Letters to the Editor – February 18, 2016

False promises of Brox excavation Article 23

To the Editor:

Milford’s Brox excavation Warrant Article 23 would give the Board of Selectmen (BOS) authority for 20 years to level the forested hills and sell 635,000 cubic yards of earth materials on 44 acres of the Brox "Community Lands." Voters can see what the aftermath of a sand and gravel operation looks like every time they drive past Granite State Concrete on west Elm Street. Is this what we want our Brox Community Lands to look like in the foreseeable future? Voters wisely rejected this mining operation in 2014 and 2015. This time it’s even worse because BOS Chair Mark Fougere has publicly repudiated conservation and the recommendations of the 2015 Natural Resources Inventory, now making the proposed excavation inconsistent with the 2014 Brox Community Lands Master Plan that included the NRI. The BOS claims that the sale of sand and gravel will reduce taxes by providing revenue to Milford taxpayers of up to $1 million, but the numbers just don’t add up. This anticipated income is based on three bids ranging from a high of $1.60 per cubic yard (but only if the town does the costly site preparation and maintenance work) to a low of 50 cents per cubic yard (if the excavator does the work). To achieve the promissory $1 million revenue, it would require the town to accept the $1.60 bid and thus the additional site costs, including the likely $35,000 permit fee to the state. Town expenses would not go down – they would go up – and at $1.60 per cubic yard, we are practically giving our town treasure away. The BOS also claims the excavation will only take three to five years. Again, the numbers don’t add up. Excavating 635,000 cubic yards in five years means removing 127,000 cubic yards per year, or around 490 cubic yards per day over a five-day work week. One six-wheeler truck carrying 14 cubic yards per trip would need to make 35 trips per day or 4-plus truckloads per hour for five years nonstop. This is simply unrealistic and unsustainable. Don’t be fooled by fraudulent claims of reduced taxes. When the warrant article states it has "No tax impact," it means exactly that. Taxpayers will basically see no decrease in their taxes. Excavation was a bad idea in 2014 and 2015. It’s still a bad idea in 2016. Vote "No" on Article 23. Paul F. Cunningham, Ph.D. Milford

Support school board members

To the Editor:

Thank you, Kathy Cleveland, for an excellent account of Souhegan’s Deliberative Session held on Feb. 1. It was indeed the largest turnout of concerned citizens we have ever seen. The crowd, which included many Souhegan parents, was in favor of the proposed budget and supportive of our fine high school. Now we must prepare for the next step: the election of school board members who are ready for the hard job of serving our whole community. Let us look for people who are ready to sit down with others and deliberate collaboratively for the betterment of our schools. Let us look away from those whose motives we simply cannot understand. Let us find those who make a habit of listening carefully. Let us overlook those who would attempt to dominate all proceedings. Let us elect those who will work within the democratic process as the founders of Souhegan High School intended. Let us not elect anyone who would be the only one to vote against 13 others and conclude those others are out of step. May I suggest that all candidates for Souhegan School Board attend Community Council meetings. Listen, think, consider the democratic process. Give "working well with others" a try. You may be rewarded far beyond what you can only begin to imagine. My husband and I try to stay positive. We care passionately about the Amherst schools, especially Souhegan High School. It is at Souhegan we have been personally involved. So in the spirit of accenting the positive and eliminating the negative, we urge Amherst residents to re-elect Stephen Coughlan and Peter Maresco, and elect Dwayne Purvis to the Souhegan Cooperative School Board. We also urge you to re-elect Addie Hutchinson as moderator. Save our high school. To elect members of the cabal known as Working for Great Schools would be a disaster.

Nan Stearns Amherst

Brox won’t provide much revenue

To the Editor:

After a careful review of Milford Warrant Article 23, Gravel Pit Reclamation/ Restoration & Sale or Other Disposition of Resources, we respectfully urge the voters of Milford to reject this warrant article. Selectman Daniels is correct when he writes in the Board of Selectmen’s Minority Report for Warrant Article 6 and implies in various other warrant articles’ Board of Selectmen’s minority reports that "The Town is not living within its means" and "Expenses exceed expected revenue." The questionable claim of $1 million in net revenue made by the selectmen if Warrant Article 23 is approved would be spread across at least five years, equating to $200,000 per year in town revenue. This would equate to a tax savings of $2.50 per $100,000 in assessed home value, or a savings of only 0.09 percent, not a huge savings in that a $100,000 home is currently paying $2,856 in taxes. Given the disruption that the mining and hauling of the sand and gravel would cause, this hardly seems like a win for Milford voters. The Board of Selectmen should work with Selectman Daniels to find spending reductions and revenue sources that would generate a more significant reduction in our tax rate rather than repeatedly wasting their time trying to generate trivial amounts of non-recurring revenue. More troubling is that the Board of Selectmen is asking the voters of Milford for a blank check. Article 23’s wording "on such terms and conditions, as the Selectmen deem appropriate for such sale or other disposition," without any wording that requires the sale or other disposition of the material to generate a minimum amount of revenue, net of expenses, is unacceptable. Approving this warrant article is equivalent to you giving a realtor the authorization to sell your home at what the realtor deems to be good terms and conditions without specifying a minimum price you would accept. If the Board of Selectmen is confident in their assertion that they can clear between $780,000 and $1 million for the town general fund, as stated in the Board of Selectmen’s Majority Report on Warrant Article 23, shouldn’t the selectmen include a clause in the warrant article that sets a minimum value on the net revenue the town would accept and that lists the favorable tax impact from the sale for the voters to review and approve? The fact that they are not doing this, but instead asking for a blank check, makes their assertion suspect. In conclusion, we respectfully ask the voters of Milford to think carefully about Warrant Article 23 and upon careful reflection, reject it for what it is, a poor attempt to offset an outof- control budget with an inconsequential amount of revenue. Please join us in voting NO on Warrant Article 23.

David and Nancy McManus Milford

Considering endangered species

To the Editor:

The debate over the development of a portion of the Brox property owned by the town has focused on the threat to endangered wildlife species such as the Blanding’s turtle, the Eastern hognose snake and the spotted turtle. But there is another endangered species that the Brox Environmental Citizens have no concerns about, and that is the Milford High School graduate who will not have the benefit of a college education and needs a good paying job that will give him or her the opportunity and skills to have a real future in life. Susan Fournier and her coalition are obviously financially secure, so their attitude is, as the Brits say, "I’ve got mine, Jack, so you can just buzz off." The facts of the matter are that economic growth is essential to the future of the community and the state, and without it, the downward spiral will begin. No library repairs or replacement, no money for quality of life improvements and other essential community needs, and in the end, a declining job and tax base. There can be a compromise between good economic development and good environmental policy, and just such a compromise is desperately needed.

James M. Coull Amherst

Young man’s act of kindness valued To the Editor: I would like to thank a wonderful young man who left me a surprise when I checked out my groceries at Market Basket in Milford on Jan. 30. The checkout lady said he had left me some money for my groceries. His parents can be very proud of him and know their son has a wonderful heart.

Jennie Greenwood (87 years) Mason

Support candidates for school board

To the Editor:

There are currently three Amherst seats up for (re)election on the Souhegan Cooperative School Board. As a current member of the board, I know what a difficult balance it is to maintain academic competitiveness while keeping the budget fiscally responsible. There are so many elements to consider and stakeholders that come into play, not the least of which is the taxpayer. Decisions have to be made with comprehensive research and accurate data. We need to be willing to take on the complexities of educational budgets by asking appropriate questions and listening. A board member should act collaboratively, respecting the process and understanding that there is often more than one right opinion. And when it is deemed necessary to make reductions, board members need to be very thoughtful in their approach. It is for these reasons that I am, as a taxpayer and voter, supporting Steve Coughlan, Dwayne Purvis and Pete Maresco for the three Amherst seats on the Souhegan Cooperative School Board. We all want the best for our students, and for our future generations. I believe a vote for these three candidates will bring us just that. Please join me in supporting Steve, Dwayne and Pete on March 8.

Mary Lou Mullens Amherst

Invest in our library, community

To the Editor:

Now that the primaries are over, Milford’s own Election Day, Tuesday, March 8, is fast approaching. The library board of trustees and I would like to remind Milford residents how very important it is to vote on town matters. We would also like to encourage voters to vote YES on Article No. 3 and support the proposed building project for the future Wadleigh Memorial Library. The cost to taxpayers will be offset with a $500,000 gift from the Morris K. Webster Fund in addition to ongoing fundraising efforts. This is the second year we are bringing the project before voters; last year we were greatly encouraged when it received 43 percent of the 60 percent of votes needed to pass. The Budget Advisory Committee has voted to support the project again this year. The town’s Capital Improvement Committee has recommended the project for funding 16 times – beginning in 1998. As officials duly elected by Milford residents, the library board of trustees has spent years researching and planning for the library’s future – most recently with expert guidance from Milford’s Facilities Committee and the Community Development Department. Furthermore, instead of shifting the cost to taxpayers, in the last 15 years the trustees have spent nearly $500,000 of trustee funds on structural engineers, architects and building consultants, and to purchase properties which will ultimately provide badly needed additional parking for the downtown area. With assistance from the Facilities Committee and Community Development Department, we evaluated all of the options open to us: renovating the existing structure, building different additions, starting from scratch and even relocating the facility. The plan that addressed the community’s most dire needs, in a facility that stressed flexibility, efficiency and economy in staffing and maintenance, after much fine-tuning also turned out to be the smallest and least expensive to build. In terms of cost savings, it will cut our current cost per square foot to heat, cool and operate the building nearly in half; it will bring Milford’s library up to New Hampshire’s average library size per capita (it’s currently 57 percent below the state average); and encompassing two floors instead of three – and with an open floor plan to allow for vastly improved line of sight – it will enable us to staff a bigger building without adding to our head count. In the meantime, we are in a building with systems that are 30-plus years old and failing, trying to provide 21stcentury library services in a facility built before computers were even part of the workplace, one which does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, nor meets modern efficiency and safety codes. The 1986 addition was designed to last 20 years and serve a population of 12,000. It’s now been 30 years, and Milford’s population is above 15,000 and quickly growing as plans for new housing developments move forward. This project will create a library for Milford’s future. The design includes a larger Children’s Room with program space and a family bathroom; a much-needed, larger Teen Area; more public meeting space with after-hours access; sorely needed quiet study rooms; a technology/ business center; and expanded parking with adequate handicapped spaces. For years we’ve had door counters, and currently average 10,000- 12,000 visitors per month; we can say with confidence the library is the most heavily utilized town facility aside from our schools. This significant amount of foot traffic the library draws to the downtown also boosts the local economy in such a way that doesn’t compete with businesses. Furthermore, we’ve strived to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck: For the past several years, for every dollar invested in our library, Milford taxpayers received an average return of $4 in services. If you already use the library, discover your own savings over the past year by checking out "What’s Your Library Worth" on our home page. If you don’t use the library, why not take advantage and get your money’s worth? We invite residents to our fifth open house, to be held Sunday, Feb. 21, from 3-5 p.m. (snow date is March 6) to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the library and ask questions of the trustees, library director and facilities manager. The state of the current building and its systems is not going away; our Band-Aids have Band-Aids – have Band-Aids. To fix what we have is to waste taxpayer funds instead of use them wisely, and construction costs will only continue to increase the longer this project is delayed. Yes, it’s an investment. It’s an investment in our community – one that will secure the future of a well-utilized, heavily trafficked public resource whose doors are open to all regardless of income, age, education, color or creed. Invest in Milford’s children, its teens, its young parents, its boomers and its seniors by voting YES on March 8 for Article No. 3.

Michelle Sampson Director Wadleigh Memorial Library Milford