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Joyce Endee

Resuce plan funds going to Gunstock Water District project

September 16, 2021
Part of the town's American Rescue Plan funds will go to water system improvements for Gunstock Acres Water Village District and the selectmen will further discuss some citizen proposals such as for broadband and solar panels.

The selectmen held a public hearing on Aug. 11 to accept $378,610.11 in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan which can be used for COVID-19 relief, certain infrastructure improvements, and others. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said during the Aug. 11 hearing that the money is already in the bank and is the first of two payments from the ARPA. The second will be received in the spring of 2022 and will be factored into that year's budget process.

The board approved a few items during a hearing on Aug. 11, including sewer system improvements, water testing at town hall for PFAS, and others. The board will review a request by Lockes Island residents for broadband improvements at a later time.

During Wednesday's meeting, the board approved putting over $177,000 to improvements in the Gunstock Acres Village Water District. The district had also requested some funding to help with the $1 million in projected water system improvements over the next several years. This year's budget would need to raise an estimated $177,392 from tax dollars to help with the improvements. Dunn said the federal funding could help offset the tax burden for a project that would serve at least 600 residents.

"My thought — it's a good chunk of our population's water system improvements, and if we could give those folks some tax relief through the use of this fund, that might be an appropriate thing to do," Dunn said.

Resident Carolyn Johnson questioned the expenditure, saying this is a service that would go to a small, more affluent subset of the town, and said tax mitigation wasn't an allowed use of the funds. Dunn said the funds would be used for water system improvements, which is a designated use.

The board approved spending $177,392 for these water improvements at Gunstock Acres.

Johnson proposed using some of the funding for solar panels on town hall. She said she reviewed the list of requirements for the funds and said she found the list is nonexclusive and the funds can be used in any way for communities to help mitigate money lost from the pandemic. Johnson said could reduce the town's electric bill to a fraction and the money they save could be used for the good of the town. She also said town could also use this to establish a better energy structure that could branch off into other areas.

"You can set up a virtuous circle for the town that builds into a future of a more efficient energy system and takes adv of this onetime opportunity," Johnson said.

Dunn said he would not support this and said he questioned if this would be an allowed use. Selectman Chan Eddy said, from an engineering standpoint, solar panels aren't as effective in colder northern environments like New Hampshire. Johnson said her solar panels have generated close to 14,000 kilowatts, even during the winter, and said places like Germany have had great success with them.

Eddy asked Johnson to talk with some experts and come up with possible costs for such a project. She said she would get that information.

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