GILMANTON — Selectmen Rachel Hatch and Mike Jean have agreed that the town should enter into an three-year contract with the private library for $50,000 for annual funding. The contract would have a 30-day escape clause, meaning that either party could terminate it at any time.
The agreement came at a meeting held at the Gilmanton Year-Round Library on Nov. 23 and was attended by a quorum of the SelectBoard, a quorum of the Budget Committee and a quorum of the School Board.
According to Hatch, the selectman's meeting were posted and minutes were made available by the town administrator under the title Town Funding Joint Meeting.
During Monday's meeting of the SelectBoard, which was attended by about 10 people, Selectman Don Guarino said he was disappointed that not only did the two members of the board seemingly make the decision, but they chose not to share it with him or the general public until three weeks after doing so.
According to minutes of the session, Hatch said, "If we wait until the meeting on the 14th (of December) it won't appear as if it is being pushed through ... Do not do this at next Monday's (Dec. 7) meeting. Give us a couple of weeks to solidify the language and get an attorney to review." Hatch was responding to a suggestion by Town Administrator Paul Branscombe that the contract be presented at the Dec. 7 meeting to give the Budget Committee enough time to review it.
The minutes reflect that Hatch's and Jean's intent was to present it at Monday's meeting, however Brasncombe was unable to be at the meeting.
A local municipal attorney who is not involved in any way with the town of Gilmanton and spoke on background said that if there is a clause that allows both sides to discontinue the contract, it should be legal to enact. The attorney also said the proposed contract should be placed by the selectmen on the annual SB2 ballot as a warrant article that needs 50 percent plus one vote to pass. Should it pass, the attorney said voters always have the right in future years to attend the SB2 public meeting and change the amount of money or to submit a petitioned warrant article to discontinue the contract as long as the 30-day notice provisions are observed.
For years, townspeople have been at odds over funding the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, which is not a town library but a not-for-profit entity that provides library and meeting services to area residents. Every year, a special petitioned warrant article asking for operations money has appeared on the town warrant, and for the past two years it has passed, albeit very narrowly. In 2013, the first year Gilmanton adopted the SB2 form of Town Meeting, the request failed by a very narrow margin.
Hatch noted on Monday that the divisiveness surrounding the battle for library funding has got to stop and she thinks this is the best way to stop it.
"I've seen friendships torn apart by this," she said.
When Guarino continued to object to the way the two selectmen held this development from him, Hatch said that Guarino knew about the Nov. 23 meeting and chose not to go.