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Enfield voters approve nearly all articles at outdoor Town Meeting

  • Ballot clerk Madeleine Johnson collects the vote of Annette Hutchins during the Enfield, N.H., Town Meeting at Huse Park on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (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 — James M. Patterson

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    "Wendell Smith in left field," Smith stated as he steps up to a microphone to comment on the purchase of a new fire engine at Town Meeting in Enfield, N.H., Saturday, May 1, 2021. The mic was set up for residents who sat in their vehicles for the meeting which was held outside due to to the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Linda LaCroix arrives at Huse Park for Town Meeting in Enfield, N.H., held outside for the second year due to the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Residents brought their own chairs to sit under tents on the baseball field. (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 — James M. Patterson

  • James Bonner kept his ballots in a pocket while filming the Enfield, N.H., Town Meeting for Enfield Television at Huse Park Saturday, May 1, 2021. (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 — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/1/2021 9:51:09 PM
Modified: 5/1/2021 9:51:06 PM

ENFIELD — Voters approved all articles except one at the floor portion of Enfield’s Town Meeting, held outdoors at Huse Park under tents and from cars parked nearby on Saturday.

Amid the wind and cold, about 75 voters — many wearing hats and coats, along with the face masks required by a town ordinance — turned out to make decisions about the town’s spending during the three-hour meeting.

Voters said yes to two separate $1.9 million projects, one aimed at improving the municipal water system and the other at improving the sewer system, which they had previously rejected at the 2020 Town Meeting held last summer. They also approved a $7.15 million general fund budget, a 6%, or roughly $400,000, increase over last year’s spending plan.

Tim Jennings, who led the town’s public works department in the 1990s and had opposed the sewer and water projects at the July meeting, asked a friend to read a letter of support during Saturday’s meeting, which he could not attend. In the letter, Jennings said the town has reached this point in the pandemic with “little impact to town finances” and that the two projects are “technically sound” and “prudent.”

The water project aims to replace aging transmission lines and find a new source of water to replace an older one, said Jim Taylor, director of the Department of Public Works.

“We aren’t out of water,” he said. “We want to make sure that we take care of our resources. (We) don’t want to end up like Texas did with their electric grid.”

Meanwhile, the sewer project is aimed at reducing inflow and infiltration into the sewer system to reduce the amount of water Enfield unnecessarily sends to Lebanon for treatment at a cost, Taylor said.

Resident Jo-Ellen Courtney urged fellow voters to support the sewer project, saying that she thinks that more heavy rainstorms are “making a big impact on the sewer system.”

Voters had little to say about the 6% increase in the general fund budget, which they approved by a hand vote, 62-5. Increases in expenses are due to filling three positions that were not included in last year’s budget, along with higher health care, insurance and retirement costs.

The town also is expecting a reduction in non-tax revenues. Enfield received more than $200,000 in COVID-19 relief grants last year and saw an increase in motor vehicle registrations, according to the town report.

The Budget Committee estimates the spending plan will increase taxes by 43 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, which amounts to an additional $107 in taxes for a $250,000 home.

In separate articles, voters also supported several other capital projects, including $570,000 to replace a fire engine, $195,000 for a replacement dump truck for the public works department, $133,800 for improvements to the public works facility, $47,000 to replace a police cruiser, and $50,000 for a new public works pickup truck.

The single article voters rejected, 51-23, would have devoted $50,000 to a new utility vehicle for the fire department. Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Ford said the department was seeking to replace an aging vehicle used for towing equipment to some emergencies to “be proactive (and) defer maintenance costs down the road.”

But, during discussion, resident Gary Hutchins urged a one-year deferment on that purchase to give the town time to consider purchasing an electric pickup truck instead. That deferment “gives everybody the time to get educated,” he said.

Ford said he thought the purchase could be deferred a year, as he didn’t see any immediate problems with the truck the department has now.

After some debate, voters also approved spending $35,000 from the general fund to support the development of a new master plan. The town’s most recent master plan was approved in 1995, in spite of recommendations that municipalities update their plans every five to seven years, said David Fracht, chairman of the Enfield Planning Commission.

A task force composed of planning commissioners and other community members is leading the effort, but they need the money to hire a professional planner to shape the information the volunteers collect into a usable plan, he said.

“Voting no on this is going to shoehorn the town into doing outdated things,” said Holly West, who sits on Enfield’s Capital Improvement Committee.

The measure easily won approval in a voice vote. The volunteers are slated to host a master planning input opportunity for community members from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at Huse Park. More information about the effort is available online at enfield-leaps.org.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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