Pelham voters end town caucus, approve $4 million budget
PELHAM — Voters at the annual Town Meeting Saturday eliminated the town caucus method of nominating candidates for local offices and approved a $4 million operating budget as well as a measure to replace the roof of the Community Center.
A total of 81 voters checked in, although attendance decreased over the course of the four-hour meeting at the Pelham Elementary School.
All 39 articles on the Town Meeting warrant were approved, and the only vote that was not unanimous was the measure eliminating the caucus. It was opposed by five voters.
“It is very difficult to have a caucus and have to call people the night before to have a quorum,” Town Clerk Kathy Martell said. Some years voters had to be called on the night of the caucus to reach the quorum of 25, she added.
“It would be much cleaner to have people take out nomination papers” to gather signatures, Martell said.
Some who were against the measure said they are concerned that residents with health problems might have difficulty traveling to obtain signatures. Others saw the caucus as a valuable part of the town’s tradition.
Long-time resident Thomas Lederle said he feels it is a privilege for voters to see who they are nominating. “We’re going to lose something that’s a lot of fun,” he added.
The new roof of the Community Center will be paid for with $200,000 of town money as well as a $138,000 Green Communities grant from the state.
The new energy-efficient roof to be installed in the fall will save the town an estimated $8,000 annually in heating and electricity costs, Finance Committee Chairman John Trickey said. As a result, buildings and grounds expenses were decreased by $4,000 in the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1, and could be further adjusted as the savings are monitored, he added.
The overall $4 million budget is up 3.5 percent over this year’s spending.
The elementary school budget makes up $1,378,494 of the town’s spending plan. Voters also approved spending $15,000 for security upgrades at the elementary school and $10,000 for curriculum materials.
To pay the town’s share of the first phase of the capital plan for the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District, voters agreed to draw $100,000 from free cash.
And voters approved spending $34,000 from the capital fund for a new police cruiser which is due to be replaced according to a five-year schedule, Police Chief Gary Thomann said. He explained that after five years, maintenance costs rise significantly and the current cruiser will be replaced with a 2013 Ford Explorer.
When a cruiser is replaced, the older vehicle becomes a back-up or is given to another department and generally is used for a total of at least 10 years, Trickey said.
Voters also approved:
• Community Preservation Act spending recommended by the Community Preservation Committee of $40,000 to refurbish the exterior of the Pelham Hill Church/Museum at 374 Amherst Road; $16,500 to pay for a professional study of the town’s low- and moderate-income housing needs; and $16,000 to conduct an inventory of the town’s historic buildings.
• $10,000 to build a set of stairs and a break room at the highway garage.
• $6,000 for the replacement and upgrade of firefighter turnout gear, which includes helmets, coats, gloves, pants and boots.
• $6,300 for a set of new doors for the Ramsdell Room in the Community Center, which completes the replacement of the exterior doors in the building.
A total of 93 ballots were cast in the annual town election at the school Saturday morning. There were no contested races, and all the candidates except two were incumbents.
Andrew Lichtenberg won a five-year term on the Planning Board, a seat previously held by John Bardzik who did not seek re-election.
There were no candidates on the ballot for one three-year term on the School Committee and the seat will be filled by the person with the most write-in votes. That person will be identified after Martell confirms Monday that he or she wants to serve.
Incumbents re-elected to three-year terms were Darius Modestow, School Committee; Mark Santos, Select Board; Robert Rowell, Board of Assessors; Richard Hall, Board of Health; Donald Shepard, Cemetery Commission; Jonathan Woodbridge and Donald Verrastro, library trustees; and Edward Fleury, Hampshire County Council of Governments.
Re-elected to one-year terms were David Goldin as auditor and Daniel Robb as moderator.