Peterborough meets the candidates

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum for those running for office in Peterborough on Monday, May 6. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/8/2019 12:13:10 AM

Large numbers packed into Bass Hall in Peterborough Monday night for a candidate forum ahead of the town’s May Town Meeting elections next week.

Bill Kennedy and Bill Taylor were the stars of the show as candidates for the Select Board seat currently held by outgoing long time Selectwoman Barbara Miller.

The forum was held by the League of Women Voters NH PeterboroPlus and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. Liz Tentarelli, president of the NH League of Women Voters, served as moderator.

Tentarelli posed questions to the candidates submitted by residents.

Select Board

Both selectmen candidates said the state’s lack of adequate education funding is an issue that is driving town property taxes up and hampering the town’s economic vitality.

“School funding is the elephant in the room,” Taylor said. “First of all the economic vitality of the town right now is hinging on education funding. We’re in a real tough spot.”

He said Peterborough should work to collaborate with other towns from issues to resources.

Taylor said another factor that impacts the town’s economic vitality is its management of infrastructure improvements projects. Taylor said that since January he has played a vital role in pushing town officials to take another look at its plans to build a new Department of Public Works garage. In that time the current Select Board has shifted from its plans to build the new garage on Water Street to discussing other options such as the less expensive plan of renovating the current facility on Elm Street.

“Lately we’ve seen a major shift in how the town is moving forward with infrastructure improvements,” Taylor said. “I’ve shown that I can be effective at positive and efficient change. Imagine what I can do at a seat at the table instead of the audience.”

Taylor said Peterborough should not only be a great town to grow up in but a town that young people return to raise their families.

“My vision for Peterborough is a town where everybody feels they have a voice and everybody feels as though they can go to the meetings and be effective,” Taylor said. “I want people to feel like there is somebody sitting on the board that is ready to talk to them and ready to help them.”

Kennedy said Peterborough is on the right track toward economic vitality. “Having an attractive community to start with is a good step in the right direction to creating economic vitality.”

“I share the vision of the master plan. I believe that Peterborough is the cultural center of the Monadnock Region as well as the economic center of the Monadnock Region. My vision is to fulfill that vision and carry it forward,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he would do that by working with the town’s Economic Development Authority to help provide the workforce Peterborough businesses need, lower business space vacancies, increase tourism revenue, retain the Monadnock aesthetic and encourage entrepreneurship.

Kennedy said the state’s inadequate education funding is just one example of the state downshifting costs to the municipalities.

“There is a number of different reasons why are taxes are going up. One of the primary reasons is the state has been downshifting their costs onto our back. So they no longer contribute to the pension fund, our public pension funds. They are cutting back the amount that they are giving to our schools. So we need to apply as much pressure as we can at the state level to stop that down shifting. To reverse the cuts in our revenue,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the state is also returning less rooms and meals taxes back to Peterborough.

“We pay 9 percent of every meal that we buy at Nonies or over at the Public House. A portion of that comes back as revenues to our town. Unfortunately that has dwindled over the years. The original was 40 percent of what the state collects would go back to the town. … It’s currently at 21 percent. So we need to put pressure on to get some of that money back,” Kennedy said. “The kicker, however, is the fact that the money that comes back to the town comes back according to population not according to contribution. … We’re collecting almost as much revenue as the town of Bedford in terms of rooms and meals tax. We’re getting back $33,000, roughly, they’re getting back $1. 2 million because they have four times the population.”

Kennedy suggested Peterborough add, as it is allowed to by law, one percent to the rooms and meals tax that would go directly to the town. “We’re talking about 50 cents on a $50 diner.”

Taylor said the Select Board should work to offset the rising property taxes from the state downshifting costs.

The Select Board candidates also fielded questions about affordable housing, the condition of town roads, if there is bloat in the town budget, 5G, broadband and what the Select Board should do to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Planning Board

Incumbent Gerald J. Galus along with Judy Wilson Ferstenberg, Rebecca J. Adey-Merrithew and Richard W. Clark III are running for two three-year seats on the Planning Board.

Galus and Merrithew did not attend the forum so Clark and Ferstenberg answered questions, many touching on petition article Amendment 15, which would repeal and amend overlay districts recently adopted by the town to encourage growth in the already developed part of town and discourage development in the rural areas of town.

Clark said he has served on the Planning Board in the past and if elected would work to build consensus, which he has found to be a challenge in the past.

“It’s hard to get a consensus of everybody because a lot of people, they don’t show up until the last meeting. We spend years developing what we think is a good program.  But it’s hard to work in a vacuum and we really need more people to come in at the beginning stages of our programs to help us build better planning and that’s what I would like to do this year, well if I get elected, to build better  planning,” Clark said.

Ferstenberg said she has never run for public office before, “but I really want to help the community. … What I really want to do is learn from the people that are already on the Planning Board and help them and also get input from the community on what their wants and desires are.”

Ferstenberg said she supports voting yes on Amendment 15. She said zoning should be shaped to allow for input from neighbors so everyone has a say in how their neighborhood looks.

Clark said he supports voting against Amendment 15 and keeping the current zoning that the Planning Board spent years developing.

Opposition to the current zoning say it allows for too much density and would change the character of the town and its already existing neighborhoods.

Clark said if Amendment 15 passes the Planning Board would have to go back to work to propose zoning to replace it. Before the current zoning was put into place, 80 percent of the homes in town were not in compliance with town zoning, which was one of the aspects of the zoning code the board tried to fix. “If 80 percent of everything doesn’t meet zoning there’s something wrong with the zoning.”

He added that town planners created the zoning to encourage development that matches what is already in place.

“What we want to do is keep (development) in the main part of town where we have the infrastructure to support it,” Clark said. “What I’ve seen as a builder is we are chopping up our open spaces. We’re just chopping up, three-acre, five-acre lots. It’s just not feasible to do that. We have water in town, we have sewer in town, that’s where the development should go.”

Both Clark and Ferstenberg said the lack of affordable housing in Peterborough is a big issue.

Budget Committee

Budget Committee incumbents Clark and Mandy Sliver and newcomers James Long and Robert Haring-Smith are running for three three-year seats on the Budget Committee.

“I am firmly against overspending,” Clark said when he introduced himself as a budget committee candidate. “It’s just not the way to go. If you want to pay for it let’s pay for it with our taxes right now. Don’t borrow it and let someone else pay for it later on. It just doesn’t work,” Clark said.

Candidates were asked how the town’s Tax Increment Finance districts impact the budget. The candidate said they too have questions about the TIF districts and are not sure how they impact the budget.

“I personally have more questions about how the TIF districts are set up,” Sliver said. “And I feel like the ones that are set up are possibly negatively impacting the amount of money we could be using for taxation. … I do think that it is an issue we need to look more into.”

Clark said while the West Peterborough TIF improved that area of town, now that the improvements have been made the TIF is still in place and the highway department is using the TIF to fund maintenance in West Peterborough.

“It’s like taking money out of one pocket and putting it in a another,” Clark said.

Zoning Board of Adjustment

Clark, Steven Graves and Sharon Monahan are running for two three-year seats on the zoning board.

Clark was asked what he would do if elected to both the Planning Board and the zoning board since only one zoning board member can serve on the Planning Board and there is already a member in that position.

“I’ve never been on the zoning board. I’d like to try,” Clark said to the laughter of the crowd. “I would pick the ZBA just because I haven’t served on it.”

Monahan said she has years of experience on the zoning board, is currently an alternate and would like to be an elected member. Graves said in a letter to the editor on Tuesday that he didn’t realize Clark was running for ZBA and will be voting for him. “He is a great asset to the town. His experience with the planning board and the budget committee makes him the perfect candidate.”

Recreation Committee

Ferstenberg, Andrew Brescia and Michael Strand are running for two three-years seats on the Recreation Committee.

All three candidates talked about their experience with the town recreation programs and their desire to serve.

Strand said he doesn’t a great deal of experience, being new to town, but said he recently participated with his daughter in the trout tournament.

Ferstenberg said she helped with the Easter Egg hunt this year.

Brescia said he frequents Cunningham Pond as a swimmer. “My hope is to be able to contribute to the kind of creative solutions we have seen already popping up in this town in the name of recreation at all levels. I have been converted to pickle ball thanks to that offering and my Special Olympian son has taken of the bocce (ball) court there so I am looking forward to giving something back.”

May Town Meeting

Ballot voting is planned to take place at the Community Center on Tuesday, May 14 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ballot voting includes all zoning article, election of town offices and the town operating budget.

All other warrant articles are to be taken up in the open session, planned to take place Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the upper hall of the Peterborough Town House.


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