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Milfoil article takes most time at Tuftonboro Town Meeting

GUY PIKE offered a motion at the Tuftonboro Town Meeting on March 10 to reduce the town budget by $35,783 because he said the highway department was guilty of wasteful spending, due to “lack of supervision” by selectmen. The motion failed. (Jeanne Tempest photo) (click for larger version)
March 18, 2010
TUFTONBORO — In a two-hour Town Meeting on March 10, Tuftonboro voters approved an operating budget of $2,835,783 and voted to pay the remaining $115,000 owed on the Gould property.

Voters also approved establishing a capital reserve fund for the purpose of building a new library and approved joining Wolfeboro and Moultonborough in the purchase of equipment to fight milfoil in Lake Winnipesaukee. They postponed indefinitely a petitioned article asking for a referendum defining "marriage."

The sum of $95,000 for a statistical revaluation of property was grudgingly appropriated because of an unfunded state mandate. Voters approved establishment of a Recreation Revolving Fund with the fees and charges collected.

The first six articles on the warrant concerned zoning and had been on the ballot at Tuesday's election. Article 7, an appropriation of $5,200 for road striping on Ledge Hill, Union Wharf, Durgin and Sodom roads passed with no discussion, as did articles 8 through 11. Article 8 was an appropriation of $185,000 for paving town roads; Article 9 was an appropriation of $5,000 for the perambulation of the Tuftonboro/Ossipee town line and the Tuftonboro/Moultonborough town line.

Article 10 sought an appropriation of $10,000 for the purchase of containers to be used at the Transfer Station. Selectmen explained the rationale for Article 11, to pay off the remaining $115,000 owed on the Gould property (an early resolution of the debt) as a desire to leave the town debt-free, saving on interest and putting the town in an advantageous position for bonds for upcoming building projects, including a new fire station and a new library.

Article 12 sought to establish a Capital Reserve Fund for building a new library and appropriating $85,300 from the unreserved fund balance to be placed in that Capital Reserve Fund. That money is what remains of the $100,000 appropriated at Town Meeting in March 2006 for the purpose of expanding the library. The article also named the selectmen as agents to expend the reserve fund. Several people addressed the issue. Gary Chehames suggested that the money be put in the general fund. Mike Phelps offered an amendment removing the selectmen as agents to expend and sending the issue back to the voters before the money can be spent. Library trustee Tina Antonucci explained that the trustees wanted some flexibility to use the funds as preparations are made for a new library. Raymond (Skip) Hurt agreed with Phelps that the issue should come back before the voters. The Phelps amendment failed, and the motion passed.

Article 13 transferred the remaining funds to the Capital Reserve Fund. It passed without discussion.

Controversial purchase

Selectmen were challenged for not doing their homework during the discussion of Article 14. Voters were asked to appropriate $10,000 to purchase, in conjunction with Wolfeboro and Moultonborough, Diver Assisted Suction Harvesters (DASH) for the purpose of removing milfoil from Lake Winnipesaukee. Of this amount, $5,000 would come from a matching grant with the remainder to be raised by taxes. Selectman Dan Duffy addressed the issue. He said it was an opportunity to "get in on the ground floor" with the purchase of the equipment. He said there would be more requests for funds for such things as training and use of the equipment. Duffy said that Tuftonboro could back out of the agreement at any time. Paul Thornton asked what the hourly cost and the life expectancy of the machines were. Duffy had no numbers.

Selectmen had approved the article 2-1. Veronica Simms wanted to know what the opposing view was, and Selectman Bill Stockman said it was that the total cost is unknown as this time. Mary Ann Murray pointed out that milfoil is "a serious problem," noting that, as swim instructor, she sees boats coming out of the water draped in the stubborn weed. She said she is "the point person" with the Lakes Association. Guy Pike said he thought the state should pay for removing milfoil from the lake, as it's the state's lake.

Lou Williams asked what happens to the waste-weed that is harvested. Duffy said it can be dried and used as fertilizer. John Beaulieu pointed out that the economy is contingent on keeping the lake clean. "If the shorefront people can't use the lake for swimming and boating, they'll be looking for abatements," Beaulieu said. Williams urged, "Don't spend money until you've done your homework." Several people urged waiting until next year. Duffy pointed out there is a time limit on the grant. Tyler Phillips offered the observation, "It's a wonderful idea, poorly thought through."

Although it was one of the smaller appropriations on the warrant, Article 14 took up 30 minutes of deliberation before a vote was called for. The first hand vote was too close to call, so Moderator Dan Barnard had four volunteers count the hands raised. The motion passed 93-72.

Article 15 was also controversial. The state has mandated a statistical evaluation of the town. Selectmen put the project out to bid and accepted the lowest bid at $95,000. It's only five years since the last evaluation and Tuftonboro voters had no patience for the idea. Duffy said, however, that if the town doesn't do the revaluation, the state will hire someone and send the town the bill. John Simms noted, "This is the worst possible time to do a revaluation The past two years have been dreadful."

Another close count resulted in raised hands being counted individually. The Article passed 96-72.

The town had several capital reserve funds with zero balances, and the Department of Revenue Administration urged that they be closed out. These were for completed projects. Article 16 passed with little discussion.

New account established

Article 17 was to establish a Recreation Revolving Fund from money received from fees and charges, that would accumulate from year to year, and give the Recreation Commission final approval to spend. An attempt by Gary Chehames to amend it so that selectmen would have control failed, and the article passed.

Article 18 was the town budget. Guy Pike, noting that the highway budget is part of the general budget and cannot be cut by voters, said the department is guilty of "wasteful spending." He said he did not blame the department, but the board of selectmen for "lack of supervision." He then offered an amendment, reducing the town budget by $35,783 to an even $2.8 million. "Let them (the selectmen) figure out where they're going to get it," he said. The amendment failed and the article passed.

Article 19 was a petitioned article, and Lorna Bickerdyke spoke to its contents. It sought a town resolution to be sent to the state legislature that read, "Resolved: The citizens of New Hampshire should be allowed to vote on an amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution that defines "marriage."

Bickerdyke said that 60 percent of the towns in the state were voting on that petition. She said she wanted the right to vote on a Constitutional Amendment. She said the article did not require anyone to take a position that is for or against same-sex marriage, that it was a constitutional issue.

Sarah Copplestone was the first of several voters to speak She moved to postpone indefinitely a vote on the article. One woman said it definitely was about same-sex marriage, not about constitutional rights. Liese Gauthier noted that the United States is not a democracy, but a republic. "We elect people to represent us. If you are unhappy about the way they voted, write a letter." The motion to postpone passed.

Moderator Dan Barnard called the meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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