Private property land sale to town on hold

AMHERST – A proposal to buy 104 acres of private land straddling the town line with Bedford has fallen in price.

That was a major change made during Amherst’s deliberative session Wednesday night, when about 100 registered voters came to the high school to discuss and amend the operating budget and other warrant articles. They will be voted on in the March 10 general election.

Originally, landowner Gertrude Martin was offering to sell her land, home and several other structures for $1.89 million. But selectmen balked and recommended that voters vote down the warrant article because the home was in poor condition.

In a last-minute deal, Martin agreed to remove the home and 12 acres of land and reduce the selling price to $1.29 million.

Resident Tedd Landon made a motion approved to further amend the warrant article. His amendment states money generated by selling land in Bedford will be put towards paying down the bond.

Some at the meeting, like Ken Dionne, were concerned with the property’s appraisal because officials said the home had been overvalued and the land appraised perhaps too low during the appraisal in September.

“Nobody else is going to buy that property,” said Dionne. “Take your time and find out what it’s worth.”

Town attorney Bill Drescher replied that selectmen would have the opportunity to get another appraisal even after the warrant article passes.

The warrant article is merely a maximum of how much the selectmen are authorized to spend for the land. They can spend less for the land if they can make a deal with Martin.

Selectmen now unanimously approve the warrant article, as does the Ways and Means Committee.

In other business, residents added $40,000 to the operating budget for social services. Earlier in the budget process, selectmen took the money out and placed it in a separate warrant article.

Now, the operating budget stands at $9.86 million, up about 3 percent from last year. The social services warrant article selectmen had proposed was reduced to zero.An attempt by Landon and fellow Amherst Citizen’s Association member Mark Vincent to shave the operating budget down to a 2 percent increase was defeated by a majority of voters.

Increases in the budget are associated with a rise in insurance costs and dramatic increases in the cost of salt, sand and asphalt, and a new police officer position, selectmen said.

A 15-year, $6 million bond to repair roads will go on the ballot unchanged.

However, ACA, a group of residents, tried to reduce the funding to zero because of the economy and questions about oversight.

During the meeting, the Road Funding Analysis Committee identified 19 stretches of road that will need to be repaired. In total 22 miles need to be fixed.

In 2011 voters will be asked for an additional $6 million. The other bonds would have to be approved by voters at future elections.