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Voters pass Ossipee budget and articles as presented

OSSIPEE SELECTMEN Harry Merrow and Morton Leavitt listen to voters during Town Meeting March 9. It was a quick meeting compared to previous years with little change in the proposed warrant. (Mellisa Ferland photo) (click for larger version)
March 17, 2011
OSSIPEE — If the town's moderator is also a high school teacher who has to be at work bright and early the next morning, there's a good chance she will keep the Wednesday night town meeting moving swiftly along.

And Moderator Katy Meserve did just that at last week's town meeting. In two-and-a-half hours, voters approved the town's $4.85 million operating budget for 2011 and nearly two dozen warrant articles and made no changes to the Budget Committee's recommendations.

Voters came to the defense of the town's zoning officer position after Kevin Houle made a motion to cut that budget line to $6,000 citing the $12,000 the officer brought in for revenue in 2010 as insufficient. Zoning Board member John Brown said the officer's job is to enforce zoning and not just collect fees. James Rines added that the position has clearly been a benefit to the town. A unanimous vote kept the budget at $77,938.

Houle also challenged the dog officer's budget. With little support in efforts to trim some budget lines Houle pled with the group, "Apparently I am the only one in this room struggling to pay their tax bill," he said.

A new position was authorized as voters approved the hiring of a part-time worker who will split their time between the town's recreation and public safety departments.

Non-profits are feeling the pinch of the poor economy and four programs were the subject of discussion. With Ossipee Co-Op Preschool only having four enrolled students, voters questioned whether or not to give $1,500. Ossipee Concerned Citizens Director pled with voters not to delete the $5,000 requested to help keep that daycare open. "If you don't give the money, we won't be here," said Sargent. There are currently 17 children involved in that program and most attend before or after school only. With parents working less or having to make other arrangements because they can't afford childcare and cutbacks in state funding, Sargent said the program is at risk despite the year-round fundraising events the organization runs to keep the doors open.

The selectmen did not support funding for Kingswood Youth Center. Selectman Harry Merrow and Morton Leavitt both expressed they are sympathetic to the cause but cautioned voters against adding another social agency to the town's budget roll. The Budget Committee was in favor of the $3,000 request and so were voters.

The Ossipee Main Street Program came under scrutiny. Bruce Parsons asked why the voters are giving money to an organization that was promised to be self-funding. He said though the projects of the program are helping the town look more beautiful, it is only the people of Center Ossipee that are benefitting despite the whole town paying for it. Rines argued that the program has brought energy to the town that had been lacking. Voters gave that organization $9,500, up $3,000 from last year.

In a move that one voter called "penny-wise and pound foolish" Ralph Brownell's recommendation to cut all additions to capital reserve and expendable trust funds failed to garner interest from the crowd.

As of Town Meeting, the selectmen's latest plan for the town-owned building at 1 Moultonville Road is to convert the upstairs into storage and use the rest of the building to house the various land use boards with office and meeting space.

Meserve did a good job keeping the audience on track when it came to the fire departments questionnaire (Article 22). She limited discussion to the request for money and not the subject as a whole. Voters approved spending $5,000 for the purpose of mailing out a questionnaire "to taxpayers in reference to proceeding with the merging of the town's three fire departments." Although the wording of the warrant article would indicate selectmen have decided the merger is going to happen, it will be up to those who complete the survey to make their thoughts known. The board was asked to bring in technical help and include the commissioners from all three precincts when drafting the questionnaire.

Voters also gave permission for selectmen to purchase two new police cruisers, a highway department vehicle, and seven protective vests for police officers, and upgrade the computers at Town Hall.

As a final order of business, the board was asked to work on making the town reports available earlier next year, as they were not available until two days before town meeting.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Alton School
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