Budget process moves forward

MANCHESTER - The select board continued discussions Tuesday, Jan. 7, on the municipal budget to be presented at Town Meeting. A budget, which is still in a "draft" form at present, is anticipated to be adopted as the official budget at a select board meeting Jan. 23.

John O'Keefe, town manager, said there will be some changes to the budget before it is approved. Mainly, all the warned articles will be removed - such as funding for the Mark Skinner Library - to better reflect the budget amount. He said those numbers were put in the budget as "place holders" to give a better idea of what the budget could look like.

Library officials originally requested an additional $44,800, along with the $153,200 they received last year. Now, if the entire appropriation for the library is removed from the draft budget, they will have to petition for the entire $198,000.

O'Keefe proposed removing a line item of $500 for trash cans and instead put in place a $4,000 line item to cover downtown maintenance costs, like plants and more general costs of keeping downtown looking like it does.

At the end of the public meeting, the board announced it would go into executive session to discuss a funding request made by the Manchester Rescue Squad.

In other business, the select board heard a proposed amendment to the sign ordinance. Instead of just prohibiting neon signs, planning commissioner and zoning administrator Allison Hopkins said language would be added to also include any internally illuminated signs or those that required power.

Bill Drunsic, planning commission chairman, said changing this language will just make it easier to enforce and administer these signs.

Neon signs have been prohibited for about the last 20 years, he said.

"We're starting to see signs that are acting like neon signs, looking like neon signs, but when you go in and say that's not allowed, it is not a neon sign. It's an LED lit sign," he said.

Trish Weill, owner of Delish Designs on Depot Street has an electrical open sign for her business and said that every week it draws customers in that would not have otherwise known about her design business.

"I looked back and after I heard what was being discussed, figured out what our return on investment," she said. "It's been about $5,000 since we put that little sign up. Now that might not seem like a lot, but it's half-a-year's day care for my child."

Weill said she sees the sign as a way to draw attention in a positive way to the business, and not a negative.

The select board took Weill's comments into consideration, but ultimately adopted the amendment. The amendment passed with a four to one vote.


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