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Wilton

$80K for Frye farm easement clears way

Rescue truck for Fire Department supported

  • Select Board member Bill Condra, right, presents outgoing Select Board Chair Dan Donovan with a plaque thanking him for nine years of service to the town. Donovan, who did not run for re-election this year, will be replaced by selectman-elect Kermit Williams, who won the seat on a write-in campaign.

    Select Board member Bill Condra, right, presents outgoing Select Board Chair Dan Donovan with a plaque thanking him for nine years of service to the town. Donovan, who did not run for re-election this year, will be replaced by selectman-elect Kermit Williams, who won the seat on a write-in campaign. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Wilton Community Center Committee members Donna Crane, left, Alison Meltzer and Joanna Eckstrom put forth an amendment to restore the Community Center budget to $1,500 from $1 during Wilton Town Meeting.

    Wilton Community Center Committee members Donna Crane, left, Alison Meltzer and Joanna Eckstrom put forth an amendment to restore the Community Center budget to $1,500 from $1 during Wilton Town Meeting. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue.

    Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue.

    Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.

    Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.

    Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.

    Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Select Board member Bill Condra, right, presents outgoing Select Board Chair Dan Donovan with a plaque thanking him for nine years of service to the town. Donovan, who did not run for re-election this year, will be replaced by selectman-elect Kermit Williams, who won the seat on a write-in campaign.
  • Wilton Community Center Committee members Donna Crane, left, Alison Meltzer and Joanna Eckstrom put forth an amendment to restore the Community Center budget to $1,500 from $1 during Wilton Town Meeting.
  • Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue.
  • Andrew Kennedy speaks in favor of supporting an easement on Abbott Hill, while selectman-elect Kermit Williams and resident Neil Faiman wait in line to speak to the issue.
  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.
  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.
  • Fire Chief Ray Dick speaks about the need for a new fire rescue vehicle at Wilton's Town Meeting Thursday night.

WILTON — After much discussion during Town Meeting on Thursday night, Wilton’s most controversial article this year, a request for $80,000 to put towards the conservation of 160 acres on Abbott Hill, known as the Frye farm easement, passed in a 220-90 ballot vote.

Most articles passed with a minimum of discussion, including the town’s budget, which came in at $4,648,089 after two small amendments to the figure brought it up by $3,500. Only two articles — one a petition article to elect the town’s Department of Public Works director, and the other a $4,200 cost of surveying town-owned land the town would have then gifted to abutting land owners — failed to gain approval at Town Meeting.

The town accepted two amendments to the budget on the floor. One, offered by Conservation Commission member Spencer Brookes, added $2,000 to the budget for the removal of a dead tree which is close to a town border. It is unclear whether the tree resides on town property or a private lot, but the cost of surveying the property line would cost nearly as much as the removal of the tree. The town approved the amendment by voice vote. Next, the town agreed to increase the budget by a further $1,499 to increase the budget for the Wilton Community Center from $1 to $1,500. The money will be used as seed money to kickstart fundraising and help start community events, explained Alison Meltzer of the Community Center Committee.

A third amendment seeking an additional $15,000 for a second power cot for the ambulance was rescinded after Ambulance Chief Gary Zippolo told the crowd he would prefer to offer the option of a second cot next year, so that the towns of Lyndeborough and Temple could help shoulder the cost.

The majority of the meeting was consumed with discussion of whether or not the town would contribute funds to an easement on land currently owned by the Frye family, which is under a purchase agreement to be conserved and then bought by the High Mowing School. Debate on the issue went back and forth for some time, though supporters of the article won by a comfortable margin in the ballot vote.

Joe Broyles of the Wilton Conservation Commission advocated the town participating in the conservation, noting that the piece would connect to several other town-conserved lands, creating an important wildlife habitat.

Budget Committee member Joe Torre noted that even though the majority of the Conservation Commission supported the conservation project, it had not thrown any of the $32,000 of its budget that is earmarked for conservation easements behind the endeavor. Brookes, replied that the money has already been reserved in anticipation of other projects. Torre’s fellow Budget Committee member Harry Dailey agreed that he found the fact that the Conservation Commission had not even allocated a token amount to the project, as well as the fact that the Conservation Commission had not unanimously agreed upon the support of the article.

Select Board member Dan Donovan said that there had been no draft of the easement provided, and he wasn’t clear on the advantages of putting town money behind the project. “What the heck are we buying here?” he asked the crowd. “It gives us the opportunity to sit down and negotiate. That doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.”

Donovan was disagreed with by his fellow Select Board member Rick Swanson and Select Board member-elect Kermit Williams. Williams spoke at the meeting, comparing the easement to a once-in-a-lifetime bargain deal. Following the meeting, in a written statement, Swanson also expressed his support for the article, writing, “I wouldn’t vote for Warrant Article 13 unless I thought it had a significant public benefit, and I am convinced it does. It preserves one of the most beautiful spots in New Hampshire for farming, walking, fishing, watching wildlife, wellhead protection, and public access. It will preserve and protect our quality of life, and it will improve our property values.”

Several equipment purchases passed without much strife, after town officials showed photographs detailing rust issues and high milage counts. The town approved $37,000 to purchase a new pickup and plow equipment for the Highway Department, as well as a $175,760 6-wheel dump, salt and plow truck, with $75,000 of that coming from capital reserves.

Ambulance and fire services will also be seeing funds for new vehicles, with the town approving $150,694 — $118,640 from capital reserve and $32,054 from taxation — for a new ambulance and $425,000 — $383,8000 from capital reserves and $41,200 from taxation — for a new fire truck. The town also approved the addition of $27,000 to the police equipment capital reserve in anticipation of replacing a Crown Victoria cruiser next year.

The Frye Mill Road bridge will see repairs this year, after the town approved a withdrawal of $80,000 from the bridges capital reserve to repair the redlisted bridge. Donovan noted that fire trucks could not safely travel over the bridge, which is the only access point to the Frye Measure Mill as well as some residences. “It’s critical from a safety standpoint,” he said.

Two articles that the town decided not to approve this year were Articles 18 and 22. Article 18 would have raised $4,500 to take a 100 foot section of town land and divide it among abutting lots. The land, before it was owned by the town, had been allowed to be used by those homeowners, said Select Board member Bill Condra, and there was a large amount of industrial equipment and vehicles on the lot. It would be less expensive for the town to apportion the lots to the homeowner than to try to legally force them to clean the area, or pay for removal of the detritus, said Condra.

Residents protested, however, that having your junk on town owned land should not mean that the town should simply cede the land. “If that’s the case, I’m going to dump trash on all the town land I can find and hope I get it,” noted resident Don Davidson. The article failed by voice vote.

A petition article to see if the town would elect – instead of appoint – its DPW director was tabled without discussion. Tom Schultz, the author of the article, asked that out of respect for the 30 residents who signed the petition, the article be allowed to be discussed and voted upon, but the assembly passed the motion to table by voice vote.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com.

She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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