Greenfield Select Board member Mason Parker calls for funds to address deferred maintenance
|Published: 02-12-2024 1:10 PM
Discussion at Greenfield’s annual budget hearing centered on planning for large upcoming expenditures in the next several years, including a new road grader, a dump truck, replacement windows in the Town Offices, repairs to the town ball field and a new police cruiser.
Select Board member Mason Parker advocated for setting aside money in the capital reserve funds in order to catch up on maintenance and planned vehicle and equipment replacements.
“We deferred maintenance on this meetinghouse for too long, and now it needs $2 million worth of work,” Parker said. “If we had put more money in the capital reserve fund in years past, we could have been doing the larger projects on this building, and we would not be in the boat we are in now. We’ve researched the state of all the town buildings — the town offices, the recycling center, the police station — and we will need to put aside $100,000 a year to get caught up on maintenance, and that doesn’t even include this Meetinghouse.”
The town applied has applied for a CDFA Community Center Grant to assist with repairs to the Meetinghouse.
Assistant Town Administrator Catherine Shaw said water “pours in the window” at her office when it rains.
“We are repairing the windows in the Town Offices, and then the next thing on that building will be paint,” Parker said.
All town department heads spoke about the difficulties of finding staff in the current labor shortage, securing new equipment and parts due to supply chain issues, obtaining estimates for repairs and the high cost of inflation. Police Chief Brian Giammarino spoke about the need for a new police cruiser, which the town typically replaces every seven years.
“The cost of cruisers has doubled, and they are very hard to find,” Giammarino said.
In answer to questions from several residents about Greenfield’s consistently high taxes, Town Administrator Aaron Patt noted that 20% of Greenfield’s land is owned by nonprofit organizations and cannot be taxed.
“Greenfield has $100 million worth of land in nonprofit status,” Patt said. “Some organizations, such as the Barbara C. Harris Center, always pay a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes), but the payment is voluntary. They don’t all pay it.”
Nonprofit organizations in Greenfield include the Crotched Mountain Foundation (which still owns much of the land surrounding the Crotched Mountain campus), the Barbara C. Harris Center, Plowshare Farm, Brantwood Camp, Camp Winamac and Seven Hills Foundation. In addition, the State of New Hampshire owns thousands of acres between the North Pack reserve, the Powdermill pond boat ramp and Greenfield State Park.
“We get nothing from the state park,” Parker said.
Parker said the Select Board has met with Seven Hills Foundation, the new owner of the Crotched Mountain School campus, about the organization’s plans for a PILOT contribution to offset the heavy use of emergency services that historically has been required by the school.
“With Gersh, the previous owner, we were getting multiple alarm calls every day, and we had to turn out for those calls several times a day due to students maliciously pulling the alarms,” said Select Board Chair Mike Borden, a captain in the Fire Department.
Fire Chief Jeff LaCourse said that in 2022, Hancock had 150 calls but Greenfield had 379 calls, primarily due to alarm calls from Gersh.
“They were completely draining our services,” Parker agreed.
Parker said that so far, Seven Hills has agreed to pay a PILOT of $100,000 a year.
“We are hoping we can renegotiate that figure. The Crotched Mountain Foundation used to pay a $180,000 PILOT, and they used to rent the old Town Office Building (now the police station) for $1,800 a month. Losing that over $200,000 a year in revenue is a big part of our taxes going up,” Parker said.
Resident Andra Hall noted that Seven Hills is in the process of developing full student capacity and is not fully staffed yet or fully operational yet. Borden said the school plans to add five students a month in 2024.
In a lengthy discussion on the Fire Department budget, resident Jack Moran asked whether the regular increase can be justified given the town has not added a significant number of new buildings or population in recent years. Patt responded that the aging population of town requires more medical calls.
“The fire service is 75% medical,” Patt said.
As the meeting adjourned, Patt said that 2024 will be a revaluation year for Greenfield, with all properties in town slated for reassessment.
“The entire value of the town will go up; property values are expected to double. Please, please do not take your new assessed value and multiply it by your old tax rate and become alarmed. The rate will go down, and it will even out, ” Patt said.
No warrant articles were altered or removed at the hearing.
Greenfield’s complete budget and warrant are available at greenfield-nh.gov.