Bow okays community center cash, establish TIF district at town meeting

  • Bow residents vote on Article 26 during the 2018 town meeting. The petition warrant article put aside about $7,000 to make improvements to the Bow Community Center and will allow the Parks and Recreation Department side of the building to remain open. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Bow resident Michelle Vecchione waits to speak on Article 26 during the 2018 town meeting. The petition warrant article, for which Vecchione was the main sponsor, put aside about $7,000 to make improvements to the Bow Community Center and will allow the Parks and Recreation Department side of the building to remain open. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/14/2018 10:39:22 PM

Bow residents came to their town meeting Wednesday night faced with decisions on whether to adopt an $11.6 million operating budget and $2.1 million worth of warrant articles.

But it quickly became clear that one item was seen as more urgent than the rest: A $7,145 petition warrant article that would use money in the current budget to keep the portion of the Bow Community Center building that houses the Parks and Recreation Department open. The matter was of such import that residents voted to move the article up behind Article 3, the budget.

The article generated substantial discussion in a town meeting overshadowed by Bow’s recent Merrimack Station valuation court case loss against Eversource, which resulted in a $5.7 million principal payment last month. And after an overwhelming amount of orange cards flew into the air – soundly passing the only article not recommended by the select board – several people left the meeting.

It’s likely that supporting the article was made easier for residents in attendance due to its price tag. Originally, the article was projected to cost $94,345. But an amendment by the article’s prime sponsor, Michelle Vecchione, brought the cost down.

That amendment was made after Vecchione learned the town had already spent $20,000 to keep the building operational and open, including the removing flammable materials, fixing faulty wiring and installing a fire alarm.

That wasn’t quite enough to get the select board behind the article. Select board Chairman Harry Judd opened the meeting by warning residents to expect to “live on hot dogs and beans” in the wake of the Merrimack Station case, noting that it’s unclear whether the litigation will continue.

But some residents felt differently.

“There’s a little bit of hypocrisy here,” resident John Martin said. “We’re talking about a building widely used by people in this room – mostly seniors, at one time a lot of children. You’ve got 20 warrant articles here, and now you’re going to get cheap on $7,000?”

Martin’s comments garnered applause from the room.

The money will replace the stage curtains with fireproof versions (the most expensive repair at $4,500), replace doors between the gym and storage area, complete fire separation between the stage and the storage area, and create an exit threshold in the storage area behind the stage.

The rest of the meeting

Residents passed a $11.6 million operating budget and all articles except for one that would have replaced the Baker Free Library’s air conditioning system for $50,000.

The other item that generated discussion was whether to create a 20-year tax increment finance district (TIF) in the area around interstates 89 and 93, also known as the Bow Mills area. Some residents were wary of the district’s premise of using any new taxes generated by businesses that build within the district to then fund infrastructure improvements.

Residents also asked questions about an article allowing the select board to lease town-owned property for up to 15 years for a solar company to construct and operate a facility. Select board members said renting the land would be cheaper than owning a system outright and would still generate savings and revenue for the town.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)



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