This year, Warren will once again hold elections via Australian (paper) ballots and not hold an in-person Town Meeting on March 1, 2022. The town offered two opportunities for residents to ask questions and learn more about what will be on the ballot. An informational meeting was held in-person at the town hall on February 20, and the public was encouraged to attend the Warren Select Board meeting via Zoom on February 22. “We wish we were in-person on March 1 and could do this on the floor,” select board member Bob Ackland said.Form by ChronoForms - ChronoEngine.com
At the February 20 informational meeting, Ackland presented on the town’s budget and chair Andy Cunningham reviewed the warning and fielded a few questions and comments on the town reports. Margo Wade of the Mad River Resource Management Alliance spoke at the meeting to inform residents that the organization would be hosting two hazardous waste collections in 2022, one in early April and one in August, following the cancellation of last fall’s collection due to lack of staffing. The cost of hazardous waste collection has gone up, she said, and the associated fees will reflect the increase.
Ackland presented Warren’s 2022 budget of $3,977,724, a 21% increase over last year’s budget, though he noted that the last two years’ budgets were significantly impacted by COVID and the 2022 budget is only 2% higher than Warren’s 2019 budget. Some of the increases include salaries and benefits for town employees, including a $2 per hour increase for all members of the highway department, a 6% cost of living increase across the board, a raise for the town clerk, and an increase in benefits to cover 100% of employee deductibles. It also includes increasing staffing hours at the library to include a full-time staffer and the associated benefits. Cunningham called the town’s library “a godsend” during the pandemic. There remains an open position in the town’s road crew, which Ackland said the town is having a hard time filling.
Ackland reviewed additional areas of expense and new line items in the budget, including $2,700 for GIS mapping upgrades, a 38.9% increase to support the conservation commission’s ongoing initiatives to remove invasive knotweed from the town, and $5,000 for the Mad River Stewardship program, which provides port-a-potties, garbage cans and trash cleanup at river sites and trail heads. The budget also includes $7,500 for the fire department’s 75th anniversary celebration and $25,000 in increased stipends for firefighters, who were previously receiving $12 per hour. The MRV Recreation Department will receive an additional $10,000 to increase their grant offerings to local organizations.
In highway projects, $25,000 is allocated to crack sealing on asphalt, $28,000 will go towards painted line maintenance, $240,000 has been added back into the budget for paving (this expense was dropped from last year’s budget due to COVID) and $10,000 added for erosion control. The cost of wastewater increased by $12,000 to provide water sampling required by the state.
For those who requested absentee ballots, the ballots were sent by mail on February 22.