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Debate is over: town will plow church lot

February 03, 2010
After months of discussion, the Board of Selectmen agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the town to plow the Gilford Community Church parking lot.

The selectmen originally tabled the matter, but after hearing public outcry agreed to revisit the issue. They held a public hearing a few weeks ago, then voted on the matter at their meeting Wednesday. While board Chair Gus Benavides and Selectmen John O'Brien voted yes, selectmen Kevin Hayes voted no for fear of liability issues.

"This has taken a lot of my time for the last month. It is a legal issue as far as what the attorney is telling us. It's not a church and state or insurance issue," said Hayes. "I can't vote for the issue."

Hayes said he understood that the Gilford Youth Center right next to church will be open to the public, which has been one of the biggest arguments to plow the church lot, but Hayes said at some point the church will begin to charge for their programs. He said the church should have already included plowing expenses in their own budget.

Hayes said that in the MOU, the town is just asked to plow the church lot and not perform any other maintenance, but he feared that the amount of maintenance performed by the town would gradually increase over time. He said he didn't want the town to be fully responsible for lot maintenance, because he would not want to be fully responsible for damages.

"If there was a lawsuit, we would have to fight our way out of it. I don't want any more public expenses," said Hayes.

Benavides said he has also been faced with many phone calls and other forms of feedback over the issue, with most people in support of plowing. He pointed out that the youth center is in fact a part of the town since it is located in a central area on Potter Hill Road and resides close to the school and town systems.

Benavides said he looked up insurance rates, and that they should not skyrocket if the selectmen agreed to the MOU.

"Again, having said as a selectman, I have to accept what Gilford votes would want. I will have to vote yes," said Benavides.

O'Brien said he was impressed with the amount of feedback that the selectmen received back on the issue, and said he would have to support the agreement as well, and vote yes. The town will now continue to plow the church parking lot on an as-needed basis to allow for public use.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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