Controversy-free town meeting expected in Bow

Bow residents vote in favor of amending the Bow Budget Committee's recommended operating budget for the school district by over 750,000 during the Bow School District's town meeting Friday night.

Bow residents vote in favor of amending the Bow Budget Committee's recommended operating budget for the school district by over 750,000 during the Bow School District's town meeting Friday night. Caitlin Andrews

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 02-28-2024 4:18 PM

During this year’s town meeting in Bow, residents will have a break from the almost annual push to split its form of self-government to include a separate deliberative session and voting day, which has been consistently on the ballot in recent years.

However, in Hopkinton, both the town and school voters will see warrant articles addressing a possible move away from traditional meetings in favor of the split SB2 format, with many residents advocating for it to ensure equal voting opportunities and privacy.

“We don’t have a warrant article for SB 2. That means you did something right,” Bow Selectman Chri s Nicolopoulos said to Peter Imse, who has served as a moderator for 27 years.

In a traditional town meeting format, voters come together to discuss and decide budgets, warrant articles and other issues at an annual meeting. These meetings allow for open-floor debates and votes are typically cast by a show of hands or voice unless a secret ballot is specifically requested.

But SB2 meetings split the process up where residents deliberate at one meeting in February and vote on issues at the ballot box in March.

Unlike last year, most warrant articles in Bow this year seem to be generally agreed upon.

The issues of live streaming and recording meetings as well as establishing a telecommunications committee to address cell coverage drew public comments, but little dissent.

Even the petitioned warrant article to allocate $9,000 for hiring a company to develop a town-wide telecommunication plan might not be contested as the select board already allocated $7,000 for the project this month.

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“Looks like virtually everything has the same recommendation. So that usually means they’re not controversial,” Imse said while going through the warrant articles at the select board meeting on Tuesday.

One potential point of contention at the annual meeting on March 13 could be the proposal to add $500,000 to the Community Building capital reserve fund for repairing or constructing the building on Bow Center Road.

The current community building poses safety concerns, such as the lack of a sprinkler system, the absence of firewalls between gathering areas and the presence of hazardous materials, town officials said. Additionally, the building is not ADA compliant and falls short of life safety standards, severely limiting its usability, with only the gym area considered usable.

Options for renovating the community building range from $3.76 million to $13.41 million. While some residents advocate for minimal repairs to bring it up to code, others propose transforming it into a multigenerational town center.

The proposed $11.4 million operating budget for the town is also 5.2% down from last year’s $12 million. This reduction is attributed to Bow’s final payment in the settlement deal after overestimating the Merrimack power plant’s assessed property value.