GILFORD – It took but one resident to object to the selectmen's proposal to charge $5 for an annual municipal sticker or decal allowing only residents to use local services, and after she spoke at Wednesday's meeting the proposed fee is dead.
Cathy Dumais was the only resident to attend but she told selectmen that charging people the decal fee to do their business in town was wrong and insulting.
"This is a slap in the face," Dumais said, noting that she has lived in town for 17 years and her tax bill just went up $200. "This gives the town a bad name."
Selectmen had proposed a change to a municipal ordinance that would allow the town to collect $5 for the sticker that is affixed to a resident's car. The stickers are issued annually and identify Gilford residents who want to use the recycling center, the town beach and the Glendale docks, and other town facilities. About 10,000 are issued annually according to board members.
Selectman Chairman Gus Benavides said in the course of the board's recent 2016 budget process it noticed there is a cost to buying and printing the stickers. He said selectmen estimated there could be about $30,000 in revenue associated with the $5 fee and this was an attempt to recoup some of those costs.
"You wouldn't run a business this way," he said.
Undeterred, Dumais said that she felt this is why she pays taxes. She also said that many families in Gilford have multiple cars and would have to pay more than the $5. She added there are some people in town who could not afford to pay for the stickers and said denying them access to the beach or other town facilities wouldn't be right.
Dumais said there are other ways the town could save money and specifically asked why it sent letters to people telling them how much they will owe to re-register their cars.
"We own cars – we know this," she said.
Selectmen said they would ask Town Clerk/Tax Collector Denise Gonyer how much the letters cost.
After Dumais spoke, Benavides asked for a motion to move forward with the ordinance change that would allow the town to charge the $5 per car, but none of the selectmen were willing to make one so it failed.
In other town business, the board agreed by consensus to allow the Town Clark Tax Collector Office to close a 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. Assistant TCTC Jen Mooney made the request as part of the department's regular update to the board.
Mooney said that employees would have to use their own vacation time.
Town Administrator Scott Dunn said that residents should know that the rest of the town offices and departments would be open until their regular closing times and that this was not something that was being paid for by the taxpayers.