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Only one article changed at Wakefield Deliberative Session

DELIBERATING last Saturday evening at the Wakefield Deliberative Session were (l-r) Town Counsel Rick Sager, Town Administrator Teresa Williams, Selectman Chair Ken Paul, Selectman Peter Kasprzyk, Selectman Charlies Edwards, Budget Committee Chair Howie Knight and Budget Committee member Denny Miller. Moderator Dino Scala stands at the podium. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
February 07, 2013
WAKEFIELD — About 55 people if you count the full panel of elected officials and the town employees moved swiftly through approval of the proposed 2013 budget and 20 other warrant articles at the Wakefield Deliberative Session held last Saturday evening, Feb. 2.

Those present were given the opportunity to approve or amend any or all of the 21 warrant articles, including the town's $4.2 million operating budget that will appear on the town ballot on March 12.

The one article that garnered the most discussion in the two-hour meeting involved the purchase of the Union Meadows property. Conservation Commission member David Mankus, who looked visibly discouraged, explained the commission worked on the acquisition of the property and the Board of Selectmen entered into a purchase and sales agreement with the owner. The plan was for the town to own the property, 121.5 acres off Marsh Road, with the funds to buy it coming mostly from two sources: $50,000 from N.H. Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and $85,000 from N.H. Fish and Game. The remainder of the $150,000 purchase price ($15,000) would come from Wakefield Conservation Commission funds.

Not required to go to voters, the selectmen were all set to close the deal when a group of 58 voters stepped forward with a petition demanding the purchase be put to a vote of the townspeople and included on the 2013 warrant.

As time passed by, the purchase and sales agreement expired. Now, said Mankus, the owner of the property has signed a letter of intent and will be working out a deal for N.H. Fish and Game to buy the property, LCHIP to offset the purchase price with $50,000 and for Society for the Protection of New Hampshire forests to hold a conservation easement on it, leaving the Town of Wakefield completely out of decision-making as to future uses of the property.

Because of the turn of events, and the time constraints involving warrant deadlines that are mandated by state law, the article will still appear on the warrant. At the Feb. 2 budget session, the town's attorney recommended changing the article from needing to raise $150,000 to be offset by grant funds to now read, "By Petition: To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of zero dollars ($0) to acquire approximately 121.5 acres of property on Marsh Road."

Since it is too late to add additional warrant articles, voters can expect, based on discussion at Saturday night's meeting, to see an article on the 2014 warrant that will ask voters to adopt a town policy prohibiting selectmen from purchasing property or entering into purchase and sales agreements without at least two public hearings and the matter being voted by townspeople.

As for the rest of the 2013 warrant some of the articles voters will have the opportunity to vote up or down on March 12 include putting money away in several capital reserve funds for future major purchases, accepting a grant for video cameras in police cruisers, purchasing laptop computers for police cruisers, and installing a security system in the Union Railroad Station.

Polls for voting by official ballot will be open March 12 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Opera House at the Wakefield Town Hall, 2 High Street in Sanbornville.

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