(Warner residents wanted to be comfortable for their first-ever Saturday town meeting.)
By Ray Carbone
WARNER – At one of the most well attended annual town meetings in many years, voters on Saturday gave hearty approval to a plan to build a new $2.7-million fire department stationhouse on Route 103. Because it was a bonding proposal, the plan needed to gain at least two-thirds of the 351 ballots cast. The town hall gathering far exceeded that with more than 83-percent supporting the project. The ballot tally was 293-58.
Town officials have been concerned about the current East Main Street facility for some years due to its small size and inadequacy for a modern department. The town purchased property for the new stationhouse in 2016.
Edward Ordway Jr. said that the tax impact would be too high and that the selectmen should have suggested putting money aside for the project in previous years.
Before the vote, Kimberly Edelmann, the selectman who has worked closely with the fire department on its building plan over the last year, joined with Mike Cutting, chairman of the town’s budget committee, and Ed Raymond, the fire chief, to review the project and its funding.
Raymond talked about the crowded space in the current facility and the possible health issues for firefighters. Edelmann noted that the town was able to purchase a great site on the corner of Split Rock Rd. and West Main Street that could be used. Both Edelmann and Cutting addressed the cost and bonding process.
But some residents still have reservations. Edward Ordway Jr., who lost out in a bid to win a seat on the select board last Tuesday, said that the tax impact would be too high and that the selectmen should have suggested putting money aside for the project in previous years. “This is an aging community,” he told the crowd. “I do support the station and I would support the bonding if it weren’t for the taxes that would hit us.”
Others agreed that the project was relatively expensive but said it was needed nevertheless. “What is your safety worth? That’s the question,” said Richard Senor.
Before the final vote was taken, the article was amended to insure that the interest rate on loans connected to the bond would not exceed 4 percent annually.
During the later budget discussion, one resident asked the town leaders what they intended to do with the current old firehouse after the new one is completed.
“I think it should be sold to a business, put back on the tax rolls,” suggested Edelmann.
Responding to some comments made earlier about growing the town’s tax base, Cutting said that the old structure could be turned over to the town’s economic development committee to see if it could find a suitable business buyer.
In other news, voters rejected a petition article idea to institute a new three-person procurement committee in a voice vote.
They also approved an annual operating budget of approximately $3 million. Cutting said the plan would likely result in a tax rate of $9.60 per thousand dollars of property value. “That’s what I think,” he said, before adding, “but don’t take it to the bank.”
This was the first time that the annual town meeting was held on a Saturday morning. The long tradition of holding it on a weeknight shortly after election day ended when the change was approved by voters at last year’s meeting.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on March 20, 2018.