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Tilton voters approve Calef Hill road repairs, turn down others

Nancy Trowsdale is worried about her children learning to drive on a road littered with obstacles, a road that has deteriorated so much that Tilton selectmen Chairwoman Pat Consentino said school buses must travel in the opposite lane to navigate a bend. Tilton voters shared those concerns and passed a $2.67 million bond at yesterday’s town meeting in order to get in line for state-aided repairs to Calef Hill Road.

The bond requires the town to secure at least two-thirds of the money for any repairs through state aid before entering an agreement, and Consentino said it was possible the state could foot as much as 80 percent of the tab. But the town had to pass the full value of the bond to get into the queue for repairs, which wouldn’t come until spring 2018 at the earliest.

“It’s dangerous,” said Trowsdale of Calef Hill Road. “You have to not only think about your cars and your property values and emergency (response) times, but also your kids.”

The bond was initially drawn up to include repairs to four roads, but Clark Road, Colby Road and Winter Street were removed via an amendment by Consentino because the town didn’t want to assume responsibility from the state once repairs were complete, as the state demanded. The treacherous state of Calef Hill Road, though, made it a priority, Consentino said, and the road will receive what she called a “Band-Aid” from the state this year to keep it passable until more work can be done.

“We’ve been fighting with the state” for a long time, Consentino said. “Short of having the governor come out and ride the roads, that’s where we’re at.”

There was little opposition to the article, and several residents of Calef Hill spoke on the road’s poor condition. By approving the bond, the town can get in line for the project to begin during the state’s 2019 fiscal year, which means work could begin in spring 2018. No money would be spent by the town on the project until possible design work in late 2017, Consentino said.

The bond sailed through in a secret ballot with 82 percent approval, 90-20, easily bettering the two-thirds majority needed.

Voters were equally agreeable in approving a $5.34 million operating budget, good for an increase of $231,600, or 4.5 percent, from last year. Voters also allotted $162,600 in warrant articles, primarily to various capital reserve funds. The total budget, including all passed warrant articles, is $5.51 million.

That number could have been $10,000 higher, but for the second consecutive year voters shot down a warrant article asking to build a meeting room out of the stage on the second floor of the town hall. The selectmen hoped to use the space for nonpublic and other private meetings. Consentino said they’ve held those meetings at the Tilton School, the senior center and in the lunchroom at the police department in a scramble to find space this year – but voters were hesitant to commit, defeating the article by a 42-21 count in a standing vote.

Also defeated was a petition warrant article asking to rescind the pay-as-you-throw trash plan that was approved at last year’s town meeting. Though the plan has only been in place since September, Scott Davis of the Tilton Recycling Committee said the town has reduced the amount of trash sent to the incinerator by 50 percent in that time.

Resident Dave Fox was equally supportive of the plan, especially given that seasonal residents haven’t taken part yet and weren’t included in Davis’s figures.

“To remove the program before it’s fully implemented seems unwise to me,” Fox said.

Any potential debate was halted when Moderator Chuck Mitchell sought either a petitioner or someone in favor of the proposal to rescind pay-as-you-throw and was greeted with silence. The warrant article was defeated, 79-22, by a secret ballot vote.

(Keith Testa can be reached at ktesta@cmonitor.com.)

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