Hudson Town Deliberative Session
February 10, 2017
by Laurie Jasper
Hudson Town Deliberative Session on Saturday, Feb. 4, began at 9 a.m. at the Community Center. Hudson Police Lieutenant Charles Dyac sang the National Anthem, followed by a moment of silence in memory of Master Patrol Officer James Stys. Stys, 51, a former 18-year member of the Hudson Police Department, died last week after a courageous battle with cancer.
Town Moderator Paul Inderbitzen announced each article and kept the meeting running smoothly. The approximately 100 people in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions and amend articles. Although there are a total of 19 Town Meeting Warrant articles this year, Article 1 encompasses the election of officers, while Articles 2 through 5 involve zoning amendments which had already been through a public hearing and were not discussed. Thus, moving right along, discussion of Article 6, Construction of a New Fire Station, began before 9:30 a.m. Board of Selectmen Chairman Ted Luszey explained that, while this is the third year a new fire station on the south end of town has been brought forth, it is not a bonding issue this year and needs only a majority to prevail. Two million, one hundred thousand dollars of the cost would come from the town surplus, and the remaining $800,000 would be paid for by the taxpayers, which would be approximately $78 per average single family home.
Hudson Fire Chief Robert Buxton’s presentation stressed the need for the new station. The new facility would replace the current south Hudson station which is located on 88 Burns Hill Road. That station was built in 1981 as a call station. It opened in 2001 as a 24/7 manned station without any major upgrades. Buxton said that, in fact, it would cost more to renovate the current station than to build the new station.
The proposed new facility would be built on town land at 204 Lowell Rd. “The proposed facility is 7,800 square feet, with two bays but a two deep, single floor station,” said Buxton. “The move to Lowell Road increases our efficiencies to the south end of town, with less response time and greater service to the public,” Buxton added. One major upgrade to the new station would be a designated decontamination facility within the building. Buxton explained that this proposal is similar to what the town did when the new highway facility was built, and showed a slide pointing out that $78 is 26 cups of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts or one trip to the movies for a family of four.
During discussion of Article 7, the General Fund Operating Budget, totaling $25,062,815, which was recommended by the Board of Selectmen 4-1 and by the Budget Committee 10-0, Selectman Roger Coutu spoke from the floor and moved to cut $19,434 from the budget, the cost of dues to the Nashua Regional Planning Commission. “The dues, from my perspective, have provided us virtually nothing,” said Coutu. Coutu also explained that, during selectmen’s discussion about NRPC, an original vote of 4-0 to cut the dues was confirmed, only to be reconsidered and changed at the next meeting. Coutu voted against the operating budget because of this, but said that he would abide by the decision of the meeting. “I’m a guardian of your money and I want to send a message to NRPC,” said Coutu. Several people spoke in opposition to Coutu’s amendment, which overwhelmingly failed.
Budget Committee member Ted Trost made three separate amendments from the floor to Article 16. First, create a Capital Reserve Fund for Library Improvements. As originally written, the warrant article was for “… improving and renovating the building, and repairing capital equipment at Hudson Libraries …” Trost’s first amendment clarified what could be funded, now stating, “… improving and renovating the building, exterior signage, grounds, driveways and parking areas…” Trost’s second amendment changed “Hudson Libraries” to “The George H. and Ella M. Rodgers Memorial Library.” The third amendment removed the Hudson Library Board of Trustees as agents to expend the reserve fund, ensuring use of the money be determined by the will of the voters. All three of Trost’s amendments passed by a wide margin.
Article 17, Discontinue Old Capital Reserve Funds, would transfer the approximate $73,000 balance from six old funds to the general fund. Since the funds are no longer valid, a majority vote is needed to dissolve them. When asked for a breakout of each fund as well as the agents to expend, Town Finance Director Kathy Carpentier listed: Cable Access Center, $33,000, the voters; Future Senior Center, $14,000, the voters; Library Expansion, less than $1,000, Library Trustees; Lowell/River Road, $4,000, the voters; Merrifield Park Pond, $2,000, Board of Selectmen; Merrimack River Boat Ramp, $20,000, Board of Selectmen.
The final warrant article, which is advisory only, caused the most discussion of the day. Article 19, Establishment of Benson Park User Fees, will be consulted by the Board of Selectmen to determine whether or not to charge user fees at Benson Park. The Board of Selectmen is not bound by the vote as it is advisory only. Selectman Coutu, the liaison to the Benson Park Committee, said there are pros and cons to be discussed. Discuss, they did. Shawn Jasper, Vice Chairman of the Benson Park Committee, said, “This is a case of if you build it they will come.” He said the Hudson Highway Department and the volunteers have done a wonderful job in the park, but it is being worn out now and the only people paying for it are Hudson taxpayers. Nothing has been decided, but Benson Park Committee Chairman Jim Barnes suggested that there could be a gate fee, a large group fee or a parking fee, which would pay for the maintenance of the park. Jasper compared charging user fees at Benson Park for all to the New Hampshire rooms and meals tax, which doesn’t just charge New Hampshire residents, or the gas tax, which taxes all who purchase gas in New Hampshire to pay for road improvements. Phyllis Appler spoke against charging a fee, as did several others.
One resident said that she thinks the park is as beautiful today as when it opened, and she is there sometimes five times per week.
The meeting adjourned before noon.
Next Saturday, Feb. 11, at 9 a.m. the School Deliberative Session will be held at the Hudson Community Center.
Town Meeting voting day is Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Center.