Antrim forms state’s first Community Board, passes warrant

  • Antrim Town Meeting. March 11, 2021 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Antrim Town Meeting. March 11, 2021 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Antrim Town Meeting. March 11, 2021 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/13/2021 9:39:19 AM

Antrim became the first town in the state to establish a community board after voters overwhelmingly approved the measure at Town Meeting Thursday night. The board is tasked with enhancing public health, prosperity, quality of life, safety, and general welfare of all town residents. Residents passed all articles on the warrant, and all five zoning ordinance amendments passed during ballot voting on Tuesday.

It’s been legal since 2008 for a town to establish a community services and care planning board, as one might establish a conservation commission, yet no town had gone through the process until Thursday night. Select Board members gave some pushback to the proposal and questioned if there may be good reasons why other town’s hadn’t attempted it, voicing concerns about the board opening the town to potential liability and future costs.

“It’s not always bad to be the first people,” resident Crista Salamy said. “We are liable to help with the wellbeing and wellness of the people in this town.”

Coordinator and long-time proponent Gordon Allen said he received a nice note from Select Board member Bob Edwards the morning after the vote. There’s a full slate of steering committee members ready to get appointed, Allen said, and ready to continue the work of the past year.

The Community Board will deliver annual reports, resident Diane Kendall said at Thursday’s meeting, and, unlike a nonprofit’s board of directors, board members will be elected by residents on a rolling basis starting next year, and all meeting proceedings are available to the public. That means accountability, transparency, and long-term stability, she said. Kendall was one of several residents who spoke in favor of the proposal, citing the potential for more community involvement, volunteering, and optimizing use of all of the town’s existing resources. “We can’t just wait for Bill Bryk to fill all the positions all the time,” Kendall joked.

Like land use planning boards, certain goals identified by the Community Board will eventually work their way into the town’s Master Plan, Allen said. Unlike land use planning, community board initiatives will come with detailed action steps, as per state guidance. “We aren’t going to approve a project unless it brings with it enough volunteers and resources to make it happen,” Allen said.

The Board’s work will center on a community asset database, Allen said, a project that’s already collected input from almost 100 residents. The information allows Board members to group people by interests and skills to tackle projects that improve quality of life, such as a suicide prevention-focused group, he said, as well as more innocuous endeavors, like connecting people in town who want to know more about woodworking.

About 90 people attended Town Meeting, which was held in the Antrim Elementary School gymnasium to achieve adequate social distancing for the all-masked crowd, who answered COVID-19 screening questions before entering. Acoustics were poor, with mask-muffled voices and microphone glitches eliciting laughter from the assembly at times, but Fire Chief Marshall Gale began the meeting by voicing his support for the safeness of the in-person meeting, since local community transmission is at a “really low level,” and the school building had a good ventilation system and was sanitized daily. The town honored outgoing Select Board member Mike Genest and his wife, Kathy, for 19 years of service to the town.

Article 3 asked voters to spend $2,685,000 and to authorize up to $2,148,000 in bonds or notes, and authorize the Select Board to apply for and accept relevant grants for water line improvements that will hook up the town’s new well and add a second main under the Contoocook River. PASSED via ballot 81-6. An amendment to switch the ratio of payment between water users and the whole town from 60-40 to 50-50 was proposed, but failed.

Article 4 asks voters to spend $32,000 from the Town Government Buildings capital reserve fund on vehicle exhaust extraction systems for the Highway Department. PASSED

Article 5 asks voters to spend $100,000 from the unassigned fund balance to create an addition on the Highway Department building, including an office, bathroom and break room. PASSED

Article 6 asks voters to spend $65,000 from the Highway capital reserve fund on two compact rollers for the Highway Department, 10-ton and 2-ton respectively. PASSED

Article 7 asks voters to spend $370,000 to fortify the following capital reserve funds: $65,000 to fire, $75,000 to bridge, $70,000 to highway, $30,000 to park and recreational, $100,000 to dam maintenance, $30,000 to town government. PASSED

Article 8 asks voters to establish a police information technology capital reserve fund, and add $20,000 to it. PASSED

Article 9 asks voters to spend $20,000 towards the next town revaluation. PASSED

Article 10 asks voters to spend $5,000 from the Dam capital reserve fund for minor maintenance of the Gregg Lake dam. PASSED

Article 11 asks voters to spend $4,436,972 (including $702,483 for the Water and Sewer Department) on the town’s general operating budget. PASSED

Article 12 is a petition article that asks voters to establish a Community Services and Care Planning Board (Community Board) to enhance the public health, community well-being, quality of life, prosperity, and safety of residents. PASSED

Article 13 is a petition article that asks voters to urge the New Hampshire General Court to fairly and effectively represent New Hampshire voters without gerrymandering when redrawing political maps with new census data. PASSED

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