Moultonborough rejects community center at Town Meeting

BY MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MOULTONBOROUGH — Voters at Town Meeting on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to construct a community center at a cost of $6.5 million as 348 ballots were cast against and 220 in favor. A two-thirds majority was required for passage.

After a resident asked the four selectmen who voted to recommend the project to explain their votes, Selectmen Paul Punturieri and Russ Wakefield spoke, followed by their colleague Josh Bartlett, the lone member of the board to vote against the recommendation. Chris Shipp, who chairs the board, and Jean Beadke were waiting to speak, but discussion was cut short when Joe Cormier moved to "call the question." The rules specify that "the Moderator shall have the right to refuse to recognize a motion to 'Call the Question' if, in the Moderator's opinion, the voters have not yet had an adequate opportunity to discuss an issue." Nevertheless, Moderator Jerry Hopkins granted the motion and debate ended.

Shipp, seconded by Punturieri, offered a motion to reconsider, which he withdrew upon being advised by legal counsel that the vote would have to be reconsidered immediately. Shipp said yesterday that "I didn't want to hijack the debate but to preserve it," explaining that he found it "unfortunate" that discussion was curtailed, "I made the motion solely because there had been no debate," he said, adding that he was "frustrated."

Punturieri, writing on the blog "Moultonborough Speaks," said "our one day of democracy was hijacked by a coordinated group of citizens who did not want any discussion of Article 2 to occur." Opponents of the project, he continued, "clearly did not have the courage to put out their 'facts' for a fair debate. Instead, they took a much less honorable way, which was to win at any cost." The "real losers," he said were those who came to the meeting expecting a debate, but "left feeling cheated and needing a shower to wash away the funk left behind."

In an email to Punturieri, shared with The Laconia Daily Sun, Cormier insisted "there was no conspiracy on 'Call the Question.' I went to the meeting to cast my ballot. That's it. I had no intentions of 'speaking' to any article. My plan was to vote, get the heck out, and go home to greet family."

Although there was consistent support for the project among younger residents, most of them with children, it met with stiff opposition from those who insist that the scope and cost of the project is unwarranted in a town where the general population is aging and the school enrollment is declining. Opponents claimed that the demographics of the town render a community center unnecessary while supporters counter that investing in the amenity will draw younger residents and foster a more balanced demographic.

With little debate voters approved the 2016 operating budget of $7,594,327, approximately $100,000 less than the 2015 budget, which was recommended unanimously by both the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Budget Committee. Likewise, articles to raise $400,000 for a new fire truck and $815,000, also recommended unanimously by the selectmen and budget committee, carried.

Voters also approved an article to appoint rather than elect the Road Agent and authorize the Board of Selectmen to search for and hire a qualified person with appropriate design, engineering, personnel  and financial skills.

Regional fire service not on agenda in Tilton-Northfield

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

SANBORNTON — Debate about a warrant article to add two full-time firefighters at Town Meeting this week was colored by remarks by Dave Nickerson, the outgoing chairman of the Board of Selectmen, which were unfounded.

Nickerson, who was the lone selectman to vote against recommending the warrant article, said that the Tilton-Northfield Fire & EMS Department was in the process of building a new station and has been offered land to build it on. He indicated that Sanbornton was invited to join in a regional fire service.

"The door is open to talk to Tilton-Northfield before jumping into hiring two firefighters," he said at the meeting. "There is an opportunity here."

The warrant article, which failed by just four votes a year ago, was rejected by nearly 100 votes, as 191 voted against and 95 voted in favor.

Pat Clark, the outgoing chairman of the Tilton-Northfield Fire District Commission, said that a Facilities Committee was formed and funded by voters at the district meeting in 2015 to develop a plan for the district. The committee has met for the past year, he said, but has reached no final decisions and, more particularly, has made no formal overtures to town officials in Sanbornton.

Chief Michael Sitar of the Tilton-Northfield Fire & EMS Department, who serves as an adviser to the Facilities Committee, echoed Clark's remarks. He said the committee has toured the department's facilities, inventoried its vehicles and equipment, reviewed its call volume and staffing arrangements and explored a number of properties for a new station without making any firm decisions.

In its report issued this month, the committee concluded that "there are no obvious, simple or easy solutions to our needs and that we would need more than a year to complete our task." The report makes no mention of considering the expansion of the department to include another town.

Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter declined to comment on Nickerson's remarks. However, he noted that the Sanbornton Fire Department, which, apart from a full-time chief, is staffed exclusively by call and per diem firefighter/EMTs, would be a much more attractive partner in a regional department with rather than without the two full-time fire fighters he requested.

Dexter said he was disappointed voters rejected his request, but more disappointed by the decision to withhold a 2 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) to town employees, including the 19 volunteer firefighters. He said members of the call company are paid $15.39 an hour and the COLA represented an increase of 31 cents an hour and would have added $3,000, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent, to the department's budget.

12th annual Funspot Indoor Triathlon to benefit Humane Society

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The 12th annual Funspot Indoor Triathlon, which event co-founder and coordinator, Starr Lawton describes as the ultimate challenge for all those "lesser than athletic" types, will bring together 40 four-person teams at the world's largest arcade Saturday.
Registration starts at 10 a.m. with competition getting underway at 11 a.m. An awards ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. in the D.A. Long Tavern at Funspot.
The teams will compete in bowling, mini-golf and arcade games, Skee Ball, darts and pinball, with the goal of raising funds to support the New Hampshire Humane Society. Last year the event, the brain child of Starr and her mother, Sandra Lawton, raised over $20,000.
"We love animals and are pleased to be able to host such a great event for such a worthy cause" said Starr, adding that the inspiration for the triathlon was to find something to counteract the winter doldrums.
"It's really a lot of fun," said Marylee Gorham, executive director of the Humane Society. "The teams come up with some great names, there's lots of friendly competition, and it's just a wonderful way to raise funds for the animals and support your local, animal shelter. Team pledges make a significant impact on the amount the event raises, which has instant positive effect in our ability to provide for the most vulnerable and innocent creatures who call our shelter home. Funspot is the largest arcade in the world, located right here in our backyard, and they are staunch animal advocates."
"We've been involved for a number of years now, and wanted to become more so this year," said Rose Pucci of the Union Diner, which along with Franklin Savings Bank, is a presenting sponsor for the triathlon. "The NH Humane Society is not just a place to adopt an animal; it's a great resource for the community so we are always happy to participate," said Pucci.
Teams pay $160 to enter and then set out gathering pledges from friends, families and co-workers. In 2015, over $18,000 was raised in pledge money alone. All team members get an event shirt and a free pizza lunch. Awards are given out for best and worst scorers, best team costumes and a super raffle drawing is reserved for the high pledge gatherers. Tickets for a 50/50 cash raffle can be purchased the day of the Triathlon.
Sponsors for this year's event include Union Diner, Franklin Savings Bank, Mainstay Technologies, Mix 94.1FM, WSCY 106.9, Chippers and The Weirs Times.