Town OKs land buy

AMHERST – Voters elected a retired police chief to the Board of Selectman and approved the purchase of 230 acres of forest and wetlands last week.

Peter Lyon, who served on the Amherst Police Department for three decades until he retired in 2012, is the new selectman. Chairman Dwight Brew was re-elected to the board, and Vice Chairman John D’Angelo was defeated.

The conservation land is in three lots in the town’s southeast corner between Spring and County roads. It will cost taxpayers about $450,000, with most of the balance of the $1 million purchase coming from the Piscataquog Land Conservancy, a nonprofit regional land trust. Town officials say the large aquifer under the land will give the town a reliable future water source.

All school and town operating budgets passed by healthy margins, and three candidates for the Souhegan Cooperative School Board who campaigned on a cost-control platform were defeated. Dwayne Purvis and Stephen Coughlan were elected to three-year Amherst seats, and Peter Maresco was elected to a one-year Amherst seat on the Amherst-Mont Vernon board.

Maresco defeated, by a 400-vote margin, Mike Akillian, a former selectman who helped found Working for Great Schools. The reform group maintains that school costs are higher and academic quality lower than comparable high schools.

In an email the day after the election, Akillian said his group plans to meet Thursday, March 17, to talk about where they should go from here. Addie Hutchinson easily fought off a challenge to her position as Souhegan School District moderator. Stacie Kiczuk, a member of Working for Great Schools, had complained about Hutchinson’s handling of the district’s Deliberative Session, when hundreds of opponents of the "change group" showed up and booed and applauded speakers. Voters also added money to several town capital reserve funds, including funds for the fire station renovation, but voted against establishing a vehicle maintenance garage fund.

They said yes to establishing a maintenance fund and a recreation fund for the high school and establishing a co-op planning committee to look at alternative ways of administering the schools. There were several contests for other town positions.

Bob Rowe, a 25-year member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Jeanne Ludt easily beat their challengers, as did trustee of the trust funds incumbent Bob Grunbeck.

All proposed zoning amendments passed, except one that would have permitted non-commercial sports and recreation uses in all zones in town.

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