Antrim voters pass all warrant articles

  • Antrim resident Neal Pattison, left, questions Road Agent Jim Plourde about an article proposing to replace the Pleasant St. culvert with a wooden bridge.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Former Antrim Fire Chief Marshall Beauchamp was honored for his years of service to the town during Antrim’s Town Meeting on Thursday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Antrim voters approved all warrant articles during the annual town meeting on Thursday in the top floor of the town hall. March 14, 2019. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Antrim resident Steve Ullman weighs the pros and cons of creating a tax exemption for residential solar equipment during Antrim’s Town Meeting on Thursday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Ronald Haggett was honored during Antrim’s Town Meeting for his years of service to the town.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Frank Gorga spoke in favor of the property tax exemption for residential solar energy systems during Antrim’s Town Meeting on Thursday. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Antrim resident Ronald Haggett asks a question to town moderator Arthur Merrill during Thursday’s Town Meeting.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, March 15, 2019 4:25PM

Despite some debate about a petition article that would grant a tax exemption for solar equipment, Antrim voters overwhelmingly supported all articles on the warrant this year.

One hundred one registered voters gathered in the top floor of the Antrim Town Hall Thursday night to discuss and approve warrant articles, the first time Town Meeting had been held in the building in more than 40 years.

Much of Thursday’s discussion centered around residents support for the lone petition article on the warrant: which will allow for a 100 percent property tax exemption for solar energy equipment.

“The cost [to the town] is trivial and the benefits outweigh the cost,” resident Frank Gorga said.

Gorga argued that the article is a “good policy” for the town, as it incentivizes people to reduce their carbon footprint which will benefit all in the long run.

While many touted the environmental benefits, others argued the fairness of pushing the tax burden of solar energy systems onto those who do not have – and likely cannot afford – solar panels.

“When I make improvements at my house I don’t expect others to absorb my cost,” resident Gary Wood said.

All other warrant articles discussed were passed by a voice vote with little to no discussion.

By a ballot vote of 96 to 3, voters agreed to raise $30,000 to complete a sewer department asset management plan. The article needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Water and Sewer Commissioner Melissa Lombard said the money will be borrowed from the NH Department of Environmental Services’ Clean Water State Revolving Fund, meaning that if all steps are followed the loan will be eligible for 100 percent principal forgiveness.

“This will help us develop future budgets so we can plan to fix things before they break,” Lombard said.

The proposed $4,131,420 operating budget, which is $8,596 less than the figure approached at last year’s Town Meeting, passed without much comment from voters.

The town also voted to enter a five-year lease agreement for a new highway department truck. The approved article will take $45,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance to make the first year’s payment and will also allow the town to sell or trade-in the old truck to go towards future lease payments.

Voters also agreed to take $100,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance to replace the Hilton Avenue Bridge and $40,000 to purchase and outfit a new police cruiser.

The one-lane bridge is near the intersection of Grove Street and serves one house. Selectman John Robertson said the bridge is town-owned and needs to be replaced.

Police officer John Giffin said the new police cruiser would be a similar model to the 2014 Ford Explorer that is being replaced.

Selectman Bob Edwards said another cruiser is due to be replaced next year, and then not again until 2022.

The town will also work to replace the Pleasant Street culvert with a wooden bridge. Voters approved to take $220,000 from the unassigned fund balance to pay for the project.

The following funds have been approved to be added to capital reserve funds: $100,000 for bridges; $40,000 for highway; $30,000 for parks and recreation; $75,000 for fire department; $5,000 for dam maintenance; and $15,000 for town government.

The fire department received approval to purchase $60,000 worth of new self-contained breathing apparatuses. The money will come from the Fire Department Capital Reserve Fund.

Voters also approved raising $25,000 towards the town’s next five-year revaluation.