Sharon: A first (and last) pledge

  • Moderator Rory Goff, left, Select Board members Carl Newton, Linda Paris and Donald “Ted” O’Brien preside over Sharon’s Town Meeting on Friday night.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Just over 30 people turned out to Sharon’s Town Meeting on Friday night.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 6:57AM

While Sharon residents made short work of their posted warrant, they took up one extra issue under the heading of “other business” — the matter of the Pledge of Allegiance.

This year was the first year that Sharon Town Meeting opened with the pledge, after a narrow vote at last year’s meeting to institute it. In one of the only issues that saw division on the floor, voters took up the issue again this year.

Resident Robert Hauser made the request to do away with the pledge, saying that Sharon residents shouldn’t have to be “subject to a test of their patriotism and beliefs.”

Resident Mary Lawler commented that she didn’t see the issue as one to raise a fuss about, one way or the other. “I don’t get this,” she said. “You don’t have to say it, you don’t have to think it, if you don’t want. I don’t understand the issue.”

Select Board member Carl Newton added that he agreed with the sentiment, but said he had little attachment to the idea of opening the meeting with the pledge. “For forty or fifty years, we’ve never had it,” he said. 

In a ballot vote, residents agreed, deciding to overturn last year’s decision in a 23-8 ballot vote, leaving 2017 as the only year the town will start the meeting with a pledge.

The rest of the warrant passed with little contention or comment from the floor.

Voters passed the town budget, totaling $367,300. Select Board member Carl Newton told the voters that while contracted payments for various services from Peterborough had gone up and down, overall, the budget was nearly the same as last year.

The town also made some decisions regarding its town clerk position. At Town Meeting, the floor voted to pay the clerk a salary in lieu of statutory fees. This change will take effect in 2018 – the board has yet to decide a salary for the position.

At the polls on Friday, residents voted strongly in favor of making the clerk’s position – as well as the tax collector position – a three year term, where both are a single year now.

Residents also approved extending the veterans property tax credit to allow it to apply to any veteran who has served for at least 90 days and was honorably discharged. In Sharon, the tax credit is $300 per year, and previously was only available to veterans who served in qualifying wars.

The floor made quick work of requests for additions to capital reserves, including $1,500 for the brick School House Maintenance Fund – which will eventually go to replacing the building’s roof – $2,000 for the Welfare Services Non-Capital Reserve Fund, $20,000 for the Town Highway Repairs Fund and $10,000 for the Town Bridge Fund.

The bridge fund is for the eventual repair of the Swamp Road bridge, and the town hopes to build up the fund over the next few years to a total of $125,000. Prior to the $10,000 addition, the fund had about $17,000 in it.

Voters also approved a zoning amendment related to accessory dwelling units to make the town’s ordinances compliant with recent changes to the state law during Friday’s ballot voting.