The Andover Town Meeting for 2020 was called to order in the AE/MS gym at 7:18 PM on Tuesday, March 10 by Town Moderator Jon Mishcon. He asked the veterans to lead the meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance; read the moderator’s guidelines; introduced Ken Wells, our representative in Concord; and then had the Town officials at the front table introduce themselves: Bill Keyser, Dave Blin, and Chuck Keyser, Select Board; Marj Roy, Town Administrator; Matt Serge, attorney; Elita Reed, bookkeeper; Bonnie Wesley, Town Clerk/Tax Collector; and Todd Goings, Jim Hersey, and Mary Anne Levesque, Budget Committee.
Because Articles 1 through 3 were on the ballot, the meeting started with Article 4 (see below).
To choose all necessary town officers for the ensuing year. (By ballot vote during polling hours). The complete results appear on page ??.
Are you in favor of the adoption of Amendment No. 1 as proposed by the Planning Board for the Town Zoning Ordinance, as follows? The Andover Village District boundaries would be revised. The boundaries would be expanded along Route 11. It will be bound by a portion of the Rail Trail; by the Bridge Street area to the area across from North Short Street; and to include Lawrence Street and a portion of Bradley Lake Road. The revised and expanded Andover Village District will be shown on the map entitled “Andover Zoning Map of March 2020” which will be attached to and made part of the Zoning Ordinance and referred to as the “Zoning Map.” (By ballot vote during polling hours). Article 2 passed by a vote of 163 to 76.
Are you in favor of the adoption of Amendment No. 2 as proposed by the Planning Board for the Town Zoning Ordinance, as follows? The Cilleyville Village District boundaries would be revised. The boundaries would be expanded to include the entire length of Cilleyville Road and include Depot Street. It will also include the properties along Route 11 from Cilleyville Road to Depot Street. The revised and expanded Cilleyville Village District will be shown on the map entitled “Andover Zoning Map of March 2020” which will be attached to and made part of the Zoning Ordinance and referred to as the “Zoning Map.” (By ballot vote during polling hours). Article 3 passed by a vote of 169 to 70.
To see if the town will vote to secure a $1.5 million bond for the purpose to create a highway maintenance building and to purchase necessary equipment and tools needed for all town roads. Town maintenance will be managed and supervised by the Town of Andover personnel. The Select Board does not recommend this article. The Budget Committee does not recommend this article. This article was submitted by petition. 2/3 ballot vote required.
Petitioner Herbie Barton introduced the article, with assistance from Steve Barton. They pointed out that the consensus of last year’s Town Meeting was to move in the direction of the Town having its own Highway Department and an appointed part-time Road Agent, and Article 4 would be a good way to accomplish that. Steve said there should be a committee because that would take it out of the hands of the Select Board, which hasn’t accomplished what last year’s meeting asked of them.
Jeff Newcomb pointed out that the proposed $1.5 million was incomplete and that the notification deadline had been missed. He felt another year of planning was needed in order to avoid the waste that comes with haste.
The moderator, attorney Matt Serge, and Select Board member Chuck Keyser explained that there were serious problems with Article 4 as petitioned. As a result, if it were passed, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) would not allow it to be a mandatory act of Town Meeting; DRA would reduce it to a merely advisory act.
DRA’s problems with Article 4 were: the language is flawed in that it doesn’t “raise and appropriate” the $1.5 million; in violation of state law, it exceeds 10% of the total budget approved by the Budget Committee; and it does not make clear exactly what the $1.5 million would be spent on.
After much further discussion, Toby Locke made a motion to table Article 4 until next year. The motion to table Article 4 passed by unanimous voice vote.
To see if the town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $350,000 (gross budget) for the construction of a Highway Department garage, including tools, and to authorize the issuance of not more than $350,000, and to authorize the issuance of not more than $350,000 of bonds or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA 33) and to authorize the municipal officials to issue and negotiate such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest thereon. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board recommends this article. 2/3 ballot vote required.
Chuck Keyser introduced Article 5 for the Select Board. He explained the importance of the garage, what it would look like, and the bond’s impact on taxes. He pointed out that it’s been five years since Town Meeting first voted to move toward the town having its own highway department and that this would be an important step in the right direction.
Herbie Barton pointed out that his own plan (see Article 4, above) would provide for everything needed for our Highway Department, not just a garage, and asked if Article 5 would increase taxes, which it was agreed would be true. He made a motion to table Article 5 until next year. The motion to table Article 5 passed by voice vote.
To see if the town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $1,986,399 for general municipal operations. This article does not include appropriations contained in special or individual articles addressed separately. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board does not recommend this article. Majority vote required.
Jim Hersey introduced Article 5 for the Budget Committee. He explained how the Select Board develops the budget and then the Budget Committee works on it. Because the budget this year was up substantially over last year, the Budget Committee tried hard to find places it could be reduced without causing problems. They approved a budget about $37,000 less than the Select Board’s proposal, in part by reducing proposed salary increases from 3% to 2% and by reducing the Fourth of July Committee’s budget from $10,000 to $5,000.
Pecco Beaufays argued strongly against decreasing the proposed salary increases, and Jim Delaney agreed, pointing out that there were no salary increases last year.
Town Moderator Mishcon led the meeting through the budget line by line. There was a long discussion of the proposed Information Technology budget, which was almost double last year’s budget. Marj Roy explained that the increase is due to badly-needed new accounting software and some new computer equipment.
The Road Agent Wages line of the budget increased sharply over last year’s budget due to the new appointed Road Agent and the Select Board’s hope that the new Road Agent would be involved in planning and building a new Highway Department garage. (See Article 5, above.) Andy Guptill made a motion to limit the increase in Road Agent Wages to 3%.
Former elected Road Agent John Thompson spoke of all that has been accomplished over the last five years to move the town toward having its own Highway Department, disputing Select Board Chairman Chuck Keyser’s opinion that nothing had been accomplished.
Pecco Beaufays praised John Thompson and Mark Thompson for the job they’ve done as elected Road Agents over the years, saying it is an insult to them to propose setting the new appointed Road Agent’s salary so much higher than when the position was elected.
The voice vote on the motion to limit the increase to 3% was too close to call; the motion passed on a show of voter cards.
Doug Phelps of the Fourth of July Committee spoke to the halving of the Town’s contribution, to $5,000. He said the annual celebration costs about $17,000, with $10,000 of that going to the fireworks display. He felt that the reduction would mean “the Fourth of July celebration wouldn’t exist.” He made a motion to increase the Fourth of July line item to $10,000; then at Steve Barton’s suggestion, he raised it to $14,000. The motion passed on a unanimous voice vote.
Molly Morgan made a motion to restore the 3% salary increase for Town employees that the Select Board had proposed. After some confusion about how to calculate the new numbers, the moderator made the point to the meeting that the bottom-line total budget number is the only number that the Town Meeting can legally bind the Select Board to; all the line items, and all the votes amending certain line items, carry no legal weight … they are merely the Meeting’s advice to the Select Board. The motion to restore the proposed 3% salary increase passed on a unanimous voice vote.
Scott Kidder of the Andover Fire Department made a motion to increase the Forest Fire Equipment line by $10,000 to allow the department to complete the purchase of a Gator and trailer. The motion passed on a unanimous voice vote.
Article 6 passed on a unanimous voice vote, with an amended total budget of $1,986,296.
To see if the town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $243,500 to be added to the following Capital Reserve Funds (CRF) previously established. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board recommends this article. Majority vote required.
Revaluation CRF $5,000
Highway Grader CRF $15,000
Highway Projects CRF $150,000
Police Cruiser Replacement CRF $13,500
Transfer Station Equipment CRF $10,000
Bridge Rehabilitation CRF $50,000
Wendy Pinkham pointed out that the Transfer Station Recycling CRF had been left out of this article for $15,000, though it was in the Town Report. Attorney Matt Serge said that it is not legal to add it at this point. Article 7 passed on a unanimous voice vote.
To see if the town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $31,000 to be added to the following Expendable Trust Funds (ETF) previously established. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board recommends this article. Majority vote required.
Forest Fire Labor ETF $5,000
Town Buildings ETF $20,000
Technology ETF $6,000
Article 8 passed with no discussion on a unanimous voice vote.
To see if the town will vote to authorize the selectmen to enter into a three year lease-purchase agreement in the amount of $65,000 for the purpose of leasing a 1-ton truck, and to raise and appropriate the sum of $21,666 for the first year’s payment for that purpose. No lease will be entered into without an escape clause. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board recommends this article. Majority vote required.
Select Board member Bill Keyser moved the article and explained that the truck would be a Ford F-550 dump truck with a sander and plow.
John Thompson said that because the other articles were tabled, “we don’t have a plan” and therefore we shouldn’t proceed with purchasing the truck. “This whole thing needs to be looked at as a whole by a real committee that’s serious.”
John moved that the meeting table Article 9, thereby ending discussion. The motion passed on a show of voter cards, after a voice vote was too close to call.
To see if the town will vote to authorize the Select Board to enter into a five year lease-purchase agreement in the amount of $150,000 for the purpose of leasing a backhoe, and to raise and appropriate the sum of $30,000 for the first year’s payment for that purpose. No lease will be entered into without an escape clause. The Budget Committee recommends this article. The Select Board recommends this article.
Select Board member Bill Keyser moved the article. When asked to explain the article, he replied, “Well, if I can’t sell the truck, I sure as hell can’t sell the backhoe!” His quip drew appreciative laughter from the audience.
Toby Locke said that the point of Town Meeting is to be able to discuss things, not to table them before people have had a chance to discuss them. He said he was for the truck and is for the backhoe because “the amount of money we spend on rentals is crazy.”
After further discussion about the costs of ownership and the problems hiring and retaining Highway Department employees, Steve Barton moved to table the motion. The motion to table passed on a voice vote.
To see if the citizens of Andover will vote to amend the Town Noise Ordinance (dated 2017) by removing under Exemptions “Special Permits” issued by the Town. This article was submitted by petition.
Petitioner Donna Baker-Hartwell moved the article and explained that this warrant article is only about ensuring that businesses adhere to our Noise Ordinance by removing Section 3. This is all because the Select Board allowed a private logging company to begin logging about 5 AM for about seven weeks last September.
Pecco Beaufays said those seven weeks “were an absolute disaster” for him at the Highland Lake Inn because of complaints from his guests. Toby Locke spoke against the article. Attorney Serge pointed out that if this article passes, it limits the Select Board in its discretion to waive the Noise Ordinance in any circumstance not specifically addressed in the ordinance.
Other residents spoke against the article; some expressed concerns about whether eliminating special permits was the right way to address the problems Donna cited with the way Section 3 was handled last September.
After a voice vote and a show of voter cards were each too close to call, Moderator Mishcon “divided the house” in order to make a precise count of voter cards easier. Article 11 passed 77 to 48.
We the Town of Andover hereby call upon our State and Federal elected representatives to enact carbon-pricing legislation to protect New Hampshire from the costs and environmental risks of continued climate inaction. To protect households, we support a Carbon Fee and Dividend approach that charges fossil fuel producers for their carbon pollution and rebates the money collected to all residents on an equal basis. Enacting a Carbon Cash-Back program decreases long-term fossil-fuel dependence, aids in the economic transition for energy consumers, and keeps local energy dollars in New Hampshire’s economy. Carbon Cash-Back has been championed by US economists (January 17, 2019 Wall St. Journal) as the most effective and fair way to deliver rapid reductions in harmful carbon emissions at the scale required for our safety. We expect our representatives to lead in this critical moment for the health and well-being of our citizens and for the protection of New Hampshire’s natural resources upon which we all rely.
The record of the vote approving this article shall be transmitted by written notice to Andover’s State Legislators, to the Governor of New Hampshire, to Andover’s Congressional Delegation, and to the President of the United States, informing them of the instructions from their constituents, by Andover’s Select Board, within 30 days of this vote. This article is submitted by petition.
Petitioner Susan Chase moved and explained the article. Her explanation closely followed the coverage about the proposed Carbon Cash-Back program that has appeared in the press, including in recent issues of The Andover Beacon.
Toby Locke spoke against the proposal on the basis that even “green” things like electric cars and windmills still have a large carbon footprint, so “we’re not there yet” to be able to tax carbon as proposed.
Ken Wells clarified that this is only about fossil fuels that are combustible, not about petroleum products used for pharmaceuticals or manufacturing goods. Others spoke against it as being a tax that would just get passed on to the consumers and as an inappropriate new government program.
Others spoke in favor as a necessary incentive to change our behaviors. Pecco Beaufays pointed out that this program is working well in Germany.
Article 12 passed on a show of voter cards.
To transact any other business that may come legally before this meeting.
Town Administrator Marj Roy disputed a statement made earlier in the meeting that the Town Office made mistakes doing the Highway Department payroll. “The New Hampshire Department of Labor was in at the end of February and did a complete payroll audit, and there were no findings of incorrect checks.”
Mario Ratzki presented the New Hampshire Resolution for Fair Redistricting to the Town Moderator, who read it to the meeting: “To see if the town will urge the New Hampshire General Court, following the 2020 census, to redraw the state’s political maps in a fair manner providing for the effective representation of New Hampshire’s voters. And, in order to fulfill this obligation, the New Hampshire General Court shall appoint an independent redistricting commission to draw the district maps in a way that does not rely on partisan data favoring political parties or candidates. Within 30 days after the Town Election, the record of the vote approving this article shall be transmitted by written notice from the town Select Board to all town state legislators and to the Governor of New Hampshire informing them of the results.”
Mario spoke to the need for fair and rational re-districting. A motion to table was defeated. A motion to end debate passed unanimously on a voice vote. The motion concerning the New Hampshire Resolution for Fair Redistricting passed on a voice vote.
Janet Moore thanked Dave Blinn for his three years as a member of the Select Board, and thanked Jon Mishcon for running three Town Meetings. There was general applause.
Toby Locke, a commissioner of the Andover Village District, pointed out that no one asked the Village District commissioners for input in expanding the Village District. “If you’re going to have substandard lots that require water and we can’t provide it, you’re going to have problems.”
Paul Currier recognized John Thompson for his service as our former elected Road Agent, to loud applause.
Steve Barton moved to create a seven-member committee to develop a Highway Department plan with Herbie Barton as chair, with the plan to be presented next year. Discussion followed of how to set up the committee, who should be on the committee, and whether it’s even appropriate for Town Meeting to discuss specifics like that.
The original motion failed on a voice vote. Steve then moved to create a seven-member committee to develop a Highway Department plan. This motion (which differed from the first only in not specifying who would chair the committee) passed on a voice vote, and the meeting was adjourned.