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Editorial: Region’s voters  invest in future

The economic recession that followed the September 2008 stockmarket crash and mortgage crisis had retirees and folks close to retirement scrambling to make up what was lost through investments. A lot of working people in the car manufacturing industry lost their jobs, and many wondered who would be next. The Obama administration chose to invest in the country’s infrastructure, pouring billions into roads, bridges and other facilities. On the local front, municipal governments began to see funds from state revenue and aid dry up. Eventually, the taxpayers, who were left to make up the shortfall, began calling for a closer watch on local spending — the only stream of funds they seem to have control over.

In 2011, Jaffrey voters shot down a $3.1 million combined community center and town office complex; Wilton, too, rejected a large capital improvement project, passing up on a $1.8 million addition to the town’s fire station. In Greenville that year, a plan to simply study a possible site for a new fire station did not pass muster, and a plan to examine a police station addition was voted down in Lyndeborough.

In 2012, the ConVal School District passed a $4 million plan to renovate and add on to its facilities at the high school, something voters had previously been opposed to. Also that year, Jaffrey voters were persuaded to pay $50,000 for architectural and design plans for a new town office at the exiting town office site on Goodnow Street, but technical issues with the amendment of the warrant article at Town Meeting meant the plans had to be put off another year. And Antrim agreed to spend $100,000 to purchase land and develop plans for a new police station.

At Town Meeting 2013, a number of towns successfully passed large-scale capital projects: Antrim has a $1.7 million police station construction project in the works; Wilton went for a $1.7 million fire station renovation and addition; and Hancock approved $200,000 in improvements to its water system.

Other towns are preparing to pitch capital projects at Town Meeting 2014. Jaffrey will get a design study for a new town office at a cost of $35,000 this year, following Town Meeting approval. Greenfield has some thinking to do this year as a vision for some town-owned land adjacent to Greenvale Cemetery takes shape; this year, engineering and surveying work for sand gravel excavation there will happen, after voters approved $15,600 for the work. Some day that land could be the site of a new DPW.

We can’t help but wonder if these voting trends on capital projects and studies for capital projects are reason to hope for a better economy overall, but it’s clear that some towns have chosen to take advantage of historically low interest rates. When money is tight, it’s tempting to draw the conclusion that limiting spending is the answer, and in some cases it may be, but not always. The benefits of investing in the future with economical projects have to be carefully weighed with the costs of spending today.

There are no simple solutions to fixing the economy, however, voters in a number of towns in the Monadnock region have shown that fear isn’t holding them back in 2013.

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