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Town reconsiders plowing church parking lot

December 23, 2009
After numerous residents and members of the Gilford Community Church responded to the selectmen's decision to indefinitely table the a matter on the church parking lot plowing that was once performed by the town, the Board of Selectmen has decided to revisit the issue.

At last week's board meeting, Selectman Kevin Hayes he said he would like to revisit this discussion, mainly because he has received an immense amount of feedback from the community. He also said the board should take into consideration that the church parking lot is connected to the Gilford Library parking lot.

"I would like to bring the library and church parking lot discussion off the table. There have been numerous people who have come up to me and said that we may have made the wrong decision," Hayes said. "Only one person has agreed with our decision."

Selectman John O'Brien agreed and added that the positive side of the tabled discussion has been the amount of feedback the selectmen have received. He said they are now able to go off this feedback when making any further decisions on the memorandum of understanding written by Town Administrator Scott Dunn.

Since the town did own this area of property on Potter Hill Road for a number of years, the town has continued to plow the church parking lot during the winter, on as-needed basis. After resident and former Budget Committee member Doug Lambert pointed out that the town was still paying for these procedures although they no longer owned the property, Dunn created a memorandum of understanding that would have continued the tradition. That was never put into effect though, after the selectmen held a public hearing and then indefinitely tabled the matter to avoid "church and state" controversies.

Now that residents have spoken, it seems that the selectmen are willing to give the issue another look. Although the town no longer owns the land by the church, the Gilford Youth Center is now open and can be accessed by the public at no cost, while the joint parking lot provides extra space for those looking to utilize the library right next door.

In last week's edition of the Steamer, former Selectman Alice Boucher submitted a letter to the editor asking the selectmen to reconsider their decision and to plow the GCC lot once again.

"I am totally in favor of the town continuing the practice that they have been doing for many years. It just makes common sense now that the Gilford Library and the Community Church are sharing the parking lots for the residents of Gilford," wrote Boucher.

She added that this additional plowing will only be a "minimal" cost to the town, and that the church is maintaining the new youth center, which many residents had been asking for, at no cost to the town.

"I ask the selectmen to please reconsider having the town plow the Gilford Community Church parking lot. After all, they still need to plow the library parking lot right next door," wrote Boucher.

In a November issue of the Steamer, Rev. Michael Graham reacted to the selectmen's decision to put the church parking lot and plowing matter to rest.

"Now, with the expansion of the church and the opening of the Gilford Youth Center, we are in a position to make available our facilities in an even greater way. Our facilities are too wonderful not to be shared and enjoyed by many," wrote Graham, who noted that the town has plowed this church parking lot for decades because of its location by Gilford Village.

"I am disappointed by the town's recent decision to not continue plowing our church parking lot, but regardless, our facilities will remain open. The construction of the Gilford Youth Center was motivated by the community need for a convenient place for children/youth before and after school and during school breaks," wrote Graham. "Again, I am grateful for the decades that the town has plowed our lots. Although it appears that the arrangement has come to an end, we remain committed to keeping our facilities open to all."

The Board of Selectman has agreed to revisit the matter at their Jan. 13 meeting.

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