Gilford BudCom strikes 2014 funds for regional planning commission

GILFORD — The Budget Committee voted last week to eliminate $8,500 for funding for the Lakes Region Planning Commission from the proposed 2014 town spending plan.

LRPC dues are part of a line item in the Planning Department's budget.

According to Budget Committee Vice Chair Kevin Leandro, the vote came after very little discussion on a motion by member Sue Greene. He didn't recall the actual vote but said at least seven members of the 12-member committee supported withdrawing, including Chair Phyllis Corrigan.

Greene said yesterday that in her mind the LRPC is an additional layer of government and politics not needed by the town of Gilford or its residents. She also said she couldn't justify the $8,500 an year.

About two-thirds of the funding for regional planning commissions comes from state and federal sources and Green said the LRPC expends $369,000 to its employees in salaries alone.

"Planning decisions need to be made by local planning boards," she said. "It's another area where local decisions are impeded."

Gilford is not the only town considering a withdrawal.. In Alton, almost 40 people signed a petition requesting the town remove itself from the LRPC membership. The article will appear on the annual Town Meeting ballot in March.

In 2006, Sanbornton withdrew from the LRPC but rejoined in 2007 when members of the then Board of Selectmen convinced a narrow majority of the voters at town meeting to rejoin because of the potential loss of the regional hazardous waste day sponsored by the LRPC.

Some area planners said the services provided by the LRPC — especially for traffic planning studies and water quality issues — are critical to local communities. One said their town's department would be "recreating the wheel" every time they embarked on a new projects and needed a study or some demographic information.

According to its 2013 annual report, one of the fundamental services of the LRPC is to collect and disseminate data to its Lakes Region members. They convene at least six meetings a year and are available for answering questions about state and federal laws.

Gilford Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Friday that selectmen have not had an opportunity to discuss the Budget Committee's decision but expects it to be part of their conversation at the January 22 meeting.