Thursday, January 30, 2014

Police officers' salaries, historic district among items on Winchester warrant

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff

WINCHESTER — Abolishing the town’s historic district, preserving the local history museum and raising police officers’ salaries by 8 percent are among the 32 warrant articles voters will have an opportunity to vet at a deliberative session Saturday.
Residents will also have a chance to discuss the town’s proposed 2014-15 operating budget of $3,314,261, and $727,716 in additional spending earmarked for equipment, trust and capital funds.
Saturday’s meeting will be the only opportunity for residents to amend the budget and warrant articles before voting on them by ballot on March 11.
The proposed operating budget represents a decrease of $103,400, or 3 percent, from the 2013-14 budget of $3,417,661. It’s also identical to the default budget, which would take effect if voters reject the budget proposal.
The drop in the proposed budget came from savings realized when the town changed its health insurance plan, Town Administrator Shelly Walker said Tuesday.
The warrant also includes articles seeking to acquire a custom pumper fire truck for $440,000 through a lease-purchase agreement, and a dump truck with plow and sander for $135,201, also by means of a lease-purchase agreement. The fire truck would be paid for over seven years, while the dump truck would be paid for over five years, according to the warrant articles.
A warrant article, which selectmen have backed unanimously, asks voters to approve $28,576 to increase the salaries of Winchester Police Department employees by 8 percent to “be more competitive and in line with other like sized communities.”
Among 10 petition articles making the town meeting warrant this year is one seeking to abolish the town’s Historic District Ordinance.
The ordinance, which town meeting voters passed in March 1997, created two historic districts and a commission to regulate those districts.
Proponents of the warrant article say the commission has overstepped its bounds on many occasions, and that some of the requirements to preserve historic buildings aren’t financially feasible for private property owners.
Opponents say the commission’s oversight is necessary to preserve a town that has already lost a lot of its history.
A second petition warrant article asks voters to appropriate $5,000 for the Winchester Historical Society, to be used to operate and maintain the Sheridan House. The house contains a museum of the town’s history.
The selectmen and budget committee don’t recommend voters approve the warrant article.
Another petition warrant article seeks to designate a portion of Old Westport Road as a scenic road. The section of road is from Howard Street to the Coombs Bridge.
A staple on the warrant for many years, voters are again being asked, by means of a petition warrant article, to raise $50,000 to subsidize youth recreation programs at the ELMM Community Center.
The warrant finishes with five zoning articles dealing with topics including home businesses, extending the time period for special exceptions and function halls.
The deliberative session will begin at Saturday at 9 a.m. at Winchester Town Hall, 1 Richmond Road.

Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.

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