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Town Meeting: Plainfield approves Meriden library project

  • From left, Supervisors of the Checklist Beverly Widger, Fern Wilder and Dewey Jones count votes with Town Clerk Michelle Marsh at the Plainfield School Meeting on Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Plainfield, N.H. Residents were voting on Article 5, which passed.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • At the Plainfield School Meeting Mindy Taber, left and Fawn Goodrow sit in the sun while Jeff and Robin Marsh take advantage of the shade under the tent on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Plainfield, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • A rendering of a proposed design for a new library in Meriden includes a meeting room. It would be in the same location as the current facility, which is not ADA compliant. (Courtesy Plainfield Public Libraries) Courtesy Plainfield Public Libraries

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/5/2021 9:46:14 PM
Modified: 6/5/2021 9:46:13 PM

MERIDEN — Plainfield voters overwhelmingly approved moving forward with a $1.16 million library project that has been in the works for about four years at an outdoor town meeting on Saturday afternoon.

No tax dollars are required for the project, which voters approved in a paper ballot vote of 216-40, because of the success of private fundraising in town.

“(We’re) asking you to open your hearts and your hands and accept this gift that we are giving you,” Jeanne Woodward-Poor, a library trustee, said in a presentation ahead of the vote.

The planned new 4,000-square-foot, single-story building is slated to sit in the same spot as the old, smaller, two-story one, which would be demolished, said Jennifer Lenz, another trustee. The results of the vote were greeted with applause.

Plainfield held both its town and school meetings under tents outside the Plainfield Elementary School on Saturday, with most of the voting accomplished before a rainstorm hit. The meetings were delayed from March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also during the municipal meeting, voters approved a town operating budget totaling $2.47 million, which is up $57,000 or 2.4% over the previous year. The bulk of that increase is due to a hike of $36,000 to continue the town’s recycling program, Town Administrator Stephen Halleran said.

It’s “more expensive to recycle a plastic bottle than it is to landfill it,” Halleran said.

As a result of the budget, Halleran said he expects the tax rate will increase about 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $81 on a home valued at $300,000.

Voters also approved adding $257,500 to the capital reserve and general trust fund.

In the closest vote of the day, 57-37, voters approved a separate petitioned article, an $8,500 request for Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire. The vote, by paper ballot, was in opposition to the Selectboard’s recommendation.

Halleran said the town has had increasing requests from human service organizations in recent years and that town officials recommended reducing the amount allocated to the visiting nurses to $4,500.

But, after hearing from others in attendance that the visiting nurses provided $34,000 in charitable care to Plainfield residents in fiscal year 2019, Selectboard member Ron Eberhart said he changed his mind.

“I would support personally the $8,500,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the annual school district meeting saw roughly 100 Plainfield voters approve all articles on the warrant.

They gave the green light to an operating budget of almost $7.3 million, up $363,000, or about 5% over the current year’s budget, as well as separate articles for new contracts for teachers and staff at Plainfield Elementary School, which will add about $60,000 in the first year.

They also approved adding $25,000 to a special education and tuition trust fund and allowing the School Board to also the fund for pandemic-related expenses should they arise in the coming school year.

Questions about using the money for pandemic expenses inspired resident Virginia Drye to propose an amendment requiring that the board report back to voters about how the fund is used. Drye proposed the amendment, which voters approved, after her mother Margaret Drye expressed concerns about “raiding the special education fund.”

School Board member Chris Forman said the board would be happy to report how the fund, which contains $325,000, is used. Though the board doesn’t foresee any added spending either for special education or for pandemic expenses, he said the board wanted access to that money if needed.

The “highest likelihood (of a) financial shock that the district could have is the pandemic,” Forman said, noting that the district’s leaders “haven’t plumbed the depth of this reserve deeply in a decade.”

In total, voters at the school meeting approved spending $7.38 million next year, which is expected to result in a tax increase of $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $414 on a home valued at $300,000.

Voters also approved a measure allowing the Meriden Village Water District to build two rapid infiltration basins on land owned by the school district. The project, which will be funded by grants and sewer and water rate payers, has been in the works for several years and is aimed at bringing the water district into compliance with federal rules, said Greg Castell, one of the water district’s commissioners.

They said yes to a new Authorized Regional Enrollment Agreement with the Lebanon School District to continue to pay tuition to send Plainfield students in grades 9-12 to Lebanon High School for the next 10 years. Plainfield has the option of reopening the arrangement after three years, Forman said. The agreement, which also includes Grantham, holds places for Plainfield students at Lebanon High School.

Voters discussed the merits of the agreement, with some saying the issue of school choice could be revisited in the future.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up having this conversation again,” Forman said.

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




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