More in Featured
School funding trumps Farmers Hill
ANDOVER- More than double the amount of citizens who attended the annual town meeting in March filed into the town hall on Saturday to be sure their vote counted in the special town meeting that was called to solve two costly issues.
Citizens were called out to vote on whether or not to expend an additional $72,000 to fund the elementary school for the 2013-2014 school year under the SAD 44 request, for a total of $140,000, and to also see if the town would revoke their prior decision at the annual meeting to take out a bond for $320,000 to repair a one mile stretch of Farmers Hill Road.
After selecting Jarrod Dumas as moderator to head the meeting, the town took a motion from Wayne Delano to accept an amendment to the school article to take $40,000 from surplus instead of making the town raise those funds, leaving the balance of $100,000 to be raised through taxation.
“I think that is a very short-sighted thing to do,” stated Selectman Keith Farrington. “That money is there for cash flow and we have more than $113,000 in payments that need to be paid out. We’ll pay for using those funds.”
Several citizens spoke up in regards to the school funding. Poto Rozzi, stated, “I don’t like that SAD 44 is putting a gun to our heads. We need to go with our own school.”
Wayne Delano stated, “Now is the time to keep the school open. This is your chance, because if SAD 44 closes it, then we won’t be able to open back up later.”
Dan Wells noted, “I feel like it’s extortion money. I don’t like the idea of higher taxes, but we need to move forward and keep the school open. United we stand, divided we fall. We need to stand together on this.”
Paula Lee, a member of the committee to save the school, informed voters, “If we don’t vote to fund the school today then the school board will be meeting on Monday to vote for closure. And they are planning on closing the school.”
Several citizens requested to know how the funds were going to be spent, with no clear answer to be found.
The amendment of taking $40,000 from surplus went to a vote, with 74 citizens in favor of the amendment and 65 against it. The townspeople then requested unanimously that the vote of whether or not to fund the school go to secret ballot.
“A lot of people want to be sure there is an accurate count,” stated Chris Tyler. “As opposed to a hand count that has a greater margin of error. But there are some business people in town who are afraid of repercussions from people if they knew how they voted. And then you have friends who don’t want others mad at them for voting a certain way.”
As the town cast their votes one-by-one in the ballot box, citizens noted how nervous they were and how they hoped for their wished-for outcome. Both sides were equally vocal.
With the ballots being counted and the vote of 127 for the school funding and 43 opposing it, Moderator Jarrod Dumas quieted the room and moved the meeting on, opening the floor to those who wanted to speak in regards to the funding of Farmers Hill Road.
“Everyone had their say in March,” stated Kevin Scott. “I think we need to stick with that vote.”
Wayne Delano spoke up, stating, “I would like to see the road expenditure turned down until the school is settled. We don’t know what the future holds for us.”
“I’m speaking as a taxpayer,” stated Marshall Meisner. “The road needs to be fixed, but we can’t afford it. I can’t have my taxes go up even higher. We need to vote this down. Speaking as the road commissioner, yes, the road is bad and needs to be fixed.”
The town currently has a $62,000 bond payment for another eight years and would be looking at another $38,000 for ten years beginning in 2014 if they were to approve the road expenditure.
Richard Merrill stated, “We should be able to afford our school and roads. We’re talking about keeping the school open for families who move here, we may not get more families. We just can’t tell the future. Those people who have to travel that hill every day must be getting pretty sick of it.”
Richard Pelletier added, “Don’t fix the road, but keep the school open. Then you can sell the buses and buy helicopters. This just isn’t smart.”
The moderator then had a motion to move to vote and the citizens were voted unanimously to revoke the $320,000 bond question for the road.
When Town Clerk, Melinda Averill, was asked why there wasn’t a written ballot vote for the road if people were so concerned about the school vote, she stated, “Nobody asked for it. It’s just the way people are.”