Jaffrey voters approve community power, water treatment facility, new bridge

  • Bill Raymond speaks on the budget. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Assistant Town Moderator Paul Hutchinson collects ballots for a bond vote at Jaffrey Town Meeting. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Resident Owen Houghton speaks in favor of the budget. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARi

  • Selectman Kevin Chamberlain holds up a damaged hammer that was hidden under a snowbank and recently damaged the town’s snowblower, which voters agreed to replace this year. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/18/2023 4:57:54 PM

Jaffrey is set to move forward with community power, after voters during Saturday’s Town Meeting were unanimously in favor.

Selectman Kevin Chamberlain, who headed Jaffrey’s Community Power Committee, explained that all residents who currently receive Eversource’s default energy production would be automatically enrolled in the program, and all other residents would have the option to opt-in.

The town would use the collective buying power of residents to negotiate a lower kilowatt-per-hour rate. Residents would have the option of the default rate – which would provide between 5 and 10 percent more renewable energy sources than is required by the state -- a basic rate that has only the state minimum of renewables, a option with 50 percent renewable energy and an option for 100 percent renewable energy.

When asked about reliability, Chamberlain said Eversource would still be delivering the power, would respond to any outages and would send out bills. There is not anticipated to be any disruption of power when the source is changed, and because Eversource would continue to distribute the power, it would be as reliable for residents.

“I’m in full support,” said Jaffrey Conservation Commission Chair Thomas Ahlborn-Hsu. “This gives us, as citizens, collective buying power. I see this as a very positive development for Jaffrey.”

Chamberlain said he expects the Public Utilities Commission to approve Jaffrey’s plan by the end of April, and hopes to have the plan rolled out and active by July at the earliest or October at the latest.

Voters approved the plan unanimously.

All other articles, including the approximately $7.2 million budget, passed unamended, most unanimously.

In addition to approving the use of funds for the town’s existing Tax Increment Finance Districts, voters agreed to increase the downtown district to include the former W.W. Cross factory building, which was partially been destroyed by fire and has sat empty since.

Selectman Jack Belletete said the building becomes “more dilapidated on a daily basis.”

Tax Increment Financing Districts allow a town to designate an area in need of redevelopment. The tax value of the area at the time will continue to be added to the town’s general fund, but any new tax revenue created by new developments or improvements in the area is captured separately and can be used on projects to improve the area and continue to increase its value.

Belletete said the town has discussed taking ownership of the W.W. Cross building to mitigate the site and make it suitable for redevelopment, but that the town won’t do so until it is aware of all the potential environmental ramifications from the fire and its former life as an industrial site and has a potential new use for the site. However, he said including the property in the TIF district will allow the town to use funds to help bring the site back to useful life.

Resident Tory McCagg said she has been waiting for something to be done about the property.

“I’m just very excited to think we might start that process,” McCagg said.

Big infrastructure projects approved

Voters approved two large infrastructure projects, the first being a bond to construct and install a water treatment building for the public drinking water well on Turnpike Road.

Chamberlain explained that tightening of governmental regulations, particularly related to manganese and per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, or PFAS, resulted in the well being out of compliance during a regular testing cycle, and the well has been offline since.

The cause of the contamination is not known, but may have been the result of the use of firefighting foam at the Jaffrey Fire Department before the use was discontinued many years ago.

While the system has yet to be designed, it is estimated to cost a total of $10 million, with the town expecting to receive about $2.99 million from grants, and about $2.96 million in principal forgiveness on the loan. The town anticipated using about $37,132 from the water fund on the project. Payment on the bond debt will come from water user fees.

Voters approved the bond in a 98-1 ballot vote, easily overcoming the three-fifths majority needed.

Voters also approved a $1.5 million project to replace the bridge on Letourneau Drive, which was damaged by the flooding of Tyler Brook in 2021. A box culvert and bridge will replace the existing dual-culvert system.

A total of $1.35 million, or 90 percent, of the project, will be paid for by a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant, with the town’s 10 percent being paid from existing funds in the Bridge Rehabilitation Capital Reserve Fund.

New town vehicles and equipment

Voters approved several new pieces of town equipment, including a new dump truck, snow blower and pickup truck for the Highway Department. All three pieces of equipment will be purchased with capital reserve funds raised in previous years.

The purchase of the dump truck is $260,000, and includes the vehicle, plow, wing plow and sander.

The snow blower was purchased in 2002, and is slated for replacement this year. Chamberlain showed the crowd a bent hammer that had been buried under the snow and gone through the blower as an example of the amount of wear and tear the machine goes through, noting the town has spent more than $16,000 in repairs over the life of the machine. The new blower is expected to cost $139,000.

A $75,000 purchase will replace two of the town’s Highway Department’s pickups, purchased in 2010 and 2011, with a single vehicle.

Voters approve tax credit expansions

In four separate articles, voters addressed expansions to tax credit for veteran, elderly and disabled residents.

Both the veterans’ tax credits – one specifically for those who served during specific conflicts, and the other for all veterans – remained at their current level of $500. However, due to a recent change in the state Legislature that expanded the eligibility for the credits to those currently serving in the military, not just discharged veterans, towns across the state were required to readopt the credits with the expanded definition.

Residents voted unanimously to readopt both credits.

Voters were also unanimously in favor of updating the income limits for tax credits for elderly and disabled residents. Belletete  explained that the current limits were set in 2009 for the elderly exemption, and in 2004 for the disabled exemption. While inflation increased an average of over 2 percent a year, those limits haven’t been adjusted.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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