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Croydon voters cut back budget, including money for now-abolished police department

  • Clyde Bacon speaks in favor of one of several petitioned articles he authored during Town Meeting in Croydon, N.H., Saturday, March 14, 2020. None of the articles passed. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tom Howard listens as Jim Peschke as he makes a point during Croydon Town Meeting Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Town Clerk Charleen Little registers her vote on an article by holding up her card from behind the curtain on stage at the Croydon, N.H., Town Hall Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Croydon, N.H., Moderator Willis Ballou calls on a voter to speak during Town Meeting Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2020 3:32:08 PM
Modified: 3/14/2020 10:15:43 PM

CROYDON — Residents in Croydon voted Saturday to remove more than $31,000 from the town’s proposed budget, cutting back appropriations for the now-abolished police department.

The vote, which was approved in a show of hands, comes after the Selectboard decided last month to do away with the one-man department and instead rely on New Hampshire State Police coverage.

That decision drew national attention after then-Police Chief Richard Lee, who had worked part time for nearly 20 years, stripped down to his briefs and boots and left the Croydon town offices to walk home in a snowstorm after his ouster.

The Town Meeting vote was made with little discussion, and it leaves the town with a $485,400 general fund budget, a roughly $25,000 decrease from last year’s spending plan.

Selectboard Chairman Russell Edwards said officials were hesitant to cut all of the police department’s proposed budget of about $46,200, partly because it includes salary and fuel payments owed this year.

He added that the town still owns a police cruiser and should set aside money in the event of an emergency or a situation that requires its use.

Debate on the town’s treatment of Lee broke out later during discussion of a petitioned warrant article calling on all municipal employees to “provide a detailed time log” of their work.

“There was an employee in the town who was being required to submit a very detailed log of what their activities were every day,” said resident Kim McKinney, referring the former police chief. “So if you have one employee that needs to do it, why not all employees?”

Edwards said Lee was asked to log where he was spending time, a task that isn’t suited for all town positions. Before that mandate, he said, the Selectboard was getting updates only in the form of an annual report.

“We were dealing with somebody that was not providing any information (aside from the annual report),” he said.

But Clyde Bacon argued the police department might not have shuttered if officials drafted job descriptions for town positions.

“You could build a case for dismissing that employee,” he said. “But if you don’t (have a job description), you have to eliminate a department, which is kind of overkill.”

Residents also handily defeated in a show of hands a petitioned article requesting a 15% raise for the police department.

Town Clerk Charleen Little said the article wouldn’t be accepted by the state Department of Revenue Administration because it didn’t include a dollar figure.

Voters also killed by a show of hands a petitioned warrant article calling on the Selectboard to attend trainings offered by the New Hampshire Municipal Association “within three months of appointment.”

Edwards called training “beneficial,” but said the Municipal Association might not offer some events within the three-month window. The nonprofit also holds a variety of workshops, he said, adding that the warrant article didn’t specify which ones the board should attend.

“Let’s just be sure we’re giving the appropriate training to the appropriate people,” he said.

The town’s three Selectboard members said they all attended initial training offered by the association.

However, Bacon said the measure would simply help Selectboard members prepare for the job.

“Anyone can be appointed, but does that person have a background that makes them qualified for the position?” he asked.

Similar petitioned articles that sought to mandate planning and zoning board training and schedule regular monthly meetings were also defeated in a show of hands.

The article was brought by residents who said they found it difficult to meet with Croydon’s land use boards, particularly the Zoning Board, which meets by appointment only.

Voters said letters to the Zoning Board went unanswered for years. Officials at Saturday’s meeting also couldn’t name current members when challenged by voters who noticed that Steve Brock, who said he was a former member, was listed as active in the town report.

Edwards again said he supports the sentiment behind the articles, but couldn’t vote for them as written.

Residents passed articles requesting $46,000 to shim and seal Loverin Hill Road and $78,000 for repairs on Pine Hill Road, although nearly $40,000 of that project will be paid for using grant funding.

An article requesting broom and fork attachments for the town’s backhoe was defeated in a show of hands. The money was to come from capital reserve funds.

During the school district meeting, voters approved a $1.5 million budget, which is about a $107,750, or 6.7%, decrease from the previous year’s budget.

School officials predict the budget will result in a 4.6% tax decrease, resulting in a tax bill of $275 less for a home valued at $200,000, according to district estimates.

Special education costs will go up about $33,700, while regular education costs will rise by $5,553, according to School Board Chairwoman Jody Underwood.

However, the district plans to use a surplus of $74,500 to offset taxes.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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