Few Brave the Cold and Wind to Attend Hudson Deliberative Session

February 6, 2015

by Len Lathrop

The last hurdle before March 10 voting for the town ballot occurred Saturday morning at 9 a.m.  Yes, it was cold and the wind was blowing, but the roads and parking lot were clear.

Chairs were arranged and the Hudson Junior Women were there with cookies, cakes and sandwiches to keep everyone well fed.  Now here is the rub, and this is directed to the folks that were not there, the seats were two-thirds empty, head count of the audience was 36 at 10:30, and with the assistance of former Selectman Ted Luzzi only 13 people in the community center were not town staff or had some position in government.  Almost forgot to mention the budget committee members and selectmen sitting in the front; that makes another 16 people.  Just setting the stage for the meeting.  After, the colors were posted by the Hudson Police Department’s Honor Guard and the national anthem was sung by HPD Lieutenant Charles Dyac.

There are 13 articles that you are being asked to decide on, by the numbers:

Article 1 – Construction of a new fire station created the most discussion of the day.  The proposal is to build a new station on Lowell Road across from the Fairview Nursing Home; it is a bond issue, which will requires a three-fifths vote.  The price of the project is $2,174,600, built on town land.  Selectman Roger Coutu pontificated on how surrounding communities are spending twice as much as Hudson for a station, causing a question from the floor of why?  Chief Buxton explained the saving come from the town owning the land, that the plans had come from Londonderry and had been used four times in different towns and is a great design, with the property having town sewer and water is also a saving to the citizens.  Chief Burton mentioned that this new station would cost the average Hudson homeowner $282 over the ten years of the bond.  Questions from location in the south end of town to traffic on Lowell Road were discussed.  Selectman Maddox spoke to the fact that this station is a necessity and not just a want.

A general fund operating budget of $24,392,956 received much less attention.  Budget Committee Chair Shawn Jasper introduced the budget, remarking that it impacted the tax rate with an increase of 9 cents over last year’s rate, which translates to $23 on the average Hudson home.  Jasper noted that the committee had only reduced the amount by $18,000, all reflected in the Rodgers Library portion of the financial plan with $3,000 due to cost of oil heat at the Hills building being over last year’s expenditures and $15,000 from the part-time salary line due to plans by the Library Trustees to pay overtime to staff working on Sundays who had not worked 40 hours in that week.

John Drabinowicz, an 18-year budget committee member, rose and said he normally would not support an increased budget, but this represents a reasonable increase.  “Roughly two-thirds of the budget is personnel; the rest is in mechanical things – computers, trucks and building maintenance,” he said.

For the second year, the town sewer and water departments’ budgets were separate articles as both departments operate on fees paid by users.  Both moved to the ballot with little discussion.

Article 6 will ask voters to ratify a contract between the town and members of the Hudson police, fire and town supervisors union for a 2 percent cost of living adjustment; this one-year contract has a value of $70,335 when added to the 2015 budget.  Citizen Mike Roy asked why the budget committee’s recommendation was 6-5 in favor.  Jasper stated that he voted no, but could only speak for himself, and that he has a long-term problem with earned-time calculations for firefighters and for that reason could not support the article.

One of the most heated discussions occurred during the questions about a 3.5 percent raise for library employees.  After remarks by the Library Trustee Chairperson Linda Kipnes, she turned the presentation over to the library director who had a PowerPoint showing the pay rates of other nearby towns’ library employees.  Library Director Charles Matthew spoke to the advanced degrees most of the full-time workers had and that there are no step raises or union contracts for these workers.  Norman Martin rose to state that people are not getting raises in this economy and that Hudson firefighters are making less per hour than these nine library employees.  Elaine Brody spoke in favor of the raises stating that the library has programs for everyone from “Womb to Tomb;” there is so much going on that not rewarding staff is foolhardy.

An amendment to the article, the only one of the meeting, was offered to bring the amount of the raise to 2 percent to be in line with other town employees.  The amendment passed, lowering the one-year cost of the article to $8,798.

The renovation of the Leonard Smith Central Fire Station for $900,000 is Article 9.  This would include updating the building’s roof, overhead doors to accommodate higher fire apparatus and new windows, a second exit from the second floor as pointed out by Selectman Maddox that the “brass pole doesn’t count as an exit,” provide updated dormitories, and improve security to the building.

The selectmen in offing this article plan to use end-of-year fund balances as to not raise the tax assessment on the homeowners.

Petition Warrant Article 14, which called for a tax exemption from property-assessed value for solar energy equipment.  Craig Putnam, one of the petitioners, spoke to the article and even amended a technical issue.  However, Selectman Maddox explained that currently Hudson doesn’t access solar equipment as part of the property value and this is setting up an additional processing and expense for the town.

All 13 articles will be there to vote on March 10.