Storm, town meetings on collision courseBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 11. 2018 8:50PM
As town meeting day approaches tomorrow in communities across the state, local officials are telling residents local elections are unlikely to be postponed, despite a weather forecast calling for a foot or more of snow to fall in some parts of the state.
Last year moderators in more than 70 New Hampshire communities delayed votes after a March nor’easter dumped heavy snow across the area.
A bill approved by the Senate last week requires towns to check with the Secretary of State before making any changes to town meeting day schedules. The Secretary of State’s office can then confer with forecasters and public safety officials to determine if a delay is in the best interests of public safety.
“Elections should be postponed only in extraordinary circumstances where there is a clear, imminent, and serious threat to public health or safety,” the bill reads. “The cancellation of classes at public schools due to weather or the routine issuance of storm travel advisories by highway and safety officials alone shall not justify the postponement of election.”
In a memo to local election officials dated March 6 Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald write, “New Hampshire law does not contain a provision that authorizes any public official to postpone an election.”
With forecasters on Sunday predicting between 8-14 inches of snow to fall across much of the state Tuesday into Wednesday, local officials started discussions on holding this week’s town meeting sessions as planned, in spite of the weather.
“Unless the secretary of the state postpones, we should go forward as planned,” Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig wrote in an email this weekend to staff regarding Tuesday’s town meeting session. “We are all hearty souls here in Madbury, Lee, and Durham so unless the weather is absolutely terrible, I think we will be fine.”
Litchfield town officials posted a message Sunday on the town’s Facebook page saying, “Forecasters are predicting yet another Nor’Easter for Tuesday which also happens to be Election Day. The NH Attorney General’s Office has told us that under no circumstance are we to postpone Election Day.”
The message goes on to anyone who will be out of town or unable to make it to the polls Tuesday can pick up and fill out an absentee ballot at the town clerk’s office at Town Hall on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The state Attorney General’s Office will host its annual Election Day hotline Tuesday at 1-866-868-3703 to field questions and concerns about election law.
Voters in Northwood will be asked in Article 9 to appropriate $698,000 for the engineering and construction of a replacement bridge on Bow Lake Road, which crosses Shelburne Brook. The Red Listed Bridge Capital Reserve Fund will pay $140,000. A $558,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation will make up the rest of the cost.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., St. Joseph Church Parish Center
Voters in Nottingham will be asked in Article 15 to authorize the Board of Selectmen to place a conservation easement on 34.2 acres of land the town owns on Kennard Road. If passed by a majority, a qualified land trust organization can protect the parcel by restricting use for natural resource protection, wildlife habitat conservation and non-motorized recreation.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Nottingham Community Center
Town Meeting: Saturday, 9 a.m., Nottingham School
Residents will decide if they wish to spend $1.5 million to purchase land and easements for conservation purposes. Voters will also decide the fate of an article that proposes spending $660,000 (pulling $260,000 from the unassigned fund balance) to replace the existing boiler system at the Town Hall and a $2 million article (offset by $1.2 million in grants) that would install intersection control devices at the intersections of Sherburne and Mammoth roads, and at Mammoth and Marsh roads.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Pelham High School
One of the big-ticket items will be to raise $1.2 million for roadway improvements and reconstruction of Upper Beacon Hill, East Meadow and East View roads. These projects would be paid for with bonds. A petitioned warrant article also calls for raising $3,600 for recording and broadcasting public meetings. On the school side, the proposed operating budget is $24.54 million. A petitioned warrant article also calls for adding two seats to the School Board, and two warrant articles would establish a group to review and amend the AREA agreement in the district.
Voting: Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Three Rivers School
Town Meeting: Saturday, 10 a.m., Pembroke Academy
Residents will be asked if they want to switch to the SB2 Town Meeting system. On the school side, there’s a $10.53 million operating budget on the ballot and a collective bargaining agreement with the Educational Association of Pittsfield Teachers. The district is also looking to get $1.1 million for grant-funded educational programs from the state.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., town offices
Town Meeting: Saturday, 10 a.m., Pittsfield Elementary School
Voters will consider a $600,000 proposal to design, engineer and construct an 8,000-square-foot public works facility that would include garage and office space for the highway and water departments on the former Penn Box site. Other warrant articles ask voters to spend $79,000 to hire an additional full-time firefighter/EMT and to ratify a new police contract with salary and benefit increases that would cost $32,805 this fiscal year and $10,935 in 2019.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Pollard School
A new 5-year police contract with increases in salaries and benefits will be up for a vote. If approved, taxpayers would have to raise $132,339 to cover increases this fiscal year. On the school side, voters will decide whether to support a proposed 3-year teachers’ contract that would cost an additional $408,424 for salary and benefit increases during the 2018-2019 school year, $390,650 in 2019-2020 and $403,531 in 2020-2021.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Iber Holmes Gove Middle School
The synopsis for Epsom’s warrant articles were incorrect Sunday. Here is the corrected information.
Residents will be voting on a $3.35 million operating budget. Other items include using $293,842 from the Fire and Rescue Apparatus Fund to buy a new ambulance for the Fire Department; setting up a capital reserve fund for the potential future expansion of the public water system and adding $10,000 to the fund; and whether or not to adopt the 79-E Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive Program. On the school side, voters will consider a proposed $11.4 million operating budget. The other warrant articles propose the use of $40,000 from the unreserved fund balance for the Special Education Trust Fund and adding $25,000 from surplus to the Building Maintenance and Repair Trust Fund.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Epsom Central School.
Voters will be asked in Article 7 if they should appropriate $93,000 for the Rollinsford Grade School annex and kindergarten roof replacement.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Town Hall
Town Meeting: Saturday, 9 a.m., Rollinsford Grade School
Voters will be asked in Article 6 to appropriate $700,000 to replace the existing salt shed with a larger facility. A salt shed storage building capital reserve fund would pay for $80,000. The rest of the money for the project would be borrowed, if Article 6 is passed by a three-fifths vote.
Article 9 asks voters to appropriate $3,048,077 to build a new town hall structure on the current site, razing the old town hall building. A three-fifths vote is required for Article 9 to pass.
Article 12 asks voters to appropriate $624,800 for the purchase of 3.7 acres of land located at 500 Washington Road. The purchase of the property would be for the town, but no dedicated use has been determined.
Article 34 asks voters if all dogs on town property, including the beach and town woods, should be under the control of a dog walker at all times. Dogs not under control must be leashed if a majority vote is reached.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rye Elementary School
The town is requesting $11.6 million for a bond to replace the South Broadway sewer and water pipe and $1.6 million to upgrade the townwide communications system. There is a $4 million article that would add to the 2018 road construction and engineering program, and Article 11 seeks to raise $340,000 for the repurposing of two portable classrooms, which would be transferred from the school district to the police station. On the school side, voters will decide on a $71,977,817 total operating budget.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fisk School (District 1), Soule School (District 2), Barron School (District 3), Ingram Senior Center (District 4), North Salem School (District 6)
A petitioned warrant article asks voters to approve the creation of a dog park on town property. The park would be operated by a private nonprofit group of volunteers and would be funded through grants, donations and fundraising. Voters are to also decide a proposed $775,000 land purchase.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Town Hall
Appropriations into several reserve funds will be among the items for voters to act on. The town’s proposed budget is $472,832.
Voting: Tuesday, 4 to 8 p.m., Town Hall
Town Meeting: Tuesday, 7 p.m., Town Hall
Voters in Stratham will be asked in Article 1 to appropriate $23,030,776 to renovate and make additions to the middle school. If approved by a three-fifths vote, the money would be borrowed.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 10 Bunker Hill
Town Meeting: Friday, 7 p.m., Stratham Memorial School
Voters are being asked to endorse a $1,920,000 bond issue to finance the renovation and expansion of the public library and to withdraw $416,000 from the library capital reserve account and $410,000 from the library capital donations fund. If approved, the first payment of the bond would occur in 2019. Among the larger spending articles on the warrant is a request for $260,000 for the preparation and paving of town roads and a $580,000, 5-year lease for a new fire truck. If the operating budget and all warrant articles are approved, the amount to be raised by local taxation would increase by 11.94 percent. There is a two-way race for selectman, with incumbent Lloyd Wood challenged by Bob McWhirter.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Town House
Town Meeting: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Tuftonboro Central School
The big item on the warrant this year is a $2.75 million project that will see to the construction and equipping of a new fire station. Of this cost, $200,000 will come from the unassigned fund balance, $50,000 will be raised through taxes and the rest will be covered by a bond. The town is also looking to establish a Procurement Committee, which would help selectmen with reviewing estimates, costs, proposed contracts and financial impacts for the town. The school district is looking to raise $42.74 million for its proposed operating budget. The other two warrant articles call for using money from the unassigned fund balance for two fund accounts.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Town Hall
Town Meeting: Saturday, 9 a.m., Town Hall
Beautification of and improvements to town facilities are on the warrant. Voters will consider whether to appropriate $630,000 for improvements to Corcoran Pond and $250,000 for a new town entrance and associated sidewalk and road improvements. The proposed operating budget is $3,726,006.
Voting: Tuesday, noon to 5 p.m., Recreation Department gymnasium
Town Meeting: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Recreation Department gymnasium
Residents will be asked to consider a proposed operating budget of $6.07 million. Another big-ticket item calls for adding a police officer to the roster and raising $41,571 to fund six months’ worth of pay and benefits. For the Weare School District, officials are looking to raise $15.29 million for the proposed operating budget. They’re also looking to use $75,000 from the end-of-year surplus for the School Building Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund. For SAU 24, voters will consider a $13.3 million operating budget. They’re also looking to set up an energy saving equipment program that would be self-funded.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Weare Middle School
Voters will be asked whether the municipality should be one of a small number in New Hampshire with a tax cap. Article 3 dictates that the governing body, or budget committee, “shall not submit a recommended budget that increases the amount to be raised by local taxes, based on the prior fiscal year’s actual amount of local taxes raised, by more than one percent.”
Voting: Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wentworth Elementary School
Town Meeting: Saturday, 1 p.m., Wentworth Elementary School
Five candidates are running for two three-years seats on the Board of Selectmen: Gloria Leustek, Jack Marsh Jr., Paul Morehouse Sr., Gene Park and Michael Doherty. Also on the ballot is a $3.5 million operating budget.
Voting: Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Town Hall
Voters will see multiple citizen petitions related to the Windham Zoning Ordinance and zoning district map, including a push to eliminate provisions for housing for the elderly. There is also an article to purchase 35 acres of conservation land at 90 London Bridge Road for $2 million and a $480,000 article would repair or replace the Castle Hill Road Bridge. On the school side, there is a collective bargaining agreement with the Windham Education Association that would result in a $593,939 budget increase for the 2018-19 year, in addition to the article setting the proposed operating budget at about $54 million.
Voting: Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Windham High School
Compiled by Sunday News Correspondents Kimberley Haas, Kimberly Houghton, Chris Garofolo, John Koziol, Jason Schreiber, Bea Lewis and Melissa Proulx, and reporter Kevin Landrigan.