Candia voters cripple incinerator site plan, force a new direction
By BRENDAN CLOGSTON Union Leader Correspondent
Candia voters at the town's deliberative session took a preemptive move on one of the Candia's most contentious issues of late – the Department of Environmental Services mandated closure of the town's incinerator site – neutering a warrant that would have funded contractor work on the project and, as a result, forcing the town to take a different approach to the project.
A complicated issue, the debate surrounding the closure site deals largely with the scope of work, using local contractors or the larger bidding companies, and whether or not studies on leftover incinerator ash should be conducted before going ahead with the work.
The plan which the warrant was to fund would have hired the Epping contractor EnviroVantage to demolish the buildings and remove the waste at the site, with supporters arguing that breaking up the work could scare away their low bidding and well qualified contractor and force them to work with bidders who asked for twice the price.
The opposition generally wants local, cheaper contractors to handle the demolition work (if at all, as the demolition is not required by the state) and has called for geological testing to be done on the ash to determine just what is in the site's waste piles, believing that a more specific disposal request could yield lower bid figures as contractors may "bid high" given the ambiguity of how much hazardous waste disposal will be a part of the work.
A motion by budget committee member Judith Szot and passed 46 to 38 reduced the warrant from $100,000 to $1. As a result, the town will likely use money from the $35,000 in a budget line which was previously set to be used to contribute to the contactor's fees to conduct geological testing of the site's ash piles.
Those in support of the plan, who criticized the motion itself as a derailment of proper debate on the merits of the proposed plan (amendment motions require that conversation be confined to the amendment until a vote is cast), expressed disappointment with the vote.
"The deliberative session has taken away the opportunity of the voters to vote on whether this article will be accepted or not," said Selectman Richard Snow.
The issue of deliberative session versus the much larger town election was raised several times, as several warrants were similarly diluted and stripped of their power.
A warrant to mandate the town clerk's office hours was amended to allow the clerk to set her hours "as needed" after the clerk herself spoke against the warrant and offered a motion to amend. A petition warrant to abolish the town's conservation commission was also amended to become a vote of "continued support" for the body.
Snow, while noting that he was a member of the commission and would never vote to abolish it and would in fact campaign against the warrant, cautioned against making such nullifying amendments at the deliberative session.
"The results of those kinds of actions are to generate, within the entire population of the town which is not here, anger," he said.
The amendment passed 34-32.
Another amendment of note involved a revolving fund set up for the Police Department in which fees collected through police detail work will be deposited, both allowing police details to become self-funding (currently they require a warrant article, with the revenue going into the town's general fund) and allowing the small profit made to grow incrementally for the purpose of offsetting the price of capital purchases, such as a new police cruiser.
An amendment was added to this article stating that should it pass, the previous article granting $55,000 to fund police details would be reduced to $5,000, enough to fund the transition.
Warrants moved to the ballot without amendment include the town's proposed operating budget, a $190,000 Currier Road paving project, 12 warrants providing support to various organizations such as the American Red Cross, a loan for the restoration of the Smyth Memorial Building (the old town library),a property tax exemption on added home value as a result of solar panel installations.