MEREDITH -- Voters gave a resounding no to Keno, but overwhelmingly supported spending $70,000 to complete a nature trail and agreed to double the $25,000 amount originally requested to restore the skateboarding park.
During Meredith's town meeting on Wednesday, residents also endorsed a $7.6 million bond issue for a new public works maintenance facility and spending $400,000 for architectural plans for the renovation and expansion of the public library. A $14.5 million municipal operated budget was approved without debate.
After multiple people spoke often poignantly about the legacy of the behind-the-scenes public service of the Hart family, voters supported an amendment made from the floor by Frank Michel to increase the appropriation for the skateboard park to $50,000.
The skate park and neighboring basketball court at Prescott Park was named in memory of local restaurateur Glenn Hart, who died unexpectedly at age 44 in 1998 as a result of an undiagnosed infection that spread to his heart.
His sons approached selectmen about a year ago and announced they were launching fundraising efforts to rehabilitate the skate park, which has remained closed because of its deteriorated condition. Their mother, Linda, helped get nonprofit status with the IRS. Linda Hart-Bucck died in January.
Peter Thorndike, president of the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation, said it will cost $230,000 to rehabilitate the skate park. The project has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
“The momentum in fundraising is picking up and a show of the town’s support would be greatly appreciated,” Thorndike told the audience.
Voters also approved using $70,000 from fund balance to pay for the completion of a handicapped accessible trail and boardwalk extending through the Hawkins Brook wetlands, the construction of which was started by a $200,000 donation by Meredith Village Savings Bank.
It will be known as the Laverack Nature Trail at Hawkins Brook in honor of retired bank president Sam Laverack.
Lisa Garcia, who said she worked for Laverack for 10 years, recounted that her former boss recognized that the region’s lakes were the economic engine of the tourism economy.
“He always said that this community lives and dies by its water quality as that is what brings people to this area. It’s a fitting reminder that one person can speak up for this and is a deserving lasting legacy,” she said.
The Meredith Village Pathways Committee raised $445,000 through donations and grants. With the $70,000 approved at town meeting, an additional $70,000 is needed to complete the project this year.
Jonathan James, chair of the Board of Selectmen, urged voters to support the bond issue, explaining that the existing public works maintenance facility on Jennesse Hill Road was “grossly energy inefficient” and that the 54-year-old building could not be rehabilitated or expanded.
Town Manager Phil Warren said the existing 7,000-square-foot building costs $4.29 per foot to heat. A new 12,839-square-foot building will cost just $1.24 a square foot to heat. The new facility will include a wash bay that will contain runoff, allowing town equipment to be cleaned, extending equipment lifespans while protecting nearby Hawkins Brook.
The bond issue passed by the needed two thirds majority vote, 185 to 37. No one spoke in support of a petitioned warrant article to allow games of Keno and the measure was defeated in a ballot vote, 41 to 170.
Selectman Ray Moritz said the $14.5 operating budget did not include an additional $1,022,000 in capital projects included on the warrant. The total amount to be raised by taxation is $9,885,157 when offset by $5.24 million in revenue and the use of $900,000 in fund balance is applied. The municipal portion of the tax rate will increase by 2 percent and go from its current $5 per $1,000 worth of assessed valuation to $5.10.
In other spending, voters agreed to add $725,000 to previously established expendable trust funds for fire department vehicles and equipment, public works department equipment, to buy replacement trailers for solid waste disposal, for infrastructure improvements at the town’s waterfront facilities and for downtown parking.