are not subject to the requirements.

The meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m., did not get underway until 9:30 a.m. and ran until 2 p.m.

Wood said he has been moderator for 34 years and believed it was the longest town meeting since school budgets were part of the deliberations.


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