Newport OKs Community Center Funds

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/9/2018 12:17:45 AM
Modified: 5/9/2018 9:37:40 AM

Newport — Voters re-elected Selectboard member Todd Fratzel and narrowly approved $200,000 to design a new community center during all-day balloting on Tuesday.

Also approved was a $10 million budget, the lottery game keno and a proposed power purchase agreement that would provide solar power for all town and school facilities.

An $843,500 bond vote for infrastructure repairs on Knoll Street from Spring Street to 1st Street failed to obtain the required 60 percent majority required. The result was 494-389, or about 56 percent in favor.

Also defeated was a proposed increase in the disability property tax exemption from $15,000 to $150,000. A majority rejected the change, 464-384,

Fratzel, who defeated Cindy Conroy, 539-335, for his third three-year term on the Selectboard, said the narrow passage of the community center appropriation, 457-443, shows the supporters of the project have their work cut out for them over the next year.

“I’m really excited about the community center, but the close vote says how hard we have to work (on the final design) so it is affordable for everyone,” Fratzel said.

Recreation Director P.J. Lovely had a similar reaction to the vote.

“It is certainly positive news for us to move forward, but it is not a mandate, so we just have to be very thoughtful of the process and keep in mind the tax impact,” Lovely said. “We need to have a practical plan that people can afford.”

Lovely, who said some voters told him at the polls today they could not vote for the community center because raises for teachers, which were rejected at the annual school meeting in March, were more important.

Lovely anticipates that a bond vote to fund construction of the community center will be presented to voters at next year’s Town Meeting. The current plan is for a new facility to be built on the town’s Little League field.

Tuesday’s approval means that more complete design work can be done with details on the cost.

The proposed power purchase agreement was approved 652-235.

The town will have three solar arrays, the largest of which would be built on open space on the west side of the Sugar River across from the town’s sewage treatment plant.

The arrays would provide solar power at a contracted price, over 25 years that begin below the current market rate. The town would not incur any of the costs for construction and would only pay for the power at a set price under the agreement.

The arrays are expected to be operational later this year.

The proposed budget passed by 60 votes, and the state lottery game keno can be played in approved establishments, after it passed 461-427.

Other articles easily approved include: $107,000 appropriation from the water fund to upgrade the water treatment plant; a $73,000 bond vote for infrastructure improvements on Knolls and First, Second, Third and Fourth streets; a community revitalization tax relief incentive program that is aimed at encouraging redevelopment of older buildings and a number of other spending items.

Overall, 25 of 27 articles were approved.

“I’m impressed, ” Fratzel said about the approval of all spending given that many are under “financial strain.”

In two other contested races, Margot Estabrook defeated Tobin Menard for supervisor of the checklist, and Charen Urban defeated Menard for Library Trustee.

Tuesday’s approved appropriations means the town portion of the property tax rate is projected to increase 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $12.18, which would increase annual town taxes on a property assessed at $150,000 by $95, to $1,827.

Turnout was 915, or 22 percent, of the town’s 4,092 registered voters.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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