Hopkinton: Voters keep Bates building as town property, for now

  • Hopkinton residents pack into the Hopkinton Middle-High School gym for town meeting on the Saturday morning.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2019 6:30:10 PM

Residents in Hopkinton made it clear at town meeting Saturday morning they are not yet ready to let go of the Bates building, the town’s former library.

The future of the building has been one of the hottest issues facing the town leading up to the annual meeting, which drew 364 of the town’s 4,914 registered voters. 

The building, nestled on Main Street in Contoocook, housed the town clerk/tax collectors office for 20 years before the select board moved the clerk’s office to town hall last fall.

The voting body denied the select board the authority to sell the building by passing an amendment that changed the language of the warrant article to say the board may “explore a sale” rather than execute one.

The board was hoping to sell the building and split the revenue 50-50 between renovation projects at town hall and the ongoing restoration of the town library, which caught fire in a lightning storm last August.

“What I heard from the town is to spend our time and come back in a year with maybe some more information or maybe we’ll have lived into the way the town hall is operating,” select board chairman Jim O’Brien said. 

While the article would not have immediately triggered a sale of the Bates building, it would have allowed the board to pursue a sale and seek approval from probate court. The Bates building and the lot it sits upon were donated in 1959 and became the town’s library.

“The only sticking point is can we get permission from the probate court, and until we actually have a voice of the town that they want to do that, that’s still going to be an unknown,” he said.

While voters weren’t ready to sell, they weren’t in favor of returning the town clerk/tax collector’s office at the Bates building either.

Before the vote over whether to sell the building came up, residents rejected a petition warrant article asking if the town supported moving the clerk’s office back to the building.

The result of this vote – done by secret ballot – was somewhat controversial. The initial tally had the article passing by a 1-vote margin, 163-162. But after multiple recounts – which were done, Moderator Bruce Ellsworth said, because the margin was close – the result changed and the article failed, 156-172. 

There were five recounts on this vote in all, Ellsworth said.

Even if the article passed, it would not have guaranteed the clerk’s office moving back to Contoocook because the select board has authority to manage town buildings. It must seek the public’s approval at town meeting to sell or purchase a building.

Christine Hoyt, a lifelong Contoocook resident for more than 70 years who sometimes pitches in to help at the clerk’s office and organized the petition warrant article, was disappointed the article failed but was encouraged by how close the result was.

“It’s not one-sided, and I’m happy with that,” she said. “We have a chance to come together again and think it through more thoroughly.”

More noteworthy articles

Residents gave the green light to the town to lease land near the transfer station for Granite Apollo to install a solar array. The lease is valid for up to 41 years. Negotiations are ongoing between the town and company.

Voters approved a $7.28 million operating budget, an increase of $158,972 or 2.23 percent from last year. With the budget and $547,000 in deposits for capital reserve and expendable trust funds passing, the tax rate is estimated to increase by 30 cents (or 3.95 percent) to $7.66 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would mean an increase of $90 on a home valued at $300,000.

Here are the capital reserve deposits broken down: public works and highway department new and replacement vehicles and equipment ($245,000); replacement and equipping of ambulance ($25,000); fire department vehicle and equipment acquisitions ($150,000); transfer station equipment and facilities ($25,000); recreation facilities ($15,000), dam maintenance and construction ($10,000) and revaluation of property ($32,000).

The select board received the town’s permission to sell three lots at the intersection of Maple St. and Route 202 that was acquired in a land swap with the state. Last year, voters granted the board authority to negotiate the deal, which entailed the state getting Hopkinton-owned land near Mast Yard Forest. The swap is still in process and is expected to be done this year.

An article seeking $45,000 for the town facilities general fund was approved. Selectman Ken Traum said this will be used to repave the police department driveway.

Bonita Cressy, Hopkinton’s treasurer for the last 19 years, is leaving her position and was recognized at the beginning of the meeting with flowers and a plaque.




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