Several proposals heard at Amherst deliberative

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Amherst town administrator Dean Shankle answers a resident's question during Wednesday's town deliberative session. At left is executive assistant Mary Guild.

AMHERST – A resident’s attempt to amend the town’s proposed warrant article that would cap the solar tax exemption at $30,000 fell short Wednesday night, mainly due to officials’ concerns over the legality of the wording of the amendment.

Shea Hardner, who proposed two amendments to warrant Article 35, said she brought the amendments forward because of concerns that passage of the article would negatively impact small business owners considering installing solar energy systems.

While most town officials present Wednesday said they prefer the idea behind Hardner’s amendments, a sentiment shared by a number of residents as well, town Attorney Bill Drescher’s concerns the amendment would likely “not pass legal muster” prompted the majority to vote against the amendments.

Article 35 therefore goes onto this year’s warrant as written, as do each of the other articles, including the proposed fiscal 2020 town operating budget and a new DPW mechanics’ garage.

Voters will now decide whether to approve or turn down each of the 18 articles when they go to the polls on March 12.

Voting takes place from 6-8 p.m. in the gym at Souhegan High School, 412 Boston Post Road.

Voters will also choose candidates for open seats in six town offices, but all of the incumbents are running unopposed.

They include two seats on the Board of Selectmen, for which current board Chairman Dwight Brew and Vice Chairman Peter Lyon are running for re-election. Both seats are three-year terms.

Likewise, incumbent Cynthia J. Dokmo is running unopposed for her cemetery trustee seat, which is a three-year term, while Robert Grunbeck is unopposed for the three-year term as trustee of the trust funds.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Larson, Stephen G. Mantius and Gretchen Pyles running for re-election as library trustees, and Robert Rowe and Danielle Pray are each running again for their seats on the Zoning Board.

The town’s proposed fiscal 2020 operating budget comes in at just over $14 million, a roughly $118,000, or 0.85 percent, increase over the current budget.

If voters on March 12 approve the budget and all the other articles that call for monetary appropriations, property taxes would rise 32 cents per $1,000 valuation, which would come to $112 more per year for a home valued at $353,000, which in Amherst is considered “a typical home.”

Should the budget be defeated, a default budget of about $13.8 million would be implemented, which would increase property taxes by 13 cents per $1,000 valuation, or $47 per year for the typical home.

A handful of residents also spoke Wednesday on the request by the Department of Public Works for $140,000 to construct a new mechanic’s garage at the DPW facility.

The existing garage, described by Selectman Tom Grella and Public Works Director Eric Hahn as too small to accommodate some town trucks, lacking storage and inadequate workspace, would be razed under the plan with the new, larger garage built on the same spot.

Residents on Wednesday also gave their blessing to three articles that, if passed by voters, would authorize the town to pursue state funding for future bridge repair or replacement projects.

Selectman John D’Angelo, who voted against a related article that would appropriate $200,000 for the town’s bridge repair and replacement capital reserve fund, said he did so because it involved taxpayer money.

“I have no problem with keeping our bridge work going, and I don’t object to spending money on those projects,” D’Angelo told residents.

“I just don’t think we should be raising (the funds) through additional taxes.”

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com, or @Telegraph_DeanS.