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Boscawen voters okay petition article to give church tax assistance for ballpark

Last modified: 3/11/2015 7:48:56 PM
The Boscawen Congregational Church in 2014 received something it never had before: a property tax bill for the church park used by the local Little League.

The lot, and an adjoining one where the church parsonage is located, were not being used for religious purposes, the tax assessor found. Therefore, the park was no longer tax exempt and the church was asked to pay $1,600 in taxes for 2014.

This was a financial hit for the church, which had already been limited in how much it could spend on field upkeep. But voters last night offered some assistance, with their approval of a petition warrant article to donate $6,000 to the church to cover tax liability and offset maintenance costs. Voters also overwhelmingly approved a $3.4 million operating budget with no discussion.

The ball field vote, however, generated much more discussion.

The park was established in 1915 and since has been offered for free use, which has included a variety of events, such as Old Home Day.

For years, the Merrimack Valley Youth Baseball and Softball League has played its T-ball games on the church property. Upkeep of the field has been done by the church and community volunteers, but the cost of maintenance has gone up.

“In recent years the church has not had the funds to maintain the fields,” said Ron Reed, a member of the church.

While Merrimack Valley Little League, which had more than 70 kids from Boscawen last season, uses Jamie Welch Memorial Field for its older age groups, it plays T-ball games with younger kids at the church. The league is willing to pitch in so it can continue to do so, said Eric Crane, president of the league.

“It does need some work,” Crane said. “Our plan has always been to revitalize and rebuild the church park.”

Some cautioned the donation might create a slippery slope for the town.

“My concern isn’t about the kids playing baseball. If you give money to one nonprofit, how do you deny others that come forward?” resident Sheila Serrano said.

Others, including longtime Little League coach Bill Lambert, said public use of the field is a town asset and should be protected as such.

“T-ball is one level that pretty much everyone’s (children) plays,” he said. “For a lot of the kids this is the first time they get to socialize outside of school events.”

In the election, incumbent Selectman Bernie Davis successfully defended his seat. Davis received 168 votes, while Lorrie Carey and Mark Varney received 111 and 88 votes, respectively.

In reciting vote totals, Moderator Charles Niebling reported that Lobster Man had received a write-in vote for supervisor of the checklist, and Mickey Mouse got one write-in vote for the library board of trustees.

“State law requires I read all of the write-ins, including fictional or historic characters,” Niebling said.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)


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