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All Dunbarton warrant articles pass during town meeting

  • Dunbarton residents vote during town meeting at the Dunbarton Elementary School on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton residents vote to add a new, full-time officer position to the police department during town meeting at the Dunbarton Elementary School on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • An empty ballot box is displayed during town meeting at the Dunbarton Elementary School on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A Dunbarton resident holds a registered voter card during town meeting at the Dunbarton Elementary School on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton Police Chief Daniel Sklut makes his argument for a new, full-time police officer position during town meeting at the Dunbarton Elementary School on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Monday, March 19, 2018

Before voting to hire a full-time police officer and approving money to finish a road project, residents at the Dunbarton town meeting had to make sure someone would keep the town from going hog wild in the coming year.

Electing a “hog reeve” has fallen out of fashion in most New England towns. It was one of the earliest elected positions to exist in colonial America, said moderator Rene Ouelett, and the person granted the title had an important job – to keep residents’ pigs from wrecking the place.

Once towns had the authority to ignore state law and let their pigs run wild, they generally did so, and hog reeves had nothing to do. It’s unclear how widespread electing hog reeves – typically a couple married the previous year – still is.

But for the past 254 years, the tradition has been alive and well in Dunbarton, and the honor went to newlywed couples Justin and Shelbie Nault, and Spencer and Kayla Nault. Neither couple were present at the time, but Ouelett noted they’ll still have to be sworn in.

“Won’t they be excited,” he said.

And then residents got down to business and approved the entire warrant, including a $2.3 million operating budget and $255,875 worth of articles.

One article approved changing one of the police department’s part-time positions into a full-time role and stabilizing the department’s future, according to town officials.

The vote shifts the department’s number of full-time officers to four said police Chief Daniel Sklut. The $24,548 article converts a current part-time position into a full-time position.

The department will send one of its part-time officers to the police academy in August and spread the costs of their training over two years, Sklut said. In total, the position would cost the town $48,093, including wages and benefits, in fiscal year 2019.

Dunbarton police Sgt. Chris Remillard noted the town has already sunk a significant amount of time and training into its part-time officers, efforts that often result in those officers being recruited into full-time positions elsewhere.

Sklut said the department plans to cut its part-time staff budget by $20,000 to accommodate the increase in the full-time budget. He said the additional full-time officer will put the department in a better position when he retires in 2022.

“I want to make sure the department is left with good people in place,” he said. “I want to have the same level of service, of small-town oriented policing you’re used to.”

Residents also established an Invasive Plant Species Capital Reserve Fund, approved the final $100,000 installment needed to fix Grapevine Road, put aside some money for a new fire truck in the future, bought a new pickup truck for the transfer station and increased pay for elected positions by 2 percent.

Select board chairman Michael Kaminski said the town tax rate will drop 5 cents this year despite all articles passing, due to the amount of available revenue and $165,000 taken from the unassigned fund balance to offset taxes.

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