Session focuses on budget, proposals

> Festival finances

MILFORD – There is a proposal for a new public library and a $13 million town operating budget, but a warrant article that amounts to a small fraction of that money generated most of the conflict at the town Deliberative Session last Saturday.

The article asked for $20,000 for the Pumpkin Festival and for holi­day decorations and plantings. Se­lectmen supported it unanimous­ly, while the Budget Advisory Committee did not.

Chairman Matt Lydon said the committee believes the dollar amount is incorrect and that some think the festival should be self-supporting.

After much talk about how the festival organizer, the Milford Im­provement Team, is financed, an amendment from Tim Finan to in­crease the total to $23,000 passed – $20,000 for the festival’s emergen­cy services and $3,000 for holiday decorations and plantings.

This was not the first time Pumpkin Festival finances have come up.

"I just can’t help myself," said Dale White, a water commission­er. "We pass a $13 million budget and we see all the money that the festival brings in, and we worry about $20,000 because it’s off by $3,000."

But Karen Mitchell, of the Bud­get Committee, said, "We need to look at every dollar." She faulted MIT Director Wendy Hunt for not coming before the committee to explain how the organization fi­nances the festival.

In an email after the meeting, Hunt said representatives of MIT didn’t go to the Budget Commit­tee this year because the select­men, not MIT, is now in charge of the $20,000.

"This Pumpkin Festival money never hits MIT’s bank account, and never has," Hunt wrote. "It stays in the town’s coffers, and then the town pays the departments.

"Even though we did not physi­cally come before the (commit­tee)," she wrote, she has "been in touch and emailing the BAC."

Janet Langdell, of the Plan­ning Board, suggested officials"sit down and talk about whose festival it is … so we don’t revisit it next year." Library trustees made their case for a new 21,000-square-foot building

with a five-minute video showing the Wadleigh Memorial Library’s rotting windows, damaged ceilings, basement water and other defects. The plan for a new library building received a lot of verbal support Saturday. "The building is failing. … It’s falling apart," Jason Plourde said. "How can anyone see the video and not think … this is the year" for the library, one woman said. The Budget Committee does not recommend the article, 6-3, and selectmen oppose it 4-1. Officials cited the impact on taxes, but did not argue about whether a new building is needed.

"Our library is very small" compared with those in similar-size towns, and its "30-yearold systems are failing and need replacement," said Jennifer Hansen, the trustees’ co-chairwoman. This is the second year the proposal has been on the ballot. Last year, it received 40 percent of the vote, while 60 percent was needed for the $5.6 million bond. Also on the warrant is an article that would allow selectmen to sell earth materials from the Brox property.

Town Moderator Peter Basiliere allowed Suzanne Fournier, of Brox Environmental Citizens, to give a 10-minute presentation in opposition of the sale. Selectmen and the Budget Committee support the plan that board Chairman Mark Fougere said would restore and reclaim 17 acres and give the town $1 million in revenue to help reduce taxes and pay for capital needs. Fournier’s slideshow featured deer, turtles and other animals she said would be affected by the project, and green hills that would "become piles of sand and rocks." She also questioned the potential revenue, saying expenses would eat into them. "There is a choice to be made between destruction and death and conservation and life," she said.

Operating budget

The town operating budget of $13.9 million is up by 2.3 percent because of employee raises, the cost of road paving, extra voting days and the upcoming property revaluation, said Town Administrator Mark Bender, who called it the smallest increase in five years. The Budget Committee recommended the budget with a 7-2 vote. Gary Daniels, the only selectman to vote against the spending plan, offered an amendment that would have cut the budget to $13.76 million, which is less than the default budget.

The amendment failed. Voters also rejected his amendment to reduce the $350,000 for the bridge replacement capital reserve. At the beginning of the six-hour session, Basiliere told the 79 voters that he wished "all 58 candidates were in the back of the room to see how we conduct democracy in New Hampshire." Town officials also honored longtime town clerk Margaret Langell, who is retiring in April. Other action at the 2016 town Deliberative Session: ? Article 21, to fund the annual Labor Day parade, was reduced from $7,500 to $6,000 on an amendment from Daniels, who said money can be saved by inviting local bands instead of bands from Boston. ? Article 31, a petition article on the proposed sale of some of the Brox property, is moot because the sale fell through, town officials said. ? Article 4, a $216,000 bond for storm sewer video inspection, and Article 5, a $950,000 bond to replace the wastewater treatment plant’s ultraviolet disinfection system, were put on the warrant. Both require a 60 percent majority.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.