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Jaffrey voters to debate new water source, road improvements at Town Meeting Saturday

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/1/2020 4:32:14 PM

The Jaffrey Town Meeting is scheduled, after multiple delays due to coronavirus, for this Saturday at 9 a.m., at the Hope Fellowship Church parking lot, in a drive-in style meeting.

The budget this year is set at $6.6 million, which is a decrease from last year’s proposed budget, but doesn’t include funds for major roadwork, which are addressed in two other separate proposed warrant articles.

One of the top issues facing voters is whether the town should partner with Peterborough to purchase a new water source, located at the corner of Jaffrey and Sharon. Peterborough voters already approved the funding for its portion of the project last year, leaving Jaffrey voters to decide whether they will participate as well.

“This entire process is pending this meeting,” said Town Manager Jon Frederick. “We’ve been on hold.”

Frederick said the process is also dependent on the town receiving several significant grants, which have been submitted, and the town has been in contact with the funders about the delay, and those applications haven’t been affected.

Frederick said the water source is important for business development in Jaffrey, particularly MilliporeSigma, which is planning a significant expansion with more water needs.

“Their forecast for water usage would put our water permit with the DES in jeopardy,” Frederick said. “During dry seasons, we have to be able to have the ability to potentially shut down our largest well and still supply water. With our current situation, that margin would be reduced to zero, or in the negative. Our hope is that Coldstone Springs wells would provide enough water, even during drought conditions, to supply water to all our users.”

The total project, including land acquisition, and building a new treatment plant and connections to the Jaffrey and Peterborough water systems, is projected to cost up to $12.6 million. Jaffrey’s total portion of the cost is $5.5 million, and the town is asking for $3 million in bonds to be paid back by taxpayers, with the remainder expected to be covered by grants and $500,000 from the water fund balance.

The project requires the town to incur debt, meaning it requires a two-thirds ballot vote.

For another significant municipal project, the town is also asking for a $1 million bond to do significant roadwork. While the plan for what roads will receive treatment first isn’t concrete, Frederick said Etna Street and Stratton Road, which last year were torn up for pipe replacements, will be first on the list.

About $720,000 of the bond would be used for repairing paved streets, and $280,000 for gravel, according to Frederick.

“We have a lot of high priority roads, in the poor-to-fair range, and we need to get that up,” Frederick said. “Our overall system has basically been neglected for a long time, and it’s going to take a significant expense over a number of years to get the road conditions in a more drivable condition.”

This measure also requires a two-thirds ballot vote.

If the town does not approve the bond, the town is requesting $600,000 in a separate warrant article, to address the roads. If the bond is approved, that article is expected to be tabled.

The Jaffrey Police Department is seeking a new 18-month contract, which includes a 2 percent salary increase for employees. The total cost of the contract is $30,616 for the 2020 fiscal year  and $5,736 fo r the 2021 year.

While there are several requests for the town’s capital reserve funds, used to save up for large municipal purchases such as vehicles or building repairs or replacements, the town expects to make several amendments to those articles during Town Meeting, to accommodate what they expect to be lower revenues coming to the town from state taxes.

Several petition articles are on the warrant this year.

While two of the petition articles are advisory, one would change how Jaffrey conducts its Town Meetings. The petition, which would have to be approved by a three-fifths ballot vote, would have the town conduct its meetings by ballot voting at the polls. Instead of debating, amending and voting on issues all at a single Town Meeting, voters would attend a budget hearing, and then at a later Deliberative Session, have the ability to debate and amend articles, which would be all voted on in March.

The other petition amendments are to make the town voter’s stance on certain subjects known to state and federal lawmakers. The first is to encourage the New Hampshire General Court to redraw political districts following the 2020 census, to eliminate gerrymandering voting districts. The second requests the town call on state and federal legislators to implement a carbon cash-back program. Under the program, residents of the state receive a portion of a carbon tax paid by harmful carbon emitters.


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