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Town Meeting: Hanover OKs power-sourcing plan, keeps town manager

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2021 9:31:27 PM
Modified: 7/14/2021 3:58:19 PM

HANOVER — Voters in Hanover decided Tuesday to adopt a plan that officials hope will allow households and businesses to purchase power from more environmentally friendly sources.

Residents in a show of hands overwhelmingly voted to adopt a community power plan during Town Meeting that gives municipal officials the ability to contract and bid for the energy needs of about 2,500 residential customers.

Meanwhile, residents also opted to maintain Hanover’s town manager form of government and elected two incumbents to the Selectboard in ballot voting, which was held at Dartmouth College’s Dewey Field parking lot.

Tuesday’s vote, which sets up the spring launch of the town’s power program, makes Hanover the third New Hampshire community to move forward with community power.

The southwestern municipalities of Keene and Harrisville both have municipal aggregation plans, and Lebanon hopes to follow suit this year.

Community power, sometimes referred to as municipal aggregation, allows municipal governments to buy power for residents and businesses from alternative sources while still relying on transmission services from traditional providers like Liberty Utilities.

Town Manager Julia Griffin told voters the plan has the ability to “reap incredible green power benefits for the community.”

She added that the program would bring Hanover closer to its goal of converting to 100% renewable energy for electricity, heating and transportation by 2050.

While households and businesses can opt out of the program, the town could offer participants a mix of energy options, including plans that offer 100% green options and others with 75% or 50%.

Griffin said the town has committed to offering prices that “meet or beat” Liberty’s prices.

In a show of confidence for Griffin, residents also voted, 1,200-475, Tuesday to maintain the position she’s held since 1996.

A petitioned warrant article on the ballot asks residents if they support “the continuation of the town manager plan as now in force in this town?”

It was organized by Dartmouth student Kevin Berghuis, a senior editor at the Dartmouth Review student newspaper. However, neither Berghuis nor other supporters of the measure spoke in favor of it Tuesday.

Another student-led petitioned article, calling for Hanover to amend its zoning ordinance to allow two people who are unrelated to share the same bedroom, also failed.

Currently, town regulations stipulate that a single “dwelling” can at most contain a family combined with two unrelated people, or three unrelated people living together.

Instead, voters adopted a Planning Board-approved measure to change Hanover’s definition of “family,” making more clear which living situations would allow more people to share a living space.

This was the second year that concerns about the coronavirus pandemic led town officials to move Hanover’s annual meeting outside. They also chose to push back the event from May to July in hopes the delay would allow more time for people to get vaccinated.

Voting, which normally takes place at Hanover High School, instead happened at tents and parking spaces at the Dewey Field parking lot. The arrangements were largely welcomed by residents, many of whom chose to vote in-person this year, according to Town Moderator Jeremy Eggleton.

He said that about 170 people submitted absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s floor meeting, down drastically from the about 1,400 that election officials processed last year.

But those figures were partially made up by in-person ballots, Eggleton predicted.

“I hesitate to say we’re back to normal at this point,” he said, adding turnout from college voters appeared to be “through the roof.”

Some people had worried that the new election setting combined with a new time could suppress the vote, particularly since most Dartmouth College students are absent from campus in the summer months.

On the ballot, incumbents Nancy Carter received 1,000 votes and Joanne Whitcomb garnered 1,019 to defeat challenger David Millman, a rising junior at Dartmouth College who received 730 votes, for three-year terms on the Hanover Selectboard.

Elizabeth Cornell was running unopposed for a three-year term on the Etna Town Library Trustees, while Judston “Jay” Pierson won an uncontested race for Trustee of the Trust Funds.

Voters also approved a $30.6 million municipal budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year in a show of hands vote.

The spending plan, which amounts to a roughly 5% decrease from Hanover’s current budget, includes a 7.8% increase in health care costs and an additional $200,000 in payments to the New Hampshire Retirement System.

It’s expected to result in a 13-cent increase in the town’s portion of property taxes, or a roughly $65 increase for a property valued at $500,000.

Three one-year contracts with Hanover’s unions also were OK’d Tuesday.

A one-year contract with police department staff is expected to cost taxpayers an additional $36,000 next year, while an agreement with firefighters would cost almost $29,000. Meanwhile, a contract with public works staff would raise costs by nearly $44,000.

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

Correction

Joanna Whitcomb received 1,019 votes to win a three-year   term on the Hanover Selectboard during Tuesday's Town Meeting. An earlier version of this story overstated her vote total.




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