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Budget Committee has had only a tiny effect on Gilford budgets

To The Daily Sun,

There have multiple letters accusing Allen Voivod and me of petitioning to disband Gilford's Budget Committee on behalf of the School Board, and specifically, my wife, who is a school teacher. The truth, however, is much simpler. Allen and I served a combined nine years on the Budget Committee and objectively compared the negligible effect the committee had on the budget during the 2011-2016 time frame to the estimated 2,000-plus man-hours spent reviewing those budgets.

While others have offered only baseless speculation to substantiate keeping Gilford's Budget Committee, here is some data that supports disbanding it:

— Over the 2011-2016 span, the committee actually increased the Selectboard's recommended budgets it reviewed by an average of 0.03 percent per year. It did decrease the School Board recommended budgets, but by a mere 0.19 percent a year. In fact, the actual budgets presented to the taxpayers from 2011-2016 have netted only an average decrease of $13,000 a year (0.04 percent) as compared to the Selectboard/School Board recommended budgets! (Source: Town/ School via Right-to-Know request.)

The total net savings were only $79,126 of the $221,550,225 in budgets reviewed. Given the estimate, per the town, that every $100,000 increase or decrease in the budget affects the tax rate by 7 cents, that roughly equates to a paltry $14 pocketed over the past six years for a homeowner with a $200,000 house. Yes, that's $2 a year or so.

I ask proponents of the committee, what would the data need to show before you agreed there might be a more effective way to serve the taxpayers?

The petition is not an indictment on committee members' efforts. It is, however, both an acknowledgement that the committee is frustratingly ineffectual, and it is also a plea to try another tactic. The real power the taxpayer has is the deliberative session. One vote at a deliberative session can negate the entire 300 or so man-hours of work invested by the Budget Committee (not including significant town/school personnel time), as happened this year, where a single show-of-hands vote added $185,000 to the school budget.

If the Selectboard/School Board recommend excessive increases (despite the rhetoric to the contrary, the School Board recommended budgets increased by a prudent 0.9 percent a year from 2011-2016) in future budgets, we as taxpayers can vote them out, cut the budgets at the deliberative session, and/or even petition to reinstate the Budget Committee.

Vote "Yes" on Warrant Article 30.

Fred Butler

Gilford

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A rational person can reasonably conclude that sludge is dangerous

To The Daily Sun,

On Tuesday, March 8th, Gilmanton voters will be asked to decide whether they believe that the spreading of sewer sludge (aka bio-solids) is safe for the health of their community. Since first hearing of this petitioned warrant article, I have researched the subject and have arrived at the following conclusion: it's impossible to say for sure, but ... not impossible to decide. Here's why:

The EPA publishes: "A Plain English Guide To The EPA Part 503 Biosolids Rule." You can find that online. For those that don't know, the 503 Rule is sort of the EPA's chapter and verse, so to speak, on the matter of sewage sludge. It is 183 pages long and, quite frankly, the only thing accurate about the title is that it is, in fact, in English. It is far from plain and hardly a guide. It's simply a perfect example of propagandized marketing disguised as science. It's not without its entertainment value, though. On page 19 there's a picture of Disney World with a caption describing how "biosolids have enhanced their gardens." Well, if Mickey thinks it's okay, maybe it really is, right? Anyway, what really struck me most about the guide was that the phrase "every reasonable effort" kept popping up. Allow me to explain what that means.

Biosolids are a viscous, semisolid mixture of bacteria and virus-laden organic matter, toxic metals, pathogens, synthetic organic chemicals and pharmaceuticals numbering into the tens of thousands. At any time these potentially untreated toxins under countless and unpredictably variable conditions can multiply and mate in the soil to create even worse toxins. All with the potential to run off into streams, rivers and lakes, leach into our water tables, infect our wetlands and become airborne. So what does "reasonable effort" mean to the EPA? At present the EPA only requires testing for literally a handful of these toxins, then squeezes and evaporates as much water out as possible ... and ships it to our back yards. It's a "reasonable effort" for a reasonable cost. Anything beyond that would simply not be cost effective and the EPA would be forced back to the drawing board. But what price do we pay and what price does the environment pay? The guide claims that there have been very few incidents recorded that can be attributed to sewer sludge. That's great, but as you look deeper into that statement you begin to understand that what the EPA would consider an incident would be, for instance, if someone walked past a pile of sludge and arrived home an hour later as a lurching flesh-eating zombie not unlike those that people are so fond of watching on television these days. The fact is that sewer sludge has the potential to make you sick. In some cases ... very sick. And you wouldn't even know why.

The bottom line is this: given clear evidence, or the lack off it, a rational person can reasonably conclude that sludge is in all likelihood dangerous, and that a reasonable person would want to avoid having themselves, their neighbors, their land, their water, their air, their children, their pets and even their unborn children from being exposed to it in any way, shape or form. The EPA's guideline of "reasonable effort" is simply not reasonable enough for me.

Gilmanton voters ... vote "Yes" on Article 3. Ban Biosolids in Gilmanton.

Al Blake
Gilmanton

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