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Northfield voters back spending on roads

Northfield voters focused on road improvement at yesterday’s town meeting, approving $241,000 for the road reconstruction fund and agreeing to spend $347,600 from that fund for road and bridge reconstruction and repairs through 2015.

There was much discussion about how the money would be spent, what kinds of repairs would be made and how decisions would be made. Ed Weingartner, chairman of the capital improvement committee, explained that the committee evaluates roads each year.

“Ranking is fluid,” he said. “We continually re-evaluate and re-assess.”

Weingartner noted that this year’s mud season, which is expected to be severe, would also have an effect on priorities.

In preparation for a future project, voters appropriated $100,000 to establish a capital reserve fund, which would provide the local share of funding to reconstruct Sandogardy Pond Road in 2018, when the state is expected to pick up two-thirds of the cost.

Voters approved $6,000 to replace a 1947 roadside sweeper, $96,000 to replace a 2001 Ford F-450 1-ton dump truck with a plow and wing, and $32,900 to replace a police cruiser.

Voters set aside $10,000 to establish a facilities emergency repair and maintenance capital reserve fund, with money coming from the town’s unreserved fund balance.

There was considerable debate on the proposed appropriation of $1.06 million for the municipal management of a state grant to construct a portion of the Winnipesaukee River Trail in Northfield and Tilton.

While the project would have no effect on the tax rate because it is entirely offset by state money and donations to the Winnipesaukee River Trail Association, there was concern that the town would be responsible for the cost if donations to the association fall short. Association spokesman Rick Silverberg explained the scope of the project and fielded questions about the money.

Several amendments to the article were discussed; voters finally approved an amendment under which the association would guarantee its share of the cost “by loans or from other sources,” and the amended article passed unanimously.

The most hotly debated article involved a $54,800 request for capital recovery costs imposed on the Northfield Sewer District by the state Department of Environmental Services’ Winnipesaukee River Basin Project for the 2014 budget year.

The bill is a fourfold increase over the previous year and came without warning. The town had refused to pay, and the state sued; the settlement required that a warrant article be brought before the voters. The measure, which was not recommended by the budget committee, was rejected by a sharply divided vote. The cost will now be borne by the sewer district users.

Voters unanimously approved a $3.08 million budget, down 0.1 percent from last year.

Following the voting, several residents spoke about the need for community attendance and participation at the school district meeting tomorrow. Election volunteers and supervisors of the checklist were commended for an efficient election process, and outgoing selectman Stephen Bluhm, whose term expired this year, was acknowledged for his service.

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