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Pines Center petition supported by Tilton, Northfield voters

March 16, 2011
TILTON — Supporters of the Pines Community Center were pleased by the outpouring of public support at both the Tilton and Northfield town meetings last Saturday, as their requests for $54,500 from both towns were granted in full by voters.

In Northfield, the budget committee recommended $7,223 less than the initial request, prompting a petitioned warrant article from the Pines supporters asking taxpayers to grant the difference from the proposed recommendation by the budget committee.

Tilton's Budget Committee agreed with their Northfield counterparts' appropriated allotment of just over $47,000, but upon receiving the petition, eventually took a different turn than Northfield by placing only $1 in the budget line for PCC, allowing voters the opportunity to decide for themselves how much to give the recreation facility.

"This by no means says we don't support the work of the people at the Pines Community Center. We wanted the voters to have a say in this," said Tilton Budget Committee Chairman Toni Belair.

On the other hand, selectmen in Tilton said they were tired of repeated annual requests for money without seeing changes in programming for teens, nor any attempt by administrators to win grants, and recommended a little over $27,000 be budgeted for PCC. They hoped their move would trigger the center to begin seeking alternative funding and not depend on the two towns to support its financial needs.

"When they (PCC representatives) have come to us, we've had many questions that have gone unanswered every year. To ask $110,000 from the two towns is a lot of money, and we want to get them to wake up and listen to our concerns," said Chairman of the Tilton Select Board Pat Consentino.

She recognized the fact that the center now has new management since executive director Jim Doane came on board last summer, and hoped that under his leadership, additional outside funding would be sought and a Capital Improvements Plan for the building itself could be established.

Those who backed the PPC recreation programs lined up to speak on behalf of the facility in both towns last Saturday.

One mother in Tilton said that without the before- and after-school programs at the Pines, either she or her husband would have to give up their job. Others said they have benefited from weight loss and strengthening programs for adults, while many seniors and disabled residents attend lunches and other activities at the center. Volunteerism and job opportunities available to high school students were also praised in the discussions.

After many statements both for and against the petitioned request, Tilton residents agreed with an amendment to the petitioned article for the $54,500 in funds originally requested through a vote of 53 to 38.

Across the river in Northfield, Polly Fife, among many others, spoke at length on the merits of the facility and reminded voters that "Behind every dollar spent on the Pines is a person."

She and other supporters were heard in Northfield when the voting body not only accepted the petitioned warrant article for $7,223, but also passed the town's operating budget as drafted. That vote gave PCC, otherwise known as the Tilton-Northfield Recreation Department, the $54,500 also requested of them for Fiscal Year 2011.

Doane was very happy about the outcome of the two meetings. Having taken the reins less than a year ago, he said he has heard the two towns and all of their concerns. To date, he said he has already obtained grants in excess of $9,000 for the facility, and awaits word on others he has applied for. In the meantime, he said he will continue to do what he can to take the burden off the taxpayers in each town while still offering quality programs for residents of all ages.

"I just want to say thank you very much to everyone who supported us in both towns today, and we look to move forward with our programs, improvements and outside funding opportunities in the future," Doane said.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Alton School
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