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Wilton residents say no to Select Board raises, live streaming meetings

  • Residents weigh in on warrant articles at Town Meeting at Florence Rideout Elementary School on Thursday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents weigh in on warrant articles at Town Meeting at Florence Rideout Elementary School on Thursday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, March 15, 2019 8:13AM

Wilton voters agreed to an increase in the Town Clerk stipend, but said no to a stipend increase for the Select Board, during Town Meeting Thursday night.

The town passed its budget of $4.85 million with only a few dissenters. While the budget number is about 8.32 percent lower than last year’s budget, the difference is mainly related to how the town is accounting for its ambulance costs.

In prior years, the town has included the total cost of the ambulance, and offset it with the revenue from the other towns who contribute to the ambulance service. Now, the ambulance is run by a revolving fund, a different kind of accounting measure than in previous years.

When accounting for the difference in revenue from last year to this year, the amount to be raised by taxation has actually increased by about $209,000, or 4.3 percent, Wilton Budget Committee member Harry Dailey explained.

There were only two articles voters turned down during Town Meeting. The first was a request to increase the stipend paid to the Select Board – $4,500 for the chair and $4,000 for the other two members. The increase represented a total increase of $5,600.

Selectwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault said she didn’t support the increase, saying she came to the job knowing it was mostly a volunteer position. Fellow Select Board members Matt Fish and Kermit Williams said the proposed increase was arrived at after looking at other town’s stipends and in hopes of attracting more people to run for the position.

In a ballot vote, the town voted 100-30 not to increase the board’s stipends.

In a separate vote related to an elected official’s stipend, the town agreed to increase the Town Clerk’s salary by $6,252, to a total of $68,767 annually.

“I think [Town Clerk Jane Farrell] is a treasure,” resident Ruth Smith said. “We can’t pay her enough.”

The town approved the raise in an 83-35 ballot vote.

In one of the closest votes of the evening, after some discussion, the crowd decided not to support the town adopting a policy to have all the meetings of the boards, committees and commissions held in the Town Hall courtroom recorded and live streamed. The Select Board has been streaming and archiving its meetings for the last year but is the only board to do so.

Jeff Stone, a member of the town’s conservation commission and zoning board, said he thought the article was not specific enough about whether it was a mandate or suggestion and said there were members of his boards who were against being videotaped.

“One person has already stated their intention to resign rather than be recorded,” Stone said.

Other residents said archiving footage was a benefit to residents who were unable to attend the meetings in person.

Jackie Kahle, who is a member of the town’s Economic Development Committee, said she was “highly in favor” of the committee’s meetings being recorded.

“I think this is about access,” she said. “There’s a segment of the public who can’t get downtown every week.”

In a close voice vote, the public decided not to support the measure.

The town approved two additions to the capital reserves for the fire department, including a $50,000 request to be added to the fire truck reserve. Fire Chief Jim Cutler requested a second capital reserve request, for $50,000 for the air pack capital reserve, be increased to $75,000. The town will also need to raise $75,000 next year in order to replace all the department’s air packs, Cutler explained.

The amendment passed easily in a voice vote, and the audience then passed the article as amended.

“I think this is a no-brainer all the way around,” resident Dan Nelson said, about supporting the replacement of fire-department equipment.

All other articles on the warrant passed unamended. There was an attempt to amend a warrant article requesting $160,000 for the purchase of a 6-wheel dump truck. The original article proposed to raise $125,000 from taxation, and use $35,000 in capital reserve funds to purchase the truck.

Resident Travis Belcher proposed an amendment to use $100,000 in capital reserve funds, and raise $60,000 from taxation, but the amendment failed in a voice vote. The article passed unamended.

Voters held elections for town offices and voted on zoning a

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.