Haverhill voters fail to reach threshold to change town meeting format

By FRANCES MIZE

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-17-2024 7:45 PM

HAVERHILL — Voters in Haverhill rejected a proposal on Saturday that would have gotten rid of traditional Town Meeting in favor of so-called SB2 balloting.

Under SB2 — short for New Hampshire Senate Bill 2, passed in 1995 — towns vote on all warrant articles by Australian ballot on the second Tuesday in March after a deliberative session held on the first Tuesday.

Passing the measure requires the approval of 60% of a town’s voters. In paper balloting at Haverhill’s Town Meeting, the measure failed just short of that threshold, getting 56.3% of the vote. Still, voters were in favor of the new system, 156-121. There are just upward of 2,500 voters on the town checklist.

The town’s proposed $5.24 million operating budget, up from last year’s $5.1 million budget, passed. The new budget is expected to result in a tax rate of $6.79 per $1,000 of property value or $1,698 on a home valued at $250,000. Two last-ditch efforts to amend the budget from the floor failed.

Voters also rejected a proposal to allow all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, on all Haverhill roads, excluding state and private roads. Currently, the vehicles are only allowed on select town roads. Voters opposed proposals to discontinue Tannery Road, Slight Hill Road, Anderson Lane and Tailgate Lane.

After an amendment from the floor, voters approved appropriating $10,000 to the Good Shepherd Ecumenical Food Pantry, rather than the $6,419 proposed on the warrant.

They also greenlighted the expansion of the North Haverhill Water and Light District to include two properties on Airport Road.

Voters approved a $40,000-to-$55,000 wage scale for the town clerk position and rejected an advisory article that would have indicated to the Selectboard that voters wanted the Town Clerk’s office to be open 40 hours a week. It’s currently open 33 hours a week.

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“If I wanted to take a month off to go to the Bahamas, I could do that,” said newly appointed Town Clerk Carole Brooks-Broer, defending her power to set her own hours. “But I’d never do that, because that would be unprofessional.”

Brooks-Broer, the former deputy town clerk, is replacing retiring Town Clerk Christina Herbert.

With a lawsuit between Woodsville Fire District against the town of Haverhill related to how the town appropriates funding to the village still awaiting decision from the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, a pair of proposed appropriations to the Woodsville Fire and Highway Departments were rejected by secret ballot, 150-111 and 148-105, respectively.

The Selectboard did not recommend those appropriations.

Voters postponed indefinitely a trio of ordinances related to short-term lodging, false alarm and “frivolous complaints,” as well as special events.

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.