To The Daily Sun,
Some folks clearly have a lack of understanding about the new pavilion in Belmont and the covered footbridge obtained recently. I'd like to clear that up for those who have apparently not read or heard about it in past news coverage or public meetings.
A recent Letter to the Editor appearing in local papers stated that selectmen secretly used Capital Reserve funds "to build pavilions and bridges", without public approval. They did not. Both the new pavilion and the acquisition of the footbridge were the result of a lot of volunteer work, the donation of labor, materials and resources and the securing of grant funds to pay for work that could not be obtained "for free."
All of this work has been done openly, although with little fanfare, as many volunteer efforts are. The local media have, however, given good coverage of these efforts. We should be proud of what has been accomplished and not be criticizing the hard work of those who actually get things done.
The Belmont Revitalization Committee was formed, as an initiative of the selectmen, years ago to involve local citizens in improving the looks of our town and to generate a sense of pride amongst our residents. That committee organized a design charette by Plan N.H. to develop suggested ways of doing just that. That charette was widely advertised and all members of the public were invited. Many did participate. The committee then met extensively and publicly, made a list of projects to be undertaken and went to work.
We started with Penstock Park. In spite of numerous requests for help, only a few actually showed up to do any work. However, through their efforts and with help from the United Way Day of Caring volunteers and freely given assistance by Ginger Wells-Kay and her landscape artists and several town employees — and with donated fencing, seating and shrubbery — we ended up with a beautiful park at one of the entrances to our downtown. All this was done at no cost to the taxpayers and Ginger and her crew have continued to maintain the plantings in the park, again at no charge, since its completion.
Building on that success, the committee moved on to the projects which have so greatly improved the looks and function of our downtown. Again, with extensive public hearings and meetings, our town leaders secured the grant funds and oversaw the design and construction of the upgrades to water, sewer, drainage, streets, parking, lighting and landscaping which make us proud of our home town. All this was done at minimum cost to Belmont taxpayers. So was the relocation and restoration of our bandstand overseen by the Heritage Commission.
As the next phase, we tackled the issue of limited parking in downtown, the need for a venue for public events and a desire to improve recreational opportunities for our citizens. Dick Persons very generously donated to the Conservation Commission the railroad bed that runs from the old depot site across the river from the Belmont Mill all the way to Rte. 140. The plan is to construct a gravel parking lot on the depot site and connect it via one section of the covered bridge to the Mill and pavilion and to the downtown area, thus greatly expanding available parking. The railroad bed will be graded and improved all the way to South Road, with the second section of the covered bridge used to span the Tioga River at its lower crossing, thus providing a trail traversing some of Belmont's most scenic areas.
The pavilion provides a place for public events during Old Home Day, Memorial Day, farmers' markets, Deck the Village and throughout the year. All this is being done with volunteer labor, donated materials and grant funds — at no additional cost to Belmont taxpayers.
My wife, Christine, spent weeks of her own time with the help of town officials writing a successful application for a grant. Although this was an extremely competitive grant, we succeeded in getting those funds. That is the money that was used to construct the pavilion and move the covered pedestrian bridge from Dover to Belmont. Our town administrator and staff also identified another grant and secured that as well, providing additional funding toward the coming installation of the bridge over the Tioga River and the parking lot and trail improvements.
The bridge itself was purchased from the City of Dover for $1 — but we found $1.35 on it so the town made 35 cents on the deal! Mark Roberts and his crew disassembled the bridge and moved it from Dover to Belmont, donating a significant portion of their work and leaving more of the grant funds for use on the rest of the project. Volunteers from the committee provided a couple of weeks of "grunt labor" in support of that move and will continue to work with Mark and his crew to install the bridge sections in the future. The engineering firm of Hoyle, Tanner designed the necessary modifications to the bridge to allow its use in two sections and they donated a significant portion of their work as well, also reducing use of grant funds.
Members of the committee worked with town officials to design the pavilion and then negotiated a reduced price for the materials, through the generosity of A&B Lumber. Local construction manager Chuck Moretti and his NCM firm did a masterful job of constructing the pavilion at a reduced cost, with our Public Works crew doing the site work and utilities within their regular budget. Belmont High School volunteers and the American Legion Post cleaned up brush and debris all along the river bank behind the pavilion. These are the things that can be done when caring people work together with their town officials to benefit their community.
One of the things we taxpayers regularly vote on and approve is to authorize the selectmen to apply for, receive and expend any and all grants from public, private and non-profit sources which will further the operations of our town. Our town officials have done a very good job of that, including securing the grant funds which have leveraged the work of our dedicated volunteers and donors and resulted in all these improvements we now enjoy or will in the foreseeable future.
Being a leader isn't just about "informing" others as to what he or she feels is the best course of action. One who wishes to be a leader must also keep himself informed so he does not spread misinformation, cause undue consternation, obstruct hard work done in the public behalf or discourage those who do that work. A true public leader doesn't just stand back and criticize, but rather encourages, supports and joins with others to get things done. Our current and recent town officials have done just that — quietly and effectively. I thank them and all the volunteers, donors and contributors they have enlisted in making real progress for our town, all while minimizing costs to our taxpayers. That's leadership!