Published: 3/8/2022 10:50:15 PM
Modified: 3/8/2022 10:49:41 PM
Both the town and school budgets in Epsom passed Tuesday on Election Day, but in very different ways.
The town budget, at $3.7 million, passed by a 520-85 count. The school budget of $12.7 million came down to a single vote: 309-308.
Epsom also chose not to add a police officer, by a 310-298 count, and that was the lone warrant article between the two budgets that did not pass, and the only other competitive matchup. Everything got through on the school side.
The money to revamp and revitalize the Old Town Hall and the Old Town Meetinghouse was approved in what amounted to an easy win in a longstanding issue.
As an SB2 town, Epsom cast its votes – for warrant articles and town officials – behind the curtain on Election Day, as opposed to the open voice vote used in traditional meetings.
That means vote totals are announced, without much of the context and richer sense of what the residents were thinking that’s customary in other towns.
The town’s $3.7 million operating budget, recommended by the Budget Committee and the Select Board, carries a tax rate of $3.68 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Elsewhere, the $37,000 for salary, benefits and equipment to hire a new police officer for seven months came up just short.
And voters agreed to stash nearly $250,000 in capital reserve funds and unassigned fund balances, saving for a rainy day.
But the old landmarks in town had created the biggest buzz over recent months The potential to bring them back to life has been a regular part of the town landscape for about 15 years.
Cumberland Farms bought the property where the meetinghouse sat in 2006 and offered it to the town.
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance added the meeting house to its list of historic buildings in need of saving. Epsom accepted the building and raised $85,000 in donations for a simple yet monumental task: Moving the Old Town Meetinghouse down the road to a grassy knoll next to the Epsom Town Library and the Old Town Hall.
Visions of past glory began to take shape. The Old Meetinghouse Revitalization Committee and the Old Town Hall Renovation Committee were born, facilitating an arduous procedure.
It’s on the books now. The Old Meetinghouse, vacant and lifeless for about 15 years, will once again serve as the core of a community, with the nearby Old Town Hall and its new look serving as a nice historical partner.
The plan is to spend $1.2 million to build town offices in the Old Town Hall and finish the lower level for the welfare department, a food pantry and document and file storage. None of the money will come directly from taxes as $687,690 would be spent from unassigned funds and $400,000 would come from federal COVID relief funds in the American Rescue Plan Act.
Once complete, town employees would move from rented space in a strip mall into the historic-rich building that has remained dormant for decades.
Virginia Drew, founder of the Old Town Meetinghouse Revitalization Committee, counted votes and witnessed the huge gap evolving.
“I was confident going in that we’d win,” Drew said, “but it was still pretty scary.”
In the contested town and school races, Meadow Wysocki was added to the select board, while Jennifer Smith won for school board.