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Littleton voters amend articles, pass proposed budget


February 04, 2010
LITTLETON—Warrant articles were amended, the right of people to vote about gay marriage was discussed and the budget passed without major changes or lengthy discussion. Though a few residents questioned the legality of some warrant articles, all debate and discussion in the five hour meeting was civil.

Around 150 gathered in the auditorium of Littleton High School to review the 40 articles on this year's warrant, which ranged from allowing the Board of Selectmen to buy and sell land on the town's behalf, to 21 petition warrant articles, mostly dealing with social service agencies.

Article 4 dealt with the town's $7,783,705 budget. At the beginning of the discussion surrounding the budget, Select Board Chairman Eddy Moore amended the warrant article to change the impact of the operating budget from $7.58 per $1,000 of assessed value to $6.22 per $1,000.

Town Manager Chuck Connell said the figure of $7.58 included all the warrant articles.

Selectman Ron Bolt spoke in general terms about the budget and said the selectmen had asked each department head to bring in the tightest possible budget this year, with a thought to saving the town money because of the economy.

"It was a $90,000 increase over last year, about 1 percent," Bolt said. "This may be the last year we may be able to have a small increase."

There are several considerations coming down the road that may increase the town budget, including the pending resolution of a court case with TransCanada over the assessed value of the Moore Dam.

Connell said that even before the budget season began, costs had gone up $500,000. This was because a loss of $190,000 in revenue sharing from the state, an additional $190,000 in new debt service coming due, as well as a $38,000 increase in welfare and a $20,000 increase in anticipated legal fees because of the Moore Dam issue.

Resident Don Craigie questioned whether funds in the operating budget slated for running the Opera House were in the right section of the budget. The funds had been in general government but they were moved to a separate Opera House section. He said they shouldn't be and if they are and it turns out it was illegal, there would be no money left to run the Opera House, because the relevant section of the budget would have passed with zero dollars in it.

Two officials said they would check with town counsel to be sure, though they said they believed Craigie to be wrong.

Craigie also questioned whether the selectmen could be entering into a multi-year lease with the Historical Society and the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce for the spaces they will be renting. He said that no Board of Selectmen could bind a future board to a multi-year contract.

"That was one of the reasons you sued the town for three years ago, Eddy," Craigie said.

Moore and several others sued the town for entering into a lease to rent part of the former Littleton Hospital to house the Police Department.

A move to amend a warrant article looking for money for chairs and a curtain for the Opera House performance venue failed, leaving the $30,000 for that purpose in the budget.

Two items that garnered particular attention were both warrant articles. One was a question to approve a non-binding resolution to be sent to legislators asking they put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot in November giving voters a say whether marriage should be between one man and one woman.

The article drew probably more speakers than any other discussed during the meeting.

Resident Jerry Sorlucco made a motion for an amendment that would remove most of the words of the article, leaving just the words, "The citizens of New Hampshire should be."

Sorlucco said the issue of gay marriage was settled law in New Hampshire, having been passed by the Legislature last year.

"This would take away the rights of families if it passed," Sorlucco said.

Randy DeTrude, pastor of the Light of Christ Fellowship Advent Christian Church, who also gave the invocation at the meeting, said people should have a right to vote on the matter.

"Considering that 180 million in 30 states have been given the opportunity to vote, this year citizens of New Hampshire should be allowed to vote," DeTrude said. He noted that the warrant article, which is non-binding- doesn't take a position on the matter, it just gives voters their say. He said in a democratic republic, people should be allowed to have their say.

"No one in favor of democracy should be opposed to this," DeTrude said.

Craigie took a slightly different tactic and said that this was a state matter and that municipalities should stick to municipal issues.

"If you're in favor of this then contact Rusty Bulis, Brien Ward and John Gallus and let them know what you think," Craigie said. Bulis and Ward are in the House, Gallus in the Senate.

Two other clergy spoke on the matter. Father Marcel Martel, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, said he was in favor of the resolution and letting people have their say on the matter in the ballot box, while Kurt Wiesner, of All Saints Episcopal Church, said it was not right for a law to restrict people's rights.

Resident Bob O'Connor said the purpose of amendments of the Constitution was to expand the rights of people, not take them away.

"I believe the citizens of New Hampshire believe in Live Free or Die," O'Connor said.

Sorlucco's amendment failed by a vote of 45 to 35.

After considerable discussion, a proposed noise ordinance was amended to read only, "to see."

Linda Massimilla said the ordinance was brought up after the Dalton Dragstrip was first proposed. People realized there was no noise ordinance within the town limits.

The article was not well received.

Resident Art Tighe said they had listened to 20 minutes of people talking during the discussion about the marriage article about how government should not restrict people's rights.

"Here's a real example of my rights being taken away," Tighe said. His right to do what he wished on his own property would be affected by the proposed ordinance. He said he couldn't wait until the definitions of noise were challenged in court.

The ordinance would affect his quality of life, he said.

Resident Bryan Hadlock described the ordinance as, "ridiculous and asinine." He proposed the amendment to trim the ordinance down to two words.

Jere Eames said the proposed ordinance was "not problem solving, it's problem causing."

The article was amended by a voice vote.

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