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Unity Rejects $35,000 for New Gazebo

Unity — A $35,000 appropriation to complete the new gazebo on the town common was the only article defeated during Saturday’s nearly two-hour Town Meeting.

Ironically, John Callum, who has directed the gazebo project, argued strongly against the appropriation.

“I really don’t want the money,” said Callum, who won a seat on the Selectboard in Tuesday’s election. “We need workers. If we get workers, I don’t think you need this money.”

Callum said he would put a sign-up sheet at the back of Town Hall for those who want to donate their time to the project, and another sheet for those who want to donate money.

“We need painters, carpenters and carpenter’s helpers,” Callum said.

The gazebo framing and flooring is complete, but it needs a roof, steps, railing and landscaping. Callum said they have the purlins for the roof but need about 20 sheets of plywood and cedar shingles.

The project to this point has been funded 100 percent by donations and has relied on volunteer labor.

The Selectboard said it put the appropriation — based on a contractor’s estimate — on the warrant to help the small group of volunteers and to ensure the gazebo is finished for the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in July.

“We are interested in getting it done,” said Selectboard member Ed Gregory. “This is to make sure you have enough money.”

Selectboard member Bill Schroeter said the project was in “mid-stride,” and the town was not getting enough help to get it finished, so the board decided to put it to a town vote.

When that time came, the appropriation was soundly defeated by voice vote.

The rest of the warrant passed, including a $1 million budget; $23,000 for new furnaces in Town Hall and the fire station; $5,000 for the well-monitoring fund; $32,135 for the revaluation capital reserve fund; $40,000 for the reserve fund for highway vehicles; and $60,000 for the reserve fund to handle long-term maintenance of roads and bridges. In a 61-23 vote, residents approved $2,500 for the 250th anniversary committee.

The Selectboard estimates that the town tax rate will increase from $3.95 to around $5.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation with the spending approved Saturday. Although total spending is up around $30,000, the increase is mostly due to a projected decrease in use of the unreserved fund balance to offset the tax increase. Last year about $300,000 was used, but this year only about $60,000 will be available, the board estimates.

As the meeting got underway, the town recognized Selectboard member Willard Hathaway, who did not seek re-election after 15 years on the board. “In his 15 years, he guided us through some hard times,” said Gregory. “We’ll miss him.”

The town presented Hathaway and his wife, Barbara, with a clock to recognize his years of service.

“I respect you. I like you,” Hathaway told residents. “You have been great to me as an elected official all these years, and I thank you.”

Gregory also told the audience that the town had been awarded a $108,000 state grant to help pay for the closure of the town landfill.

Turnout Saturday of about 85 voters represented nearly 9 percent of the town’s registered voters.

The annual school meeting will be held Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., in the Claremont Opera House. Town Moderator Fred Bellimer urged residents to arrive early and to bring a photo ID when checking in. There will be a bus departing from Town Hall for those who do not wish to drive to Claremont.

Among the items on the warrant is a controversial $2.75 million bond request to finish the new elementary school and a $3.6 million budget.

The School Board will discuss the bond at its meeting on Tuesday night in Town Hall beginning at 6:30.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.