WELD — During almost three-and-a-half hours of debate Saturday, voters at the annual Town Meeting changed proposed budget amounts by $18,040. The approved 2021 budget of $661,074 is $41,954 more than the current budget, not including county and education components.

The selectpersons and budget committee members had recommended changing selectpersons’ pay from $12.15 per hour to an annual stipend. As proposed, two of the three selectpersons would receive $1,500, with the chair receiving $2,000.

“I’m glad it’s going to a stipend,” resident Laureen Pratt said. “The board is always available 24/7. It’s not an easy job. Previous to this, we have always had $10,000 set aside for the board.”

An amendment to increase the stipends to $4,000 for the chair and $3,000 for the other two selectpersons was approved.

The proposal to increase the transfer station attendant’s pay from $13 an hour to $13.50 an hour was also amended to $14 an hour.

“She’s (Judith Marden) always there, Easter, Mother’s Day, holidays,” resident Larry Fish said in making the amendment.

The increase meant $1,040 had to be added to the budget under transfer station/storage facility.

Under general government, $25,000 more was approved than the amounts proposed. $5,000 for the selectpersons’ pay increases and $20,000 was added to the $10,000 proposed for town legal fees.

Last year, $1,500 was budgeted for legal fees and almost $5,748 was spent, Pratt said. “Ten thousand isn’t enough,” she said in reference to higher-than-usual legal spending expected in 2021.

An ongoing issue with the Planning Board and Board of Appeals has needed legal counsel, Select Chair Richard Doughty said. AT&T is proposing to build a cellphone tower. The Planning Board approved AT&T’s application, but a group of landowners and concerned citizens have appealed the decision.

“It’s not finished yet,” he noted. “We were notified yesterday of a second appeal. This could proceed to the Supreme Court.”

Any money budgeted for legal fees that are not expended would lapse into surplus, Doughty said. Historically the town hasn’t needed legal representation other than for contracts, lease agreements, he noted.

AT&T encouraged the Planning Board to have legal representation and agreed to reimburse the initial consultation fees, Doughty noted. For that reason, the board is hoping some of the money spent last year may be reimbursed, he said.

The propane budget line for fire department/public safety was increased from $2,000 to $4,000. The fire station has a new propane heating system plus a new propane generator to keep equipment from freezing during power outages. Those additions had the current budget overspent for propane. The equipment hasn’t been used long enough for officials to know what the annual costs might be.

Heating the station should be similar to what is being used at the town office, which is also heated with propane, resident Tom Skolfield said.

“Propane generators take a great deal of propane,” he said. “It runs 24/7, (and) is needed to keep fire department equipment from freezing up when the power is out.”

To offset some of the increases, $15,000 proposed for the public works equipment reserve was lowered to $5,000. The account has $58,000 in it, Pratt said.

In other business, voters approved:

• Adding a full-time year-round heavy equipment operator to public works;

• Electing Budget Committee members to three-year terms as current terms expire;

• Giving municipal officials authority to open or close roads to winter maintenance;

• Proceeding with negotiations for a public/private partnership for broadband access availability to all 911 addresses.


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