Select Board gears up for Town Meeting

MANCHESTER - Having concluded their last regular meeting before this year's Town Meeting, the select board is ready for a long afternoon at the MEMS gym.

Ivan Beattie, the chairman of the select board, said there are some hot button issues this year. He wanted the board to be clear when they were speaking as a representative of the board, but also of their own opinion.

"If a member of the select board wishes to take a position contrary to the board's position...this is perfectly allowable for us as a citizen at town meeting, to speak from the microphone on the floor," he said.

This decision also applies to town manager John O'Keefe.

Discussion will most definitely be involved this year and Beattie wanted the select board to let it play out, while also making sure the person most suited to answer questions would respond.

As the discussion around Town Meeting policy and procedures continues, Sylvia Jolivette, asked if the operating expenses of the organizations asking for funding would be available on town meeting day.

"If they are, maybe when these particular organizations are introduced somebody could mention it [the operating budget]...and the share we [the town of Manchester] are contributing," she said.

This information is not always available by town meeting day, but before the organization receives their funding they have to either fill out a town form or turn over the 990 IRS form, O'Keefe said.

The exception to this are the library and rescue squad, who both turned over operating budgets before the meeting.

Jolivette wanted to know if the funding was decided on a per capita basis for these organizations - especially state wide or non-Manchester-based groups - and O'Keefe said in some cases there is no rhyme or reason why one group gets more from Manchester as opposed to another town.

Beattie said he believes it is very important for someone from each organization be present to speak at town meeting, especially if there is a question about the amount appropriated.

"I can remember way back people discussing the notion that if no one felt the need to show up and discuss why they needed this money, [then they won't receive funding]," he said. "That could happen again. I would suggest strongly...that someone from that organization requesting funding be there."

After the discussion of Town Meeting, the select board signed liquor licenses for various establishments around town. It was then - while still in an open meeting - that Jolivette approached Beattie and said she would be asking for an amendment to Article 25 regarding the library appropriation for $198,000. She said she would ask for the amendment to reduce the amount to $100,000, saying that would work out to $25 per person, based on a 4,000 person population. She also mentioned this formula in the letter to the editor The Manchester Journal published Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

"A $100,000 town appropriation would indicate an amount of $25 per person based on a 4,000 population is a reasonable amount," she wrote. Beattie agreed with her amendment.

"So we moved to talk about $25,000 [the amount asked for by the library to become a public institution in 2003], and somehow it came up to $62,7000 or whatever it was," Beattie said. "And then it just took off from there."

Jolivette said she understands that "things" are going up, but her concern comes from a brochure given out at the library when she took a tour of the new building.

"On the third page it had their accountability. The building was going to cost them $6.6 million," she said. "They were going to be paying up front $2.5 million, so they had a balance that was going to be there's to pay off in some kind of form...of $4.1 million. To me, that's not enough money up front. They should have waited until they had more money to build that building."

Both Jolivette and Beattie then agreed the building is "huge" and "excessive."

Betsy Bleakie, executive director of the library, said that Jolivette's numbers are incorrect and are pulled from a condensed version of the library's capital campaign case statement.

"To purchase the land and build the building, it costs $5.4 million. To double our endowment we need to raise $1 million through private philanthropy....and $200,000 for miscellaneous expenses surrounding running a multi-year capital campaign," she said. "All together, that adds up to $6.6 million dollars, what it will cost to build the building, buy the land, double the endowment and run the capital campaign."

Bleakie said the seed money for the building of the library was a $2.5 million bequest from Lynn Hoyt, which meant $4.1 million needed to be raised from private philanthropy and it was.

Bleakie took issue with the characterization of the building as "excessive." The current building comes in at 7,700 square feet, where the new building's main floor will be 12,000 square feet, Bleakie said.

The bottom floor - with office space for the Historical Society and Vermont Reading Partners, plus additional space for rent, comes in at 6,000 square feet, she said.

"The increase to the lower level is housing things we do not have now," Bleakie said. "Yes, it is bigger and it should be bigger. It's more of a community center and not a 19th century library any longer."


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