Town Meeting preview: Charlestown considers expanding broadband access 

Published: 3/4/2021 4:54:54 PM
Modified: 3/4/2021 7:13:00 PM

Hot topic: Voters will be asked to approve a $2.1 million bond that would fund construction of a fiber-optic network in Charlestown, providing every street with access to broadband internet.

If approved, the bond would allow Consolidated Communications to start work on a one- to two-year installation project. The company — not taxpayers — would pay the loan’s interest and principal and collect a $10-a-month recovery fee from new customers who choose to sign on.

Because the project requires long-term borrowing, a 60% majority at the polls is required to move the effort forward. Currently, more than 90% of Charlestown’s homes lack broadband access, according to town officials.

Budget: The town is proposing a $5.9 million budget, an increase of $114,700, or about 2%, over last year’s spending plan. If the proposal is defeated, a default budget of $5.3 million would take effect.

Noteworthy articles: A warrant article asks residents to appropriate $4.6 million to connect the Charlestown and North Charlestown water systems to reduce levels of arsenic in drinking water. The North Charlestown water system currently reports arsenic levels above New Hampshire’s threshold, which was lowered in 2019. Meanwhile, costs to operate the system’s treatment plant have grown fourfold in recent years.

To solve those problems, the town hopes to hook up the North Charlestown and Charlestown systems with a 14,000-foot connection. Officials say doing so would solve the arsenic problem, increase capacity and possibly encourage development in North Charlestown. A bond for the project also requires a 60% majority to pass.

Contested races: Five people are running for two seats on the Selectboard, with the top two vote-getters winning three-year terms. Incumbent John Streeter faces Shelly Blouin-Andrus, Nancy Houghton, Steven Neill and Jeremy Wood.

There are also four people running for two seats on the Planning Board. Walter Spilsbury, Alissa Bascom, Patricia Chaffee and Rose Smith-Hull are seeking three-year terms.

When and where: Voting on officers and the warrant will take place Tuesday, March 9, at the Charlestown Senior Center. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

— Tim Camerato

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