SEABROOK — Voters will face many costly issues when they go to the polls on March 11, including an 8.6 percent increase in the operating budget and more than $2 million in funding requests. If passed, they would affect the tax rate, but selectmen say the items represent some vital town needs.
Unlike other years when selectmen said passing the budget was their highest priority, this year they believe a new ladder truck for the fire department tops the list of what the town needs the most. However, Question 14 on the warrant, the $175,000 request for the first installment on the five-year lease for an $875,000 platform ladder truck, is one of only two questions not recommended by the Budget Committee.
According to selectmen, the town needs the ladder to fight local fires effectively and safely, especially those at many sizable structures, like multi-story buildings at its apartment complexes, big-box retail stores at its shopping centers, as well as the school.
The new ladder truck would replace the fire department’s shorter quint ladder engine, which is more than 20 years old. Selectman Aboul Khan believes the quint is so old that, given its problems, without a new ladder the town would not be well protected. Selectman Ed Hess said if the new ladder truck isn’t approved, property owners could see their fire insurance premiums rise.
Should voters OK this year’s installment, the remaining four payments would become part of the fire department’s operating budget over the next four years. The town would only use all the money if requests for federal grants to help with the costs are unsuccessful.
If no grants are obtained, the cost equals about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on the tax rate this year, as well as over the life of the lease.
The fire department has two other sizable requests in the warrant, which together with the ladder total half a million dollars. Article 12 requests $75,000 for building repairs and upgrades to the 30-year-old fire station, the first phase of what is expected to be a two-year plan of upgrades. Article 13 requests $250,000 to remodel the station’s dispatch center and replace all its communications equipment to meet changing technology.