March 21, 2019PLYMOUTH – The 2019 Town Meeting in Plymouth was an amicable affair this year, where the 24 articles on the warrant were approved in just over an hour.
The evening began with a petitioned article asking to allow Keno gaming in the town. Revenues from Keno, it was explained, help fund all-day kindergarten in the state. There were a few statements, both for and against the measure, one side asking people to support school children through the Keno program and others who felt "gambling has no place in this beautiful town." Noting that most who partake in Keno events are lower income people hoping to strike it big through gambling, one comment was that the state should not put the burden of paying for all-day kindergarten on those who can least afford it. A clarification was made to inform voters before they headed for the ballot box that revenues from Keno are spread proportionately throughout the state whether towns approve it in their community or not. The result was a decisive 77 people saying "no" to Keno in Plymouth, with 39 in favor of it. It was the only article to fail this year.
The town's $1,710,445 general government expenses request passed anonymously with no discussion. Following articles seeking to withdraw $50,849 from the Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust Fund for maintenance projects saw similar results, as did a request for $10,000 from that same fund for the purchase of a cemetery truck.
For operations of other town functions, voters agreed to raise and appropriate $96,354 for the town's Welfare Department, approved $2,000 for the Conservation Commission and further appropriated an additional $5,000 for the Conservation Commission Capital Projects fund. There was one question as to what that money would be used for before the vote however. Selectman Valerie Scarborough, who also sits on the commission, explained that it is for a fund the town generally supports each year that will allow the commission to make future purchases of property, establish town parks or do whatever large projects need to be done for land and waterfront conservation. The measure, like most preceding it, passed unanimously.
Several articles pertained to the police and fire departments. The first was to approve a Collective Bargaining agreement for a three-percent salary increase for both departments. That increase was for $38,247 for the police offices and $35,182 for fire and EMS employees on staff. The total sum of $73,429 again was approved.
For Police and Dispatch Services, voters said yes to a $1,847,544 budget for Fiscal Year 19/20. They also approved $166,344 for the Parking Department in FY 2020, with $35,000 of that amount to come from the Parking Special Revenue Fund. After an article to hire a School Resource Officer for the elementary and high school was approved at last year's town meeting, in 2019 residents agreed to the sum of $125,127 to fund that position. The cost will be offset by $93,845, which will come from the SAU 48 School System.
The fire department's only request was their $1,248,388 for fire department services and an additional $114,870 for ambulance, totaling $1,363,258 overall. That, too, received unanimous support.
Other departments and activities, such as Parks and Recreation, library operations, band concerts, the airport, Friends of the Arts and others were also voted to receive a total of $1,181,591 for the coming fiscal year. In addition, the legislative body agreed to $95,619 to be disbursed among several outside agencies. Among those were Voices Against Violence, Pemi Youth Center, the American Red Cross, Tri County Community Action, Bridge House, CADY, Plymouth Historical Society and Grafton County Senior Services. As a matter of curiosity, one woman asked if there was any oversight in the amount of money requested by all of the 16 agencies that requested funds each year. Selectman Bill Bolton said each agency is required to send in an application, which is then reviewed by the Budget Committee and this year the committee voted to keep those requests levelly funded from last year.
"Everyone did request an increase this year, but we felt we had to keep it down to that level," he replied.
Another $191,289 was placed in Capital Reserve Funds for future recycling, fire, conservation and highway needs.
The Highway Department had several requests, which did bring about a few more questions. After receiving unanimous votes for highway department operations and street lighting, totaling $ 983,171, and $10,000 to be withdrawn from the Sidewalk Improvement Capital reserve Fund for this year's sidewalk repairs, department head Joe Fagnant was then called upon to explain a $185,957 purchase/lease request for a sidewalk tractor with payments of $37,192 over the course of five years. Because the vehicle is a 2017 Prinoth SW4S Sidewalk Plow, some were confused in thinking the price was for a used vehicle with a high price tag. They also questioned if it was the only model looked at for a sidewalk plow and asked Fagnant if he could have purchased something cheaper. He said the model selected was a mid-range model that has easily accessible parts available and a proven record to provide the quality of performance the town needs. Other town officials further clarified that it is the same vehicle that was used this winter with much success. Through negotiations with the company, they explained the town was able to test the vehicle over the past year for free and because it worked so well in clearing downtown sidewalks, they now want to buy it. Hearing that, only a few nays were voiced and the article passed.
The final highway matters were $20,000 for equipment repairs and $112,500 for Capital Outlay to improve road construction and purchase crushed gravel. That amount was authorized and will be offset by withdrawing $40,000 from the Motor Vehicle Capital Reserve Fund.
The Recycling Center received $436,315 for solid waste disposal and dues to the Pemi-Baker Solid Waste District, and $8,400 was approved for landfill monitoring purposes.
The only other topics presented on the 2019 warrant were requests for bond payments in the amount of $234,539 for the fourth payment on the Infrastructure Bond authorized in 2016, and $136,972 for the third bond payment toward the library expansion project.
The meeting was adjourned after just one hour and 14 minutes.