Chichester cancels pizza lunch amid ‘historically rapid’ town meeting

  • Robert Mann of the Chichester Conservation Commission speaks at the town meeting on Saturday about a proposal to conserve the Spaulding Town Forest. NICK REID / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Saturday, March 18, 2017

Residents of Chichester got together Saturday to pore over the $2.1 million budget, conserve a town forest, abandon a class-six road and buy a new plow truck, among other things.

The early part of the annual town meeting breezed by so quickly that the chefs decided not to cook the pizzas they were going to serve for lunch.

“With the historically rapid pace of this meeting, we would elect not to cook lunch unless it’s going to cause a riot,” resident Paul Sanborn said, noting that the uncooked pies would instead be sold after the meeting.

Indeed, the gym of Chichester Central School was mostly empty and its folding chairs put away by noon.

Every article on the warrant passed, with the operating budget increasing roughly $12,000, or a fraction of a percent.

The only close vote came on the question of whether to place a conservation easement on the Spaulding Town Forest near the border with Pembroke.

Members of the conservation commission said they would iron out the details of the easement, which would be held by a third party, once they got authorization from the town. Some voters said the article seemed premature, without knowing exactly how the land could be used or what it would cost to put it into conservation.

“This sounds like an Obamacare thing – you have to vote for it before you know what’s in it,” said Carl Dow.

But conservation commission member Blaze Konefal estimated a one-time expense of roughly $25,000, or less than one-tenth of the money in the town’s conservation fund.

“We obviously will negotiate for the town to retain as much control over this land as possible as far as access,” Konefal said, noting that the plan would be subject to select board approval and public hearings “to capture any specific concerns you might have.”

The only other article to spark a discussion asked whether the town should “discontinue completely and relinquish all public interests” in Old Clifford Road, a dead-end, class-six road off Pleasant Street.

Brandon Guida, who owns property nearby, said all the landowners around the road want to make it private to stop “irresponsible people” from causing trouble.

Selectman Jeff Jordan added: “Gordon Jones, one of the last dairy farmers in this town, he’s having a real tough time trying to farm down there because people are going down there, ripping down his gates, letting cows loose and things like that.”

Two articles dealing with equipment for the fire department were amended. One corrected a technical error in the language.

The other reduced a request from $8,500 to $4,500 to buy a utility trailer. “Just yesterday we were able to find a trailer for much less money, so we’d like to pursue that option,” said Matt Cole, representing the fire department.

Otherwise, the meeting went ahead unremarkably, with voters raising their salmon-colored index cards to make decisions about how their local government should function this year.

Moderator Ewan MacKinnon reminded everyone at the adjournment: “There are pizzas … and Girl Scout cookies.”

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)