Peterborough’s virtual town meeting introduces warran

  • The Peterborough Town House Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/31/2021 4:36:03 PM

Peterborough residents have a week to submit questions and comments to the Town following the first virtual session of Town Meeting on Tuesday night, at which the Select Board approved an additional warrant article, and Town Administrator Nicole MacStay and other town staff walked voters through all articles, including two submitted by petition.

Article 9 seeks to end a restrictive covenant the town holds over a well on RiverMead property. The article went overlooked when the Select Board approved the rest of the warrant at the beginning of March, MacStay said. Peterborough currently owns a restriction on a 100-foot radius around a wellhead on RiverMead property because it was once a potential candidate for a town well, MacStay said. That plan was abandoned long ago after further investigation determined the well was unsuitable, but the restrictive covenant was never revoked, she said. In the meantime, RiverMead has been using the well for irrigation and the buffer has served as green space. The facility recently approached the town about lifting the restriction, MacStay said. “It’s their land,” she said, and any further improvement on the land would benefit Peterborough, as RiverMead is a significant source of tax revenue for the town. The Select Board voted unanimously to support the article. There are no current plans to build on the land, RiverMead CEO Bill James said, but it was still a priority to have the option to do so in the future.

Two petition articles also made it on the warrant this year: Article 10 asks for the Select Board to encourage state legislators to support nonpartisan redistricting of political districts. Article 11 asks for the town to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and heat and transportation by 2050.

“The first thing to point out is that the warrant creates a goal, not a mandate,” MacStay said, reading from a statement prepared by the lead petitioners for Article 11. There are no legal penalties for falling short of the renewable energy goal: “If you are found burning propane in 2051, no one will bundle you into an electric vehicle and transport you [and cleanly] out of town,” the petitioner’s statement said, but such a commitment reduces energy costs, keeps energy dollars local, increases grid resilience to weather interruptions, and addresses the global climate crisis.

The upcoming budget and specific capital reserve and trust funds were featured in Tuesday’s presentation as well, as MacStay and other staff members detailed the financial requests in Articles 3 through 8, which were originally heard at the start of the month.

COVID-19 had a “catastrophic” impact on ambulance revenues, MacStay said, with revenues dropping 13.2 percent in 2020. The ambulance program expects to return to a consistent cost and revenue pattern in the next couple of years, Fire Chief Ed Walker said while explaining Article 7, which contributes to the ambulance revolving fund. Ambulance personnel are already seeing an increase in calls for service following a drop-off during the pandemic, and anticipate fewer expenses next year, he said.

MacStay detailed the anticipated costs of broadband internet, which Article 8 would seek to provide for the unserved 20 percent of the town. After introductory prices, residents could expect to pay $43.50 a month for 50 mbps, $68.50 for 250 mbps, or $78.50 for a gigabyte upload and download speed via Consolidated Communications.

The town is now four years into a 10-year capital plan to more proactively fix roads, DPW Assistant Director Seth MacLean said, explaining Article 6, which asks for $400,000 more to contribute to the $4 million capital goal. The plan allows for the town to make smaller, earlier interventions in rural roads rather than expensive overhauls later, he said, detailing the projects the additional funds have already enabled.

The amount the town needs to raise in taxes in fiscal 2021 is increasing by half a percent over last year, MacStay said. Certain personnel costs are increasing, including salary adjustments (a 3.2 percent average increase) and health insurance premiums (2.7 percent average increase). Retirement rates are going up 21.7 percent for police, 6.4 percent for employees, and 11.2 percent for the Fire Chief.

The general government budget line decreased 8.1 percent, public safety increased 7.5 percent, and highways and streets decreased 26.9 percent, she said. 

The second virtual session of Town Meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 6, after which the warrant will be finalized in advance of ballot voting on May 11 at the Community Center building. Residents can submit questions and comments to, or call 924-8000 ext. 101, or by mail addressed to Select Board, Town of Peterborough, 1 Grove Street, Peterborough, NH 03458. Include your full name and place of residence.


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