By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff | Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015 12:00 pm
TROY — The door has been opened for the town to have an appraisal done of the former Troy Mills property.
Meanwhile, residents at town meeting sent a clear message to local, state and federal officials that Troy doesn’t want to play host to a natural gas pipeline.
About 110 residents, about 8 percent of the town’s 1,312 registered voters, crowded into the Samuel E. Paul Community Center Wednesday night.
Voters made quick work of approving most of the financial warrant articles, including a 2015 operating budget of $1,448,572.
The budget is an increase of $27,185, or 1.9 percent, over the $1,421,387 operating budget voters approved at last year’s town meeting.
Before approving the budget, voters discussed a discrepancy in the selectmen’s funding recommendation for the conservation commission, which was $500, versus the budget committee’s, which was $2,500.
Resident Marcia Nadeau also questioned why $30,000 had been budgeted for welfare general assistance; she believed it shouldn’t be that high.
Nadeau served as the town’s welfare administrator for a period of time in 2012.
Nadeau’s husband, Gideon, who is a selectman, said that board had originally budgeted $500 for the conservation commission, but the group has since been re-established.
Selectmen Chairman William T. “Tom” Matson said the selectmen agree with the budget committee’s number for the conservation committee.
“We just acted slower than the budget committee,” he said.
As for the welfare budget, Gideon Nadeau said the $30,000 is what has been budgeted for general assistance in the past.
Despite only about $23,000 being spent from that budget last year, changes will be taking place within that office, and town officials need to get a handle on those operations before they start looking to reduce that number, he said.
Selectmen appointed Police Chief David B. Ellis Jr. as interim welfare administrator in December after N.H. State Police arrested town employee Cynthia P. Satas following an investigation into allegations she stole thousands of dollars from the town.
Satas, 63, had served as welfare administrator for several years, and was the administrative assistant to the selectmen.
The case against her remains pending in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene.
Matson said the selectmen are seeking applicants for the welfare administrator position, and plan to make a decision about who to hire once the board is back to having three members. That should be soon, as voters elected Howard M. Sheats Jr., the town’s former police chief, on Tuesday to finish out the term of former Selectman Robert J. Kemp Jr., who resigned in January.
Roughly halfway through approving warrant articles for town spending, resident Aaron K. Patt asked how much the town’s portion of the tax rate would increase if all the warrant articles were approved. He said in the past years, town Treasurer Janet L. McCullough has had the information.
McCullough said she didn’t have it with her, but that tax rate would be going up from $9.58 to “11-something,” she said. She added that she gave the information to the selectmen.
There was some scrambling and riffling through papers before Matson said the tax rate would be $11.43 per $1,000 property valuation.
The town’s total tax rate also includes the local education, state education and county tax rates. Troy had the highest total tax rate in the state in 2013, and the second highest in 2014.
After roughly 15 minutes of heated debate, voters approved a warrant article to spend $10,000 on an appraisal of the former Troy Mills complex, and have any recent or future contracts brought to the selectmen regarding the property reviewed by legal counsel.
The warrant article was developed after a proposal from the Troy Redevelopment Group came before the selectmen in January.
The proposal outlined an agreement that asked the selectmen to forgive a $1.2 million tax lien on the 19-acre property as a condition for selling it to developer Robert E. Hanson. The proposal also is contingent upon Hanson’s company receiving approval from the planning board to subdivide the site, and the company reaching agreements with the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority on loans that have been taken out for hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the site. Provided all conditions are met, Hanson’s group would buy the property for $400,000, but pay for it over three years.
At their Jan. 19 meeting, selectmen delayed any action on the proposal until April.
Troy Mills, which originally made horse blankets before becoming a leading producer of automotive fabrics, closed in 2001 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003. The Troy Redevelopment Group is the nonprofit organization that owns the site. The selectmen appointed its membership in 2008 to address environmental concerns on the property off Monadnock Street, and then acquired the property.
Patt said he was confused by the warrant article. He also questioned why the town would want to take on liability since it doesn’t own the property.
“Who appointed the TRG?” Nadeau said, referring to a previous board of selectmen.
Patt said the group owning the property takes the liability away from the town.
Nadeau tried to counter Patt’s response. As he was doing so, Patt addressed Town Moderator Richard H. Thackston 3rd.
“It’s a simple question,” Patt said. “Mr. Moderator, the English is terrible in here.”
Francis H. Fournier Jr., who was co-chairman of the town’s Industrial Redevelopment Authority before that group disbanded, spoke against spending money on appraisal, saying the funding should be put toward legal fees “to find out what is going on down there.”
“As far as an appraisal goes, I think it’s a waste of money,” he said. “We already know it’s not worth anything.”
Resident Marianne Salcetti spoke in favor of the appraisal.
“If we don’t get one done under current market conditions,” she said, “we’re going to be making decisions in a vacuum.”
Voters approved the warrant article, 57-25.
Voters heartily passed six petition warrant articles in opposition of the proposed construction of a pipeline by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a Kinder Morgan company.
The articles asked voters to oppose the project because: they believe it’s inconsistent with individual property rights; it’s inconsistent with protecting the town’s groundwater; it’s inconsistent with preserving the town’s rural character; it would adversely affect health and safety; the town lacks the required equipment or personnel for emergency services to adequately respond to potential health and safety risks of a pipeline explosion or leak; and it’s inconsistent with the town’s goal of keeping the Troy Mills Landfill Superfund site environmentally secure.
Kinder Morgan is proposing a pipeline to carry natural gas from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, part of northern Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire before going to a distribution hub in eastern Massachusetts.
The Monadnock Region communities on the proposed route are Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.