Lyndeborough community power model headed to warrant

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 01-31-2024 12:53 PM

Lyndeborough is looking for funds to prepare for a repair to Citizens’ Hall and to implement a community power program on this year’s warrant.

Following a public hearing on the budget Tuesday, the Select Board made no changes to the proposed articles and approved them for Town Meeting.

The town’s operating budget this year is set at $2.64 million, which is about a 7.1% increase from the current budget. Town Administrator Russ Boland said many communities are dealing with sharp increases this year, due to rising costs across the board.

Budget drivers in Lyndeborough include the costs for ambulance services from Wilton Ambulance, which are up from $64,732, to $101,036. The cost for elections is also up this year, due to having four elections between primary, general and town elections.

The town is looking to reduce part-time pay for the Highway Department in order to accommodate an additional full-time employee for the highway, and is planning to add a 20-hour part-time position to the town offices for the purpose of assisting with planning and assessing functions. Employees across the board were given a 3% cost-of-living adjustment.

Articles include community power plan

Lyndeborough is one of several communities this year to have community power on the warrant, after multiple communities adopted the model last year. Community power is a model that allows a group – in this case, Lyndeborough citizens or Lyndeborough and other cooperating towns – to pool buying power to negotiate for electricity rates and often have options for more energy from renewable sources.

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While entering the program is not mandatory, typically community power models enroll all citizens who are currently on Eversource’s default power plan, unless residents manually chose to “opt out” of the program, done through a town-wide mailing prior to the roll-out of the program.

Boland said the town had yet to choose a vendor, or join an existing cooperative, but would make those decisions following Town Meeting.

Funds related to upcoming work on Citizens’ Hall are on the agenda this Town Meeting, with the town requesting $10,600 for a structural design related to eventual repairs of the building. The funds would be available for use through the end of 2025 for structural repairs that are affecting the first floor of the building.

“The good news is we’ve had an engineer look at the building and it is stable, but there is a beam in the basement that is unstable, resulting in the floor being depressed,” Boland said. “It’s occurred over a long period of time.”

The town will be seeking a company with experience working on historical buildings when it comes time to do the repair, and will likely be applying for grant funding through the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or similar programs when it comes time to do the actual work, Boland said. The town does not yet have an estimate for the total cost of the repair.

Some department equipment is expected to be replaced this year, including vehicles for the police and highway departments. The Police Department is looking to purchase a new vehicle this year, with some of the funds raised during previous Town Meetings. The town is looking to use $17,375 in unexpended funds to replace the cruiser, in addition to $19,000 raised in 2021, $20,500 approved in 2022 and $10,250 raised in 2023, for a total cost of $67,125.

The Department of Public Works is also looking to use a portion of funds previously raised, as well as the unassigned fund balance, for the purchase of a new backhoe. The total cost of the backhoe is $185,000, the majority of which – $125,000 – is requested to come from reserves, with the remaining $60,000 from the unassigned fund balance. No money would be raised from the coming year’s taxation.

In a separate article, the town is also seeking to change the purpose of the fund, which is specific to reserving money to replace the “2008 backhoe” to a more general “repair and replacement of the backhoe.” Changing the intent or purpose of a capital reserve account requires a two-thirds majority of those present at Town Meeting.

Both articles authorizing the purchase of new equipment also allow the sale or trade of the vehicles being replaced.

Multiple articles are requesting funds to add to existing capital reserve accounts for future replacement of equipment, with several articles using funds unspent at the end of the current fiscal year, rather than using the coming year’s taxation.

Among those articles that would use reserve funds are a request for $26,000 for the reserve to replace or repair the 1997 Fire Department pumper, $37,000 for the fund to replace or repair the 2005 pumper and $20,000 for the reserve for the repair or replacement of the 2002 John Deere grader.

There is also a request for $15,000 to be added to the repair and replacement of general Fire Department equipment, which would come from this year’s taxation.

The town is seeking to adjust its veterans’ tax credit this year, raising the credit from its current level of $500 to up to $750.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.