New Ipswich residents debated budget, fire and police department plans at deliberative session

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Brandon Latham / The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

  • New Ipswich officials debated at the town's annual deliberative session on Wednesday. Staff photo by Brandon Latham

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/13/2017 9:29:05 PM

The town budget went unchanged at New Ipswich’s deliberative session on Feb. 8, but residents hotly debated proposed articles pertaining to the town’s emergency response departments.

The fire department is the topic of several articles on this year’s warrant, and was also included in debate over the future of the police department.

Town officials have been planning a new facility for the police department for when its current rented office space is sold, and a warrant article for a new building will be on the ballot. The proposed building would be behind the town offices on Turnpike Road and would cost a total around $1.98 million.

An amendment that would have lowered the funding appropriation to $0 received 12 votes, losing 26 to 12.

“This is moving too fast, and the police department already has a house,” Paul Leger, the resident who proposed the amendment, said.

The amendment would have stalled construction of the new facility and mandated an interdepartmental discussion of housing the fire, police and emergency management departments to consider a joint “municipal safety building.”

Emergency management, currently housed in the basement of the town office, would join the police in the new building.

“This has been in committee for a year and a half, with all the department heads,” selectman Tim Johnson said.

One amendment to the article did pass. The original proposal asked for $170,000 to be appropriated in 2017 for the first year’s interest on the bond. Because the first interest payment would not be due until 2018, this request was struck from the article altogether.

Further fire department articles asking for a revolving fund for detail payments, a new pumper engine, and protective gear were not debated.

The fire department request for funding for an exhaust system to protect firefighters from diesel fumes and make the second floor of the department safer was amended as a result of new cost estimates.

The original warrant article asked for $65,000. That was lowered to $26,000 in an amendment proposed by select board chair Becky Doyle and seconded by Chief Meredith Lund because research showed that to be the cost of the desired purchase.

“Between firefighter safety and fiscal responsibility, I’m highly in support of this,” Lund said.

The second floor offices in the fire department are not being used because of a 2009 state Labor Department observation that carcinogenic diesel fumes could get into those office. The new exhaust system would allow the department to open them back up.

An article calling for fire chief position to become an appointed one rather than elected will be on the ballot. The article was amended to extend the length of the chief’s term from three years to 100. The warrant article calls for the creation of a fire chief selection committee with two department members, two residents and one selectman. The intent of the article and creation of the committee is to give members of the department more of a say when reviewing the performance of their chief. The committee can make recommendations and conduct a job search, but the select board ultimately makes the appointment. The committee would be formed whenever a new chief is to be hired, if the current position-holder resigns, retires or is terminated.

Lund said she will not be sticking around for 100 years, but is pleased that a chief could not be non-renewed after three years without review.

Debate took place on articles exempting solar energy systems from property taxes, joining the offices of town clerk and tax collector, and funding for road repairs.

Budget committee chair Brian Somero said he supports road repair funding despite wanting to keep spending down because of the relatively low crude oil costs at the moment.

Also representing the budget committee was Wendy Juchnevics-Freeman, who presented the proposed town budget of $2,419,346 — a 2.2 percent decrease from last year. If it fails in the vote on March 14, the default budget of $2,440,869 will take effect.

The budget proposal was not amended at the deliberative session, but faced criticism. The proposal is not recommended by the select board, and residents asked why.

“There were several changes that we did not agree with, with the budget committee,” Doyle said. “We thought some of the reductions they made were too tight, so by default we had to recommend the default budget.”

Doyle cited lowered employee payment lines, and a reduction in cemetery maintenance funding despite complaints about upkeep last year.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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