Voters preserve downtown with cell tower article

MONT VERNON – Just to make sure that a proposed cell tower on the property of their historic Town Hall will never be visible, Town Meeting voters amended a warrant article that will allow selectmen to lease the property to a telecommunications provider for up to 30 years.

The amendment, which passed with an overwhelming show of cards, says the tower must be inside. Residents were concerned it might spoil the appearance of downtown. Selectmen told them the only visible change would be fiberglass shutters in place of the wooden ones on the clock tower, where the cell tower will be located.

But resident Tony Immorlica said the article’s original wording leaves open the possibility that a cell company could install some kind of equipment outside some day.

“Some future board could authorize an external antenna,” he said.

Most warrant articles for the Wednesday, March 15, meeting had the unanimous support of both the selectmen and the Budget Committee, including one for $10,000 to be added to a library capital reserve fund.

Library trustee Cindy Raspiller called the appropriation a modest step toward the expansion of what she called the smallest library in New Hampshire and “bursting at the seams.”

One article that divided the budget committee and that selectmen unanimously opposed – adding $15,000 to a fund for Carleton Pond and Park, to come from timber taxes paid by Joseph Carleton Jr. – received divided approval from voters, as well.

Plans call for dredging the pond, improving drainage, building a retaining wall, replacing a fire hydrant and installing a new culvert. A bit more than $66,000 has been raised so far from town appropriations and donations.

Selectman Jack Esposito said there was no precedent for using timber tax money.

“Just because you never did it before doesn’t mean” you can’t do it now, said Immorlica, who said it’s “totally appropriate” to earmark money for this purpose.

The pond drew national attention several years ago when the town voted to drop its old name, Jew Pond. One man called it a mud hole, prompting Zoe Fimbel to defend it, listing the recreation events – including a fishing derby and ice skating – that go on there. She said it’s well worth the 13 cents on the tax rate it would cost.

Joanne Draghetti, of the Conservation Commission, said the pond serves as fire protection, as well as a recreation and conservation area.

The pond was last dredged in the 1970s and is only about 4 feet deep, with the shallow water encouraging algae blooms, according to the conservation commission.

Voters went line by line over the town’s $2.26 million operating budget, adding money to some lines and subtracting from others until a total of $2,200 was cut. Money for a new computer for the trustees of the trust funds was added after trustee Eileen Naber explained in detail why their present equipment is obsolete and inadequate.

The meeting, which attracted about 150 voters, also approved two articles that will let the town accept grants and donations for town building improvements. The articles passed with an overwhelming show of cards. Planning Board Chairman Bill McKinney said that would allow the town to set up accounts for renovations to Town Hall, the McCollom Building and possibly the Daland Memorial Library.

A proposal to add $35,000 to a fire truck capital reserve fund sparked a discussion about the benefits of putting money in capital reserve funds versus bonding a big purchase such as a $400,000 fire truck. Voters approved the article, but were divided.

Two articles that would have designated several roads as scenic roads were withdrawn because abutters hadn’t been notified.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or