By Kara Herlihy

The Warren Select Board approved, for a second time, spending a quarter million dollars on a fire department support van and road department backhoe.

The board convened Tuesday evening, March 25, to re-discuss the two major purchases: a support van for the fire department and a backhoe. Both items are projected capital reserve expenditures.

The select board met with fire department representative Chris Kathan and road foreman Richard Robinson at their last meeting, March 11, and for a second time on March 25 because newly appointed chair Burt Bauchner said he did not feel comfortable spending nearly $250,000 without the public scrutiny of the local media -- not present on March 11.

The two capital expenditures were unanimously approved at the March 11 meeting as well as at the March 25 meeting of the select board. Fire department representative Chris Kathan said he was "frustrated" that he had to return a second time to discuss the matter a second time.

The fire department van will replace a 1986 vehicle that is rusted out and "deteriorating" according to Kathan. The vehicle will carry oxygen and rescue materials and costs up to $150,000. The John Deere backhoe's net cost is estimated around $79,000.

Road crew member Butch Hartshorn said, "If <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> wants it, they can get it; it's public record." Town resident Rudy Elliott and Hartshorn both questioned why the public hearings and meetings over capital expenditures were not properly warned in time for the meetings.

Bauchner said they were in fact publicly warned and that select board meetings in Warren are "notoriously" devoid of public attendance and participation.

It is the responsibility of the select board to provide legal notices of public hearings and meetings for warning in time for said events.

Members of the Warren Planning Commission were also present for a public hearing for proposed amendments to the Warren Land Use Development Regulations. Warren residents Butch Hartshorn and Rudy Elliott expressed their concerns as to the legality of the town's procedures over land use regulations.

"I'd like to know just what you're up to," Elliott said.

Bauchner assured Elliott and Hartshorn that the town has always acted rightly with the law, and the proposed amendments to the land use regulations were in fact administrative in nature and mostly for clarification's sake.

Select board member Barry Simpson said that the zoning changes "were a clarification of what we had before."

Elliott asked why the town wasn't voting on the zoning regulations, and not just the five select board representatives. Members of the planning commission said that the state statutes give authority to the towns, and if they so choose, residents could petition for five percent of the voters and have it changed.