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County Delegation finalizes county budget, cuts pig program

CARROLL COUNTY DELEGATES (l-r) Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), Chris Ahlgren (R-Wolfeboro), Ed Butler (D-Hart's Location) and Karen Umberger (R-Conway) debate the 2014 county budget during their meeting March 28 in Ossipee. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
April 03, 2014
OSSIPEE — With just three days to spare, Carroll County Delegation finalized the 2014 county budget in a session held March 28. The final amount left to be raised through property taxes is $14,334,920.

A move to eliminate the PPPP Present Pilot Pig Project drew sadness and disappointment from the County Farm Manager Will DeWitte. Back in 2011 DeWitte worked out a deal with the county commissioners that would allow him to raise piglets on the County Farm. He said then that he would purchase two piglets with his own money and provide all of the other food and supplies necessary to raise them. In exchange with the commissioners agreeing to this, DeWitte promised to offer classes to the community on the subject of raising pigs. Commissioner David Babson, who was a state representative and county delegate at the time, offered to fund a third pig for the program.

Commissioners maintained over the years that the only cost to county taxpayers for the pig program was the cost of the electricity for one light bulb in the barn where the pigs were housed. Questions arose, however, about whether or not inmate labor was being used to care for the pigs and if DeWitte's time was being used to care for them during normal working hours.

At the March 28 delegation meeting delegation chair Karen Umberger pointed out that despite being told no county money was being spent on the program, it was hard to deny that time, which equals money, was not being spent.

Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) who served this budget season as the farm subcommittee chairman recommended cutting out the program and he won support for that move which passed in a vote of nine delegates in favor and four opposed.

McConkey has butted heads with the commissioners, DeWitte, and at least one of his fellow delegates throughout the budget cycle and discussions about the farm. McConkey and the proponents of the farm remained at odds over what constitutes a business plan, with McConkey repeatedly asking for a complete plan for the present and future operations of the farm. Meanwhile proponents on several occasions took offense and claimed DeWitte and the county commissioners had provided all requested information, albeit piecemeal.

Speaking as a "citizen and a taxpayer", DeWitte addressed the delegation during the public comment period and accused the group of sending the wrong message to young people. "I am very disappointed with vote about the pigs. You guys told young people like myself that are trying to make a difference in our community that you don't want to see those differences. Saddening you would send that message to our community. I think that is a sad move when you make decisions like that instead of talking to the people who are doing the work and instead listened to the skewed view of one or two people," said DeWitte.

McConkey also won delegation support for changing how the farm will be categorized in the county budget. Despite Rep. Ed Butler (D-Hart's Location) objection that it detracts from the historical recognition of the County Farm, that department will now be referred to as Agricultural. Further, all grounds keeping responsibilities once categorized under maintenance will now be under the new title of Public Works.

In other noteworthy county budget news, Commissioner Asha Kenney's repeated attempts to eliminate or at least cut the recording secretary's salary failed. Her request fell on deaf ears at the delegation's March 24 budget meeting but that didn't prevent her from trying again at their March 28 meeting. The salary for the recording secretary who prepares the minutes for delegation meeting is an amount that was set by the delegation in 2012. Kenney said the salary shouldn't just receive a "rubber stamp" by the current delegation and should be reconsidered. Umberger did not entertain the idea.

The delegation will meet again "sometime in mid-May as that is when the county's finance manager said the first quarter 2014 budget will be ready for their review. Also at that meeting the delegation will set the salaries for the elected offices of sheriff, commissioners, register, county attorney, and treasurer.

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