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Voters get behind Tuftonboro Free Library renovations

March 21, 2019
TUFTONBORO — After years of unsuccessful attempts to meet increased space needs, the voters have spoken, and the Tuftonboro Free Library will be renovated and expanded. This time, a sea of hands raising pink cards aloft across the width of the Tuftonboro Central School's gymnasium on Wednesday evening, March 13, obviated the need for any counting of the vote.

There was no bond issue this time around requiring a super majority vote. Instead, only a simple majority vote was needed to pass the warrant proposal to raise $333,000 from taxation. The library's building committee exceeded expectations with $1,173,500 raised in donations and pledges to the Library Capital Donations Fund. That figure, combined with $ 355,500 accumulated in the Library Capital Reserve Fund, and the amount to be raised by taxation in 2019, cover the $1,862,000 project.

Before the vote went forward, the crowd quietly listened to residents present their cases against the project. Chris Sawyer, a Trustee of the Trust Funds, which oversees the town's Capital Reserve Funds, wondered how much had been spent over the years from the Capital Reserve Fund for failed plans and asked if there was a guarantee that the pledges would be met.

Library Trustee Chairman Gordon Hunt stood to look over the audience and noted donors among the crowd. He commented that when pledges were made in Wolfeboro for the renovation of the Town Hall, every "single dollar was redeemed." So certain was he of the integrity of the pledgers to the Tuftonboro Free Library project, he promised to "make good" on any unmet pledges himself.

Barry Ennis was up next to propose that the trustees make due with the amount raised.

"An awful lot of people don't use the library, and don't intend to," said Ennis, counting himself among them.

He said he hasn't been inside the library for 20 years, and as far as he could tell, it seems to be functioning well as it is.

Building Committee member and fundraiser Carla Lootens retraced the steps to the present, recalling two studies showing the need for expansion and pointing out the necessity to be ADA complaint. She pointed to previous votes, just shy of a super majority, including the most recent proposal for a new building across the street from the present library, as a sign of support, and the production of the present scaled back proposal as responsive to a request for further exploration.

"Every year of delay leads to an increase in building costs," she said.

Guy Pike posited that with more than 900 patrons responding to a survey saying library services are excellent, the project must not be sorely needed.

A move to call the question by Joe Ewing, who said people's minds were likely made up and they were unlikely to change, was postponed by Moderator Dan Barnard in the interest of hearing Sue Week's amendment to the article. Her changes pertained to an emphasis on the order in which the funds would be spent, assuring that the $333,000 raised by taxes would be applied last and the inclusion of a statement that any accrued interest and income would be used before that money as well.

Attorney Barbara Loughman advised that the Department of Revenue Administration sets the tax rate, and with the amount of accrued interest and income a "moving target," Weeks' addition would likely earn the disapproval of the Department of Revenue Administration, which does not appreciate a lack of clarity. If the article were to pass, amended as Weeks suggested, it could be scuttled.

Steve Brinser, standing with Weeks, said he couldn't see any objections. The amendment went forward as Weeks had proposed but gained no traction.

A young resident, Tessa Twombley, spoke in favor of the library project, pointing out that young people face tremendous debts for their education. The library, she said, offers a free education, with its technology, books, and room to study. She urged a positive vote.

Rick Weeks made the last proposal with a suggestion that the $333,000 be reduced by $150,000. That, too, failed.

Articles for the updating of tax maps and the addition of GIS mapping, $285,000 for the preparaton and paving of town roads, the 19 Mile Bay Beach Improvement project, the second installment toward the fire truck acquired in 2018, the fourth installment toward the ambulance vehicle, a $5,000 contingency fund (from the undesignated fund balance), an increase from $5,000 to $10,000 to the Conservation Commission from funds generated by the Land Use Change Tax, and permission for the board to sell tax deeded property all sailed through.

Article #9, for $45,870 for a 19 Mile Brook Updated Baseline study, recommended by the Conservation Commission to gauge the ten year impact of the Wolfeboro's effluent disposal at the Rapid Infiltration Basin acreage, received heated support following Albee's presentation. Referring to the treated effluent as "septic" Albee said he envisioned having to do studies every year and said in ten years that would come to the price of a fire engine. Sentiment was strong in favor of Wolfeboro paying for any necessary studies.

Article #7, a request for $15,000 for the preparation of a section of Sawyer Road for paving, was an occasion for Barry Ennis to entertain the crowd with the history of the section of Sawyer Road that he gave to Ossipee to correct a sharp turn in the road, and the resulting years of paying taxes to Ossipee, when according to Ennis, he should have been paying taxes to Tuftonboro.

As far as he is concerned, Ossipee should have returned those taxes and paid for the paving itself. Tuftonboro refused to pay for the paving when the matter came up at a previous town meeting, but according to Selectman Bill Marcussen, a resident with children who lives along the dirt road, and others, have asked for the town to pave it. Maintenance of the 800 foot section between the two paved sections on either side is increasing. The article passed.

Last, but certainly not least, the operating budget passed with an amendment brought forward by Budget Committee member Guy Pike for an increase of $75,000 in light of the fact that "90 percent of the [road agent's] winter budget has been expended." Marcussen seconded the motion, and the operating budget figure became $4,050,307.

Former selectman Bill Rollins, who commented that he was selectman when "dinosaurs still roamed the earth," said someone who plows for the state told him crews had been out 33 times. He offered support for Road Agent Jim Bean and his crew, whom he said likely went out at least that many times for sometimes "20 hours at a time."

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