Town Meeting Day Continues
New London to Vote on Zoning, Selectboard, Proposed Budget
Election of town officers and voting on zoning amendments is Tuesday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Whipple Memorial Town Hall. Town Meeting is Wednesday, May 14, beginning at 7 p.m. at Kearsarge Regional Middle School gymnasium.
New London — A contested Selectboard race, about $8.3 million in proposed spending and a petition article to move the annual meeting back to March are among the decisions voters will make at Town Meeting next week.
Douglas Homan, Nancy Rollins and John Grosvenor Lewis are vying for the three-year seat on the Selectboard now held by Christina Helms, who is not seeking re-election.
Rollins, 61, is a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission.
“I believe I have leadership skills and financial knowledge,” said Rollins, who was associate commissioner for the state Department of Health and Human Services before retiring earlier this year.
Rollins cites her experience with large budgets, cost containment and competitive contracts in her HHS position as skills she would bring to the Selectboard position. Rollins wants to address issues such as aging infrastructure — Pleasant Lake Dam and Whipple Memorial Town Hall — and ensure money is put aside in capital reserve funds and that needs are prioritized.
Rollins also said New London is an aging community and the town needs to look at finding ways to make sure a younger generation puts down roots in town.
Homan, 58, has owned and operated the Lake Sunapee Country Club for 35 years. His concerns have to do with “increasing annual budgets” and other financial issues facing the town, he said in a statement. Additionally, he noted that there are no capital reserves for repairs to the dam, town hall or new town dispatching equipment, which combined could cost $2 million.
“As costs to operate the town rise each year, in disproportion to population and business growth, one thing is clear: if we remain on our present path, New London property taxes will substantially increase,” Homan said. “My goal is to allocate our resources in a sensible, common sense manner that will benefit all voters and town residents. I’m running for Selectman to help ensure that the things we value and enjoy most about our community remain viable, accessible and affordable for everyone who lives and conducts business in our town.”
Lewis has a different view on what is important to residents and what he said he will bring to the board.
“I am going to limit police powers,” said Lewis. “If I’m elected, I want people to feel free to come up to me and say ‘I have a problem with police’ and I will look into it.” Lewis thinks the jail in town, where he said he has spent some time, needs more than a “cement bench.” He also proposes hiring a deputy sheriff as a “watchdog” over the police department and is critical of how the town handled the dismissal of former Police Chief David Seastrand, who was forced to resign when allegations surfaced that he had pressured a young woman to pose for nude photographs. Seastrand was not charged in the incident.
“If that ever happens again, I will be sure the chief leaves immediately,” Lewis said.
The combined general operating budget and proposed transfers into capital reserve funds represent a 1.4 percent increase in spending from this year, Town Administrator Kim Hallquist said. The impact on the current town portion of the tax rate of $4.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation was first estimated at 21 cents, but the debt service article is expected to be reduced on the floor, Hallquist said, which would lower the increase.
Articles 3 through 9 are the spending proposals for various government operations including highways and streets, public safety, general government, recreation and debt service. Voters will consider the Budget Committee’s recommendations, which for the first time, Hallquist said, are slightly different from the Selectboard’s.
“This is a big deal because voters have not seen that before,” Hallquist said of the difference, which is only six line items and totals about $50,000 or less than 1 percent of the proposed budget.
Budget Committee Chairman John Wilson said the differences between the committee and Selectboard were narrowed during the budget process.
Article 8, debt service, shows an increase of $247,000, but Hallquist said that figure will likely be decreased with an amendment at Town Meeting because the first-year payment on a bond for New London’s share of upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in Sunapee is not due next year as originally thought.
About $93,000 of the first bond payment is paid by all taxpayers, with the balance paid only by users of the system.
Hallquist said article 17 could generate the most debate. Submitted by petition, it seeks to return to a March Town Meeting. New London went to a May Town Meeting three years ago.
There are several zoning amendments that will be voted on during Tuesday’s balloting. One prohibits the construction of new boathouses over water, which is a new state law but does allow for repairs and replacement of existing structures so long as they are not increased in size.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .