May 16, 2012SANBORNTON — A day after narrowly defeating yet another proposal to revert to SB-2 ballot voting for future town business, Sanbornton residents gathered for Town Meeting last Wednesday evening, where they passed a $3,687,279 budget and addressed ten other articles on the warrant.
As resident Tom Salatiello later observed, the tone of the evening was most likely set with a real spirit of community, as awards presentations kicked off the meeting. Ian Raymond received special recognition for his role on the Energy Committee and his many money-saving efforts in Sanbornton, as well as his work on the Master Plan. Fire Chief Paul Dexter also handed out awards of appreciation to FireFighter of the Year Michael Skeats and EMT of the Year Anna McLoon.
"I wish I could give an award to you all," Dexter said. "I'm proud to be your chief, and you should all be proud of yourselves, too."
Police Chief Steven Hankard also took a moment to announce that the town would be initiating an electronic notification program for residents. The program will send out alerts to residents who register to receive information concerning road closures, weather related emergencies and other special bulletins.
"This system will help us get that information out to the greatest amount of people as quickly as possible," said Hankard.
From there, each of the votes taken from the floor were nearly unanimous, as 170 voters passed each of the 11 articles on the warrant with little disagreement or discussion.
One question raised on the budget addressed the inclusion of a $3,000 raise for the select board. Marla Davis said she had nothing against the three selectmen, but felt now was not the time to hand out raises, and wished to have the money removed from the budget.
Budget committee member Jeffrey Jenkins explained his committee's thoughts behind the proposal. He cited the numerous hours each of the selectmen spend traveling around town to investigate matters that come before them; their near perfect attendance at weekly meetings; the added time involved working with department heads; and much more. Jenkins said the three spend more than 56 hours a month on town business, making their pay a mere $5.20 an hour.
"We just want to compensate them enough so that they're not incurring out of pocket expenses to do their jobs," said Jenkins.
Despite all three selectmen voting against the raise, the town agreed with the budget committee and passed the budget as written.
Voters also said yes to fire department expenditures from capital reserve funds for new equipment, including $269,000 to replace Engine 2 with a tanker. Last year, the department was allowed the amended amount of $219,000 for that purchase, but Dexter reported he was unable to find a suitable tanker at that price. This year, the town agreed, and passed the article to allow him the necessary funding for the vehicle.
A hand count was necessary for the purchase of 4.76 acres of land located behind the Town Hall, church and library. Many residents felt the asking price of $60,000 was too high, and others feared the purchase would result in the town then requesting to build a new Town Office in the near future, which would further raise taxes.
Guy Giunta, Chairman of the select board, said the article was "not placed on here lightly," and the board had done a lot of research on the property. Because it is a landlocked piece of real estate, anyone who might purchase it would have a right of way that would pass right across the entrance to the Town Hall. He assured voters there is no plan to build on the property, but in the future, that land would at least allow for town government to stay centralized in the square if a need ever arose to expand services in Sanbornton.
"If we don't buy this now, there's a good chance it will be purchased this year, and the right of way will go through our parking lot there," said Giunta.
Again, after hearing both the pros and cons of the purchase, Article 8 passed.
Discussion on one other article, to spend $266,252 on repairs to Steele Hill Road, turned positive when selectmen explained the state would reimburse the town $177,502 of that amount, and then hand over ownership of the state-owned roadway to Sanbornton. The final cost to the town for the much needed repairs would be $88,750.
To sweeten the deal for taxpayers, Steele Hill Resort owner Bill Cutillo stepped up to the microphone to thank selectmen for their efforts on road repairs and upgrades, and said he is disappointed that the state has not given Steele Hill Road proper maintenance since it was repaired more than ten years ago. He encouraged the town to take advantage of the state's offer to help repair it, then turn it over to the town, and said he would contribute $20,000 towards the project. The article passed unanimously.
The final question on the warrant was to accept Steele Hill Road and Bay Road as Class V town roads, which also passed unanimously, and in just under two and a half hours, the meeting was adj