Meredith voters reject keno, agree to purchase Price property

MEREDITH — Voters passed most of the articles on the warrant during Town Meeting on Wednesday evening, but they overwhelmingly defeated a petitioned article to allow keno gambling.
The ballot vote showed only 34 votes in favor, while 116 voted against allowing businesses to offer the game.
Selectmen tabled an article that would discontinue a portion of Black Brook Road. Town Manager Phil Warren said that, when the proposal was brought to the selectmen, it was presented with the understanding that all of the abutting property owners were in agreement, but that was not the case. In light of the disagreement, the selectmen thought it was premature to bring such a proposal forward.
Voters passed an operating budget of $14,000,207 and, in a separate warrant article, approved a collective bargaining agreement with unionized town employees that included cost items totaling $36,445.
While voters expressed shock at the difference between the assessed value of the Hayward and Sandra Price property and the cost of buying it for municipal parking, there was overwhelming support for the purchase, which is an essential part of the plan for an expansion of the town library.
The 10 High St. property is assessed at $169,300 and the town will be paying $325,000. Selectman Ray Moritz said it would cost another $30,000 to raze the building and about $120,000 for paving and landscaping.
Selectman Jonathan James said the parking would also serve the nearby Swasey Park, but Moritz said the greatest use will be by library patrons.
Voters also agreed to allow the selectmen to exchange town-owned land adjacent to the former Aubuchon Hardware building for a slightly larger piece of land where a laundromat formerly operated. VLIEG of Meredith, LLC, has agreed to pave the property, which would give the town additional parking close to the heart of the village.
In response to questions from the audience, officials said the swap would not affect access to the Hawkins Brook Trail and, while it could pose a problem for the Concord Coach bus stop, the town would make sure there was a place for the bus to continue stopping downtown.
Voters agreed to designate property off Barnard Ridge Road as town forest, which allows the Conservation Commission to manage the forest and maintain the trails.
The rest of the articles involved placing money into expendable trust funds.
Moritz told voters that the selectmen’s decision to leave keno off the warrant until citizens petitioned for its inclusion should not be interpreted as an indication that the selectmen opposed the game. When they considered it, they had not heard of any interest from local businesses in offering the game.
James said people should keep in mind that money raised through the game would go into a statewide pool of funds that will be used to offset the cost of providing full-day kindergarten, rather than the money remaining in Meredith.
School districts offering full-day kindergarten will receive the funds whether or not their towns offer keno.
Most speakers expressed a dislike of gambling on social or moral grounds, with its potential for addictive behavior of particular concern.
Mark Young, co-owner of Lakeview Tavern, said there is “all kinds of gambling” in New Hampshire and, with Meredith being a tourist town, “I’d like to see some of their money.”
He said he and his partner had taken a rundown building and spent a year renovating it into something nice, but they face a lot of competition, especially from the Common Man facilities.
“Offering keno would enable us to serve people a lot better than we do,” he said. “Anything we can do to rebuild our town is important to me.”
Bill King said there is no logical connection between keno and kindergarten, and he would like to see the state get rid of gambling as a source of revenue.
Another speaker feared that the state legislature would start diverting keno income into the general fund, as it has with other revenue sources.
By law, the vote had to take place by secret ballot, resulting a greater than 3:1 loss.

Correction on Ashland elections

The report on Ashland's elections that appeared in the March 15 edition of The Laconia Daily Sun inadvertently dropped one of the uncontested races. Patricia Tucker was re-elected as town clerk-tax collector with 308 votes.
The article also erred in the report on Article 2, which sought $1,799,420 for road and utility reconstruction. The Budget Committee did not recommend the article, but RSA 32:18-a allows voters to override the normal 10 percent limit on expeditures beyond what a budget committee recommends with proper notice on the warrant. While the vote was 187-129, the article needed 190 affirmative votes to pass.

Some smoke, no fire

03 15 meredith fire

Firefighters from several Lakes Region communities responded to an incident at a three-story building on 73 Main St. in Meredith at around 10:30 a.m. today, March 15. Smoke was reported on the second and third floors according to Meredith Fire Chief Ken Jones, who said that it was a furnace-related problem and there were no injuries. Fire trucks were at the scene for about 45 minutes. Businesses on the first floor remained open  while firefighters were at the scene. Windows in many upstairs units were opened to help vent the smoke. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)