All warrant articles pass at Dublin Town Meeting

By ROWAN WILSON

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 03-20-2023 3:48 PM

All warrant articles passed at Dublin’s Town Meeting Saturday, including having the Select Board explore opting into Cheshire County’s community power plan and an operating budget of approximately $2.47 million, a 6.1 percent increase over the current year.

Select Board member Susan Peters explained, “Cheshire County is the first county to adopt its own community power plan,” which allows municipalities to procure power on behalf of residents, potentially leading to lower costs and greater amounts of renewable energy.

Because the county is already a member of Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (CPCNH), the Select Board has the authority to opt the town into the plan, rather than have voters decide whether to have the town adopt a community power plan like Peterborough and other towns outside of the county have had to do. The town was not obligated to bring the warrant article to Town Meeting, but “it seemed like a good way of bringing people into the process,” said Peters.

Now that the article has passed, the Select Board will move forward with considering community power for the town. They will hold at least one public hearing about community power, and if they decide to move forward, Peters said the program may be launched in late summer or early fall. If the town adopts community power, the plan will automatically enroll Eversource customers, who will have the ability to opt-out. Those not using Eversource can opt-in.

Peters shared a few details regarding results of a survey sent out to Dublin residents to gauge interest in community power. Three-quarters of participants reported using Eversource, while a quarter used a third-party supplier. Many participants said they are concerned about volatility of electric supply costs.

There were a couple residents who expressed concerns about adopting a community power plan. Rita Mattson worried there would be a point where residents could no longer opt out of the plan, but Peters responded that residents would always have the option to opt-out.

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Dave DeWitt expressed concerns about Eversource becoming destabilized “if we take away one source of [their] income” – selling power. He also worried about renewable energy subsidies from the federal government leading to inflation, and said he would not choose to be part of the program.

“The most-important thing to me is having my power, period,” he said.

Regarding the operating budget, increases include a 5 percent salary increase for most town employees. Electricity prices are also 70 percent higher, and propane, heating oil, gas and diesel are significantly more expensive, as are telephone line costs. 

“I feel our department heads and Select Board really made an effort to keep the budget as under control as possible,” Budget Committee Bill Gurney said.

With the approved budget and warrant articles, the estimated tax rate is $8.23 per $1,000 assessed valuation. In the current year, the tax rate is $7.25 per $1,000. There was no resistance from voters, and resident Traceymay Kalvaitis said, “It’s because we trust our Budget Committee that we move an article of this magnitude so easily.” 

Voters also approved an article for the town to raise and appropriate $40,000 to purchase a deeded permanent right-of-way for driveway access owned by the Dublin General Store to the town-owned post office building. Selectman Chris Raymond said if the store were to be sold, the town wants to ensure it has access to the post office. A 30-year lease expired in 2017 and since then, the town has been leasing its right-of-way from the general store for $1.

The easement took “many months worth of negotiating going back and forth,” Raymond said. The driveway and parking lot consumes one-third of the general store’s property, and owner Andy Freeman said for 22 years they’ve paid taxes on land they can’t use and will continue to pay taxes on as long as they live there. They personally paid for an expansion of the parking lot, and he said, “It’s important for us to have this co-beneficial relationship [with the town].”

Freeman added that coming up with a number was uncomfortable, but said, “I feel like the $40,000 ask is a super reasonable price.”

Because the town election was postponed until March 28, Moderator Sterling Abram announced that swearing-in of town officials would work a little differently this year. Elected officials must be sworn in within 30 days and are encouraged to attend the Select Board meeting on Monday, April 3, at 5 p.m. to be sworn in.

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