By Jann Wiswall

Mansfield’s town board has been working with Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley on developing an ordinance to protect the town’s roads from damage by heavy vehicles.

The issue came about as a result of some problems with logging and construction companies whose especially heavy vehicles are causing damage to roads and bridges, which results in expensive repairs for a department with a limited highway budget.

Hurley explained to the board at its Monday, Aug. 17 meeting that the intent of the regulations is to formalize policies that are already in place, which Hurley said work well as long as the department knows the work is occurring.

“It’s common courtesy for loggers and construction companies to touch base with the highway department before starting their work. Most do, which allows us to work with them to minimize damage. It’s the companies we don’t know about that cause the problems,” Hurley said.

Typically, the highest risk for road damage is during spring and wet weather periods. Hurley sometimes requires companies to delay their work for a week or two, or to post bonds, which serve as an “insurance” policy for the town against damage.

“We’ve never had to collect on a bond,” Hurley said, but that’s because bonds serve as a deterrent. And they’re only required by Hurley on a case by case basis.

Town Supervisor Bob Keis added that the town needs to “make our policy official so that companies are required to contact the highway department before their work begins and post bonds if Hurley determines there is sufficient risk.”

The board is reviewing policies from other municipalities to help them come up with language that adequately addresses Mansfield’s issues. Hurley will provide feedback and any new policy will be reviewed by the town’s attorney.

In other business, the annual town budget process has begun.

Recently, the state reminded municipalities that, while there is technically a two percent budget cap (also known as “allowable levy growth”), in actuality the cap is the lesser of two percent OR the rate of inflation. Currently, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate is at .073 percent. According to the Office of the State Comptroller, if this trend continues, local governments and schools may be faced with a “significantly less than two percent scenario” and perhaps even a zero percent allowable levy growth.

As a result, in preparing its budget, the town board is proposing no 2016 raises for board members, the Highway Superintendent, the Code Enforcement Officer and certain other employees. Highway department staff, the town clerk, and certain other staff (to be determined) will likely receive a one percent raise. For the highway department, this should offset increases to their health insurance contribution.

The board expects to review a draft of the proposed 2016 budget at its next meeting on Monday, Sept. 21 meeting at 7 p.m. in the town hall and to hold a public hearing on the budget at its October 19 meeting.