Elmore needs more

A house divided cannot stand. The same could be said for Elmore’s town garage.

The garage is currently supported by three 2-by-4s held together with nails, Brian Lane-Karnas, a civil engineer at DeWolfe Engineering, told voters at Elmore’s annual town meeting on Tuesday.

The select board talked with DeWolfe Engineering about options and costs for repairing or replacing the garage. Lane-Karnas, who inspected the garage, told voters the building’s in dire condition.

According to Lane-Karnas, regulations require sloped roofs to have a weight-bearing capacity of 25 pounds per square foot. The town garage, he says, could hold “4 pounds per square foot in the front,” and only half as much in the back.

The select board’s initial thought was to add support to the roof, by building “a new steel-frame building inside the wood-frame building,” Lane-Karnas said. However, just the metalwork would cost $120,000, maintenance notwithstanding.

“Things have been done that probably never should have been done to that building,” said Michel Lacasse, town agent and road commissioner. “We’ve made it work, and that’s the only thing we’ve ever really done to it.”

Select board member Robb Wills, who worked closely with Lane-Karnas, said starting over with the town garage may be the best bet.

“We’re not building it for today; we’re building it for the next 50 years,” he said. The final decision will be left to a future town vote, but, he said, “ideally we would be doing construction next summer.”

Voters approved the town budget of $859,768.36, up 2.87 percent from the prior budget of $835,764.48.
Voter topics discussed included pay for the town lister and the zoning administrator/health officer, and computer support costs. Those items are up $2,000, $4,300 and $6,500 respectively in the town budget.
“We underbudgeted last year,” Sharon Draper, the town clerk, said of the lister’s work in assessing town properties. “It’s a big job.” The job paid $10,525 in 2018, only $9,000 in 2019, and the $11,000 proposal puts the job at a level deemed more appropriate.

As for the zoning administrator, Kristen Rose, she explained that new laws require her to check finished projects to make sure they comply with regulations. “All these projects have to be … re-looked at,” she said.

The priority is prevention over punishment, the select board said. Residents “need to understand what those requirements are, what they can and can’t do,” said select board chair Caroline DeVore.

Of the computer support costs, Draper cited cybersecurity as a leading reason for higher costs. “They have to increase their rates, and I can’t do the job without their help,” she said.

Some confusion developed regarding the wording for the Elmore Fire Department’s budget. Brent Hosking, the fire chief, explained the large cost by saying, “So if we need an IED, we can buy that.” After the crowd stopped laughing — Hosking meant AED — he directed citizens to page 20 of the town report and walked them through the fire department’s budget proposal for the year. None of the spending was allocated for improvised explosive devices.

Re-elected without opposition: Town Moderator Jon Gailmor, Devore as a select board member, and Sharon Draper as town clerk and treasurer.

In the town’s sole municipal ballot item, voters authorized a local option tax on short term rentals, 254-90. The new tax will add 1 percent to the cost of rentals on Airbnb and other sites, with the revenue going to the town’s capital improvement fund.