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New Durham voters reject solid waste facility proposal


March 11, 2010
NEW DURHAM — Skepticism about selectmen's motives and doubts about how much the town could actually save led voters at New Durham's annual Town Meeting Wednesday night to reject Article 3 on this year's Warrant, which asked that voters authorize the board of selectmen to seek proposals to privatize the operations of the town's solid waste facility and enter into negotiations for a long-term contract if they found a suitable proposal.

"This is a ridiculous expense to the taxpayers when we have a perfectly-run dump," one resident (who did not identify herself) said from the floor, arguing that allowing a corporation to take over the solid waste facility would lead to increased taxes.

Despite Road Agent Mark Fuller's claim that he was approached last year by an outside contractor who suggested that the town could save $60,000 a year by privatizing the solid waste facility, the resident speaking from the floor remained skeptical.

"I don't see any reason why we should privatize it," she said, adding that she felt America's large corporations were "doing fine" without being given control over public facilities.

Suggesting that the wording of the article was "bass-ackwards," and that the selectmen should have explored privatization options and then brought a proposal forward, resident Ed Neister pointed to this year's Town Report, which stated that the total cost of operations at the solid waste facility in 2009 was $104,000 (the equivalent of 60 to 70 cents a week for the average family).

Noting that the town was not planning to privatize its road maintenance or snow plowing operations, Neister said he could not see "any reason why we should privatize the transfer station."

Voters also turned down Article 7, which asked the town to approve the construction of sidewalks along Main Street pending receipt of a state Transportation Enhancement grant, amid concerns about how much local taxpayers would have to put toward the project.

The only other Warrant article rejected Wednesday night was Article 24, a petition asking voters to send a resolution to local legislators calling for a state-wide referendum on an amendment to the state Constitution defining "marriage," which failed in a secret ballot vote, with 51 in favor and 79 opposed.

All remaining articles on this year's Warrant passed, including:

-Article 4, which asked voters to raise and appropriate an operating budget of $3,021,287.

-Article 5, which asked voters to establish a new capital reserve fund for road reconstruction, and to raise and appropriate $146,595 to be placed in the new fund.

-Article 6, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $105,055 in support of road construction and maintenance, with the full amount expected to be offset by state highway block grant funding.

-Article 8, which asked voters to raise and appropriate a total of $53,500 to be placed in a series of previously established expendable trust funds.

-Article 9, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $263,463 to be placed in a series of previously established capital reserve funds.

-Article 10, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $33,085 for the acquisition of a new police cruiser, with $30,085 to be withdrawn from the Police Cruiser Capital Reserve Fund and the remaining $2,500 expected to come from a highway safety grant.

-Article 11, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $35,000 for the acquisition of a new one-ton truck (the word "pickup" was removed through an amendment), with the full amount to be withdrawn from the Highway Truck Capital Reserve Fund.

-Article 12, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $40,865 for the acquisition of an all-wheel steer loader, with $20,000 to be withdrawn from the Solid Waste Equipment Capital Reserve Fund, $4,000 expected from a New Hampshire the Beautiful grant, and the remaining $16,865 to be withdrawn from the town's undesignated fund balance.

-Article 13, which asked voters to discontinue the Construction Addition to Transfer Station Capital Reserve Fund and transfer its balance to the general fund.

-Article 14, which asked voters to establish a new capital reserve fund for improvements to the solid waste facility, and to transfer the $24,306 balance formerly contained in the Construction Addition fund into the new fund.

-Article 15, which asked voters to establish a new capital reserve fund for vehicle and equipment maintenance, and to raise and appropriate $20,000 to be placed in the new fund.

-Article 16, which asked voters to discontinue the Construction of New Fire Station Capital Reserve Fund and transfer its current balance into the general fund.

-Article 17, which asked voters to establish a new capital reserve fund for construction, additions, renovations, or improvements to public safety buildings, and transfer the $105,515 balance formerly contained in the Fire Station fund into the new fund.

-Article 18, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $25,000 to reimburse the Conservation Commission for its purchase of a one-acre parcel next to the 1772 Meetinghouse.

-Article 19, which asked voters to discontinue the New Property Tax Maps Capital Reserve Fund and transfer its balance of $1,266.24 into the general fund.

-Article 20, which asked voters to discontinue the empty Davis Crossing Road Capital Reserve Fund.

-Article 21, which asked voters to approve a new resolution in support of the Birch Ridge conservation project.

-Article 22, which asked voters to raise and appropriate $10,000 to cover incidental costs (such as surveys, legal expenses, and timber cruises) associated with the effort to conserve the Birch Ridge property.

-Article 23, which asked voters to add new language to Section F of the town Ethics Ordinance clarifying that town officials are permitted to accept unsolicited gifts valued at $25 or less.

Excluding the operating budget (which translated to an increase of $5.43 in the town's tax rate), the total tax impact of the Warrant articles passed this year will be $1.16.

A more detailed look at this year's Town Meeting will appear in the March 18 issue of The Baysider.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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