By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — An effort to ban the use of biosolids or sludge as a replacement or to augment fertilizer has failed by a margin of 531 voting to continue to all the application to 501 who wanted it to be banned.
Biosolids have recently become controversial in town because a farmer on Meeting House Road began using them this fall on a field that was closer to his neighbors than were his other ones.
Many complained that the biosolids smelled horrible and a few said they were sickened by the smell and the dust. One of them, Selectman Don Guarino, began a petition that would ban their use in Gilmanton.
Their contention is that biosolids are not safe, contain many contaminants including pathogens and heavy metals that can leach into soil and water tables.
A number of townspeople, including many farmers, did not support the ban, saying that there is legitimate and cost-savings use for them, especially when it comes to Class A biosolids, which do not require a state permit to spread.
Many said they trust the processing and treatments done on biosolids by local wastewater treatment plants and trust what they say is proven science that says the pathogens are killed during the treatment and that the metals will not damage their soil.
The issue became a sore point between Guarino, out-going Selectman Rachel Hatch and Selectman Michael Jean who accused Guarino of exceed his authority and reaching out to town counsel to question the propriety of the wording in the voters guide. Guarino said he challenged it because Hatch and Jean refused to. As it turned out, Guarino was correct and the Planning Board changed the wording in the online version of the voters guide at the recommendation of the town attorney.
The electorate voted against providing $47,000 per year for two years for the operation of the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, which was a petitioned warrant article. Needing a three-fifths approval, the petition didn't garner a majority.
In addition, voters narrowly rejected a second petitioned request for $50,000 for this year that was put in place in the event the two-year funding plan failed.
While most people support having the GYRL in Gilmanton, some resent having to pay the operations cost when library proponents assured them it would be self-sustaining. Those supporting the warrant say that the library is part of the town and provides much needed access to all community members for books and especially computers. They say this year's warrant article will give them some certainty for funding in the future so they can make long-range plans and apply for some grant funding.
Voters also overwhelmingly supported keeping ballot voting, often referred to as SB-2, as their form of Town Meeting and School District Meeting. School district voters shot down the change 606-383. The town vote was similar, with a vote of 622-505 against repealing SB-2.
The town operating budget, set at $3,576,702, was passed 658-366. The school district operating budget, set at $10,507,458, also passed by a vote of 583-417.
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