A town warrant article related to Salem's road program was heavily criticized by members of the Budget Committee this week as some were upset with the way the article was packaged to include a bonded item of $976,000.
The article, which will appear as no. 7 on the ballot, totals $5,620,000 with $4,615,000 to be deposited into the Roadway Capital Reserve Fund.
But some committee members, especially Vice Chairman Paul Huard, felt that the bonded item, which is related to water main improvements primarily underneath Pond Street, puts the entire project at risk.
"I find that position absolutely unbelievable that we would risk the road program because someone wants to do it differently," he said of the article's structure. "We've been working hard to get the road program underway after years of neglect, and now we have placed something in here that puts that in jeopardy."
With a bonded item, an article needs 60 percent of the vote rather than a simple majority.
Selectman Representative Stephen Campbell defended his board's majority vote on Article 7.
"The main reason for doing it was to limit the number of articles," he said. "This is the first year the town was going to be in Senate Bill 2 and we didn't want a phone book for a ballot."
Campbell said that the Selectmen are not afraid of letting the people of Salem decide what they want.
"It's part of democracy," he said.
Both Huard and School Board Representative Pamela Berry argued that the entire road program belongs in the budget, not as a warrant article.
"We all appreciate our roads being fixed," Berry said. "Having decent roads to drive on is not a want, it's a need. I think a need belongs in the budget. I think it shows poor leadership from the Board of Selectmen to make things as crucial as our roads a want, not a need."
Campbell responded that as far back as he can remember, road articles have not been part of the operating budget.
Committee Chairman Russell Frydryck said that while he felt it might have been prudent to split the two parts of the article up, he would still support the article because of the importance of roads.
Despite committee reservations, a 6-1-1 preliminary recommendation for Article 7 was made.
Visit here to see more information on the Pond Street decision by Selectmen, which took place on Dec. 3.