Preston residents to vote on capital projects, trooper Tuesday

Preston — Voters will get the chance Tuesday to decide whether to hire a second resident state trooper for the remainder of the current fiscal year and whether to approve a proposed $3.56 million five-year capital projects plan.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the lower level of Preston Town Hall, 389 Route 2.

The first question asks voters whether they support a proposed $3.56 million capital projects plan that would cover purchases of firetrucks, school buses, Public Works and fire equipment and school improvements.

The plan contains $1.15 million for the fire department, including $550,000 to replace a 1989 pumper firetruck, $360,000 to replace a 1993 tanker firetruck, $40,000 to replace a first-responder service truck and $205,000 for 23 self-contained breathing apparatuses.

School transportation costs would total $1.2 million, including $981,100 to replace 11 school buses, spread out over five years, starting with three new buses the first year. Two nine-passenger vans would cost $77,600 and a wheelchair-lift-equipped vehicle, $77,000. The package includes $95,000 to repave the bus garage parking lot.

School improvement projects total $595,881, including $187,500 to repair the Preston Plains Middle School roof, $110,000 to repair the middle school parking area, and $105,110 to upgrade science labs, which have not been updated since the middle school was built in the 1960s, Board of Finance Chairwoman Melissa Lennon said at a town meeting on the proposals. Replacing 165 lockers at the middle school would cost $28,500.

At the Preston Veterans’ Memorial School, the plan includes $118,000 to replace the 10-year-old gymnasium floor and $46,771 to resurface the playground.

In October, residents narrowly rejected, by 14 votes, a $3.84 million capital projects plan that included many of the same purchase requests. The Board of Finance and Board of Education reduced and eliminated several items for the second attempt.

The $47,000 needed to hire a second resident state trooper through June 30 did not need a referendum. But the Board of Selectmen voted to include the question on the referendum ballot to allow more residents to weigh in and allow town officials to gauge voters’ opinions prior to setting the 2018-19 town budget.

The proposal to hire a second resident state trooper has been discussed numerous times since last spring’s budget deliberations. The Board of Finance removed the funding for that item from the selectmen’s budget in spring, and despite support for the position during the budget town meeting, voted to fund only one trooper.

In October, residents filed a petition seeking to re-instate the second trooper position, and residents overwhelmingly approved it at a Nov. 1 town meeting. Delays in allocating the funds reduced the cost by shortening the time remaining in the current fiscal year. Residents offered mixed opinions at the Jan. 25 town meeting preceding Tuesday’s referendum.

c.bessette@theday.com

To vote

Preston referendum:

When: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6

Where: Preston Town Hall, 389 Route 2

Question 1: To appropriate $3,560,000 for 2018-22 capital projects plan.

Question 2: To appropriate $47,000 for an additional resident state trooper for the remainder of the 2017 -18 fiscal year.

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