HINSDALE, N.H. -- The town's police department is officially on the path to getting a better home following Saturday's adoption of Article 2 of the town warrant, appropriating $1 million for the construction of a new station.
The article, voted on by paper ballot, passed at Town Meeting by a 155-65 margin. It surpassed the three-fifths majority needed for approval by eight votes. The ballot box was left open for an hour while other articles were voted on as well. All other articles were adopted or passed over.
By adopting Article 2, Hinsdale gave the town the OK to raise and appropriate $1,087,636 to build a new police station. Of that sum, $75,000 will come from the Expendable Trust set up for that purpose and $239,636 will be taken from the Wal-Mart Development Agreement Fund. The agreement fund, earmarked for public safety expenses, was set up following negotiations between the town and Wal-Mart when the international retail giant built the Supercenter store on Route 119.
The vote also authorized the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen to borrow a sum not to exceed $773,000 in bonds or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act and to receive any federal or state grants that may become available. The article was recommended 4-1 by the Board of Selectmen and 7-2 by the town's budget committee.
The police department has operated out of a temporary facility on River Road since the early 1980s. The town had been searching for a location for a new station and resident Lewis Major owned the building at 8-10 Main St., which housed a convenience store and an uninhabited apartment, but donated it to the town after it was severely damaged in a fire in August.
Selectmen signed a purchase and sales agreement for $38,000 with the owner of the abutting property at 12 Main St. The plan is to combine the land parcels to create a 0.53-acre lot for the construction of the new police station. The project cannot move forward without the article being adopted by voters.
Resident Richard Cole, of Prospect Street, approached the microphone in the middle of the Hinsdale High School gymnasium and advocated for the new police station. He identified himself as a fiscal conservative and understands people don't want to spend a lot of money. He said, however, there was probably opposition to building a large town hall, which he said has served the public very well for decades.
"Make a thoughtful ‘Yes,'" he told his fellow voter before returning to his seat.
A woman in the audience Saturday wanted to know why Selectman Richard Schill did not recommend the article. Schill took the podium and explained the police department currently uses only 1,700 of the 2,100 square feet available on River Road. The building for the Main Street location has been designed to be 4,400 square feet. Schill feels this is too big because a larger size means a higher cost. He said Hinsdale taxpayers are hurting too much financially to pay for a building any bigger than it needs to be.
Hinsdale Senior Patrolman Michael Bomba and Peter Tennant, the architect that designed the new building, answered questions of the floor before the vote. Bomba said a police building committee has been working for a year checking out various sites and doing important research. He understands some people don't like the price tag associated with it but said the police department needs a new station.
"I've worked here for 16 years. I own two properties here and I pay taxes here," he said. "I don't want to spend any more money than anybody else. Trust me."
Tennant then explained to the crowd that his concept designs do not include a basement because the cost of an elevator and two flights of stairs (to make it handicap-accessible) would have been too prohibitive.
The announcement by Moderator Richard S. Johnson Jr. that the article passed received a round of applause.
Voters also adopted -- by a 139-28 margin -- Article 3, which will allows the town to raise and appropriate $3,369,439 for a general operating budget (including a 1 percent raise for town employees) and $459,198 for the town's water department.
Article 6 was adopted 132-27 via paper ballot, meaning $80,000 will go toward purchasing a utility/rescue vehicle. According to the article, $50,000 will come from a capital reserve fund set up for that purpose and the remaining $30,000 will come from taxes.
Article 7 (seeking $75,000 for the New Police Station Fund) was passed over due to Article 2's adoption but voters approved of Article 8 by a 108-40 margin. The article authorizes the Board of Selectmen to enter into a five-year lease agreement for $74,726 for a Ford F550 to be used by the highway department and will raise $16,667 for the first year's payment.
An amended Article 13 was adopted, raising $31,500 to purchase a portable generator to be used at the Glen Street Well Site to be paid for by water user fees. The amended figure of $38,500 -- proposed by Waste and Sewer Superintendent Dennis Nadeau -- was defeated via voice vote.
Prior to the town articles, residents were able to vote on the four articles regarding the school district.
Article 1 asked voters to raise and appropriate a budget of just more than $12 million for the school system. The appropriation is $106,741 lower than last year and the impact on local taxes is estimated at $187,436, or 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. According to the warrant article information provided, the Hinsdale School District has returned more than $2.3 million to offset taxes during the past seven years.
The budget includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for teachers and resident Deborah Richmond said this is not the economy in which to give raises to teachers, who are public servants. She said she works in the private sector and isn't getting that sort of a raise.
"Why should they have more than the people who are paying for them?" she asked.
Resident Matt Kennedy stood up in defense of the educators and said they are the ones responsible for teaching the future leaders of the country. Theresa Davis stood up and identified herself as a teacher. She said the school board is very mindful of taxpayers and never asks for excessive money.
Richmond also brought up the Hinsdale After School Program (HASP), which has been the source of some controversy since School Board member Angela Schill questioned whether local taxpayers should fund it and suggested it operate on a fee-based system.
A few meetings were held to discuss the issue and brought passion on both sides of it. Richmond and resident Dodie Bevis referred to the program as a "baby-sitting service" and asked why it should be funded by taxes. The sentiment received moans from the crowd, which adopted Article 1 by a margin of 105-32.
Voters also adopted Article 2, thus approving the cost item included in the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Hinsdale School Board and the Hinsdale Federation of Teachers. The agreement calls for salary and benefit increases of $13,743 in Fiscal Year 2014-15 and $1,631 in FY2015-16. A sum of $54,557 will be raised for the current fiscal year.
Articles 3 and 4 -- which dealt with figures of $50,000 for the Special Education Emergency Fund and the School Building Maintenance Fund, respectively -- were also adopted.
Notes: It was the final meeting for School Board member Edward Patenaude Jr. A recount of the election to fill his seat (pitting Melissa Fisk against James O'Malley) is scheduled for today, as is a recount the Board of Selectmen's race. Schill requested the recount after the numbers indicated he lost his re-election for a three-year to Wayne Gallagher and Joan C. Morel.
The Hinsdale School also thanked Bonnie Royea, for her service to the school's music program.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.