SALEM — It was only 17 degrees outside, but that didn’t stop a hearty group of senior citizens from venturing out yesterday to grill their town manager about key local issues.
While some had questions about how their tax money is spent, others were concerned about losing town services.
By the time the 45-minute session at the Ingram Senior Center ended, many of the 21 seniors were satisfied with the answers they received from Town Manager Keith Hickey.
He outlined each of the 22 warrant articles voters will discuss at the town’s deliberative session Feb. 2.
Those articles total $46 million and will be voted on March 12. If all are approved, the town portion of the tax rate would increase 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Hickey said voters have some tough choices to make this year, deciding what the town can afford to spend on services.
“I’m not here to alarm anybody,” he said. “I’m trying to be honest with you.”
They also must decide which projects must be done right away or can be put off.
Those projects include spending $1.1 million to replace two “red-listed” bridges on Bluff Street and Providence Hill Road. Red-listed bridges are structures the state Department of Transportation has determined are in urgent need of repair.
Two other bridges in town are scheduled to be replaced next year.
Hickey also spoke of major work needed on Pond Street, prompting 88-year-old Russell Ingram to ask, “What’s your interest rate? Have any idea?”
It was one of about a dozen questions fielded by Hickey, who urged seniors to vote in favor of the proposed $37.5 million operating budget, instead of the lower $36.9 million default budget.
Failure to back the recommended operating budget could have a devastating impact, including town employee layoffs and possibly no Fourth of July fireworks or Memorial Day parade, he said.