Polarization in Bow? Selectmen set the tone

Member of the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow

I read with grim amusement Harry Judd’s column in the Feb. 27 Monitor Forum. Taken at face value, it’s hard to argue with what he has to say. After all, who can be opposed to civility and a unified community?

Judd laments the “polarization” in Bow and says that unnamed people have been “slandered” and accused of lying in public meetings. In my experience, this complaint is usually made by people who want to polarize, slander and accuse others of lying but can’t take it when they’re given a dose of their own medicine.

It is a well-known fact in Bow that Judd has been instrumental in making town politics far more partisan than they had been beforehand. He is an activist in his party, and he has worked very hard to build a strong partisan organization in our community. While nominally nonpartisan, our local races have become part of the party-building program that Judd helped put in place. It’s no coincidence that four of the five selectmen are members of his party.

Now, there is nothing wrong with building the organization of the party to which you belong, but you can’t have it both ways. Very little is more polarizing than party politics. For someone who has so actively promoted one political party over another in Bow to complain that others are polarizing the town is more than just a little hypocritical.

Judd’s objections to accusations of lying also have a hollow ring. Just last year, he wrote an opinion piece in the Monitor charging the Bow taxpayers organization of spreading 15 “myths” about the selectmen’s proposal to build an extravagant public safety building. By “myths” he meant “lies.” Evidently, in Judd’s mind it is civil to publish something in the local newspaper accusing a group of the town’s citizens of spreading lies, but it is a serious breach of town etiquette for a single individual to accuse another person of lying in a sparsely attended meeting.

Ironically, in his Feb. 27 column, Judd adds yet another slur against those who don’t share his enthusiasm for grandiose town buildings. He speculates that an act of vandalism at his home last year was caused by “anger generated” by those who had the temerity to object to Bow’s skyrocketing tax burden. Calling the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow a “hate group” can’t be far behind.

Perhaps Judd and the selectmen who agree with his column should consider that the opposition they are experiencing is indicative of nothing more than taxpayers being fed up with the town’s reckless spending. And if Judd is really concerned about restoring civility to town discourse, maybe he should start by reflecting on his own behavior.

Multimillion-dollar Public Safety Building Up for Vote Again

Chairman of the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow

For the third year in a row, the multimillion-dollar public safety building proposal is up for a vote at town meeting on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium. Last year the project was rejected, 425-257. It failed to attain a two-thirds vote in 2013 as well.

This year the proposal is for $5,030,000 with $5 million of that to be bonded. With the current borrowing rate of 4.5 percent, the 20-year bond interest will add $4.5 million more for a total of $9.5 million.

Bow warrant Article 5 then confronts the issue of what to do with the community building. It would appropriate $25,000 to hire “architectural, engineering and/or consulting firms to develop the cost of options to renovate the existing” building “or to construct a new community building.” The capital improvement plan from 2013 called for $200,000 to design a new community building. How and why there is a $175,000 difference for design costs is not explained. The 2013 CIP calls for $4 million to build a new community building somewhere else after the existing one is leveled. Again, bond interest for 20 years at 4.5 percent would bring that number to $3.6 million more or $7.6 million.

Because we oppose $17 million in new borrowing, the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow gained enough signatures to place Article 30 on the warrant for the town meeting.

Article 30 would repair the community building. It would not borrow any money but take $350,000 from the float or cushion of several million dollars the town has in its checkbook and $100,000 from municipal buildings and grounds reserve funds and add to it $100,000 in tax dollars. Where did the $550,000 total come from?

The $550,000 figure to fix is based on the town’s vendors who provided quotes obtained by the tax group in a series of right-to-know requests:

– Asbestos removal was quoted by Enviro Vantage of Epping at $64,000 in a January 15, 2015, report to the town.

– Life and Safety upgrades were quoted a year ago on March 11, 2014, by Robert Cummings and Associates LLC to cost $177,500. His report includes the cost of repairing the hood and duct over the stove in the community center to meet NFPA 96 and the fire suppression system under UL 300 codes.

– Electrical compliance was provided to the town in an electrical engineering report by Yeaton Associates in October of 2013, which had a range of $175,000 to $225,000 to bring the building into compliance. The tax group figured the midpoint of $200,000 was a reasonable number.

– The balance of $108,500 may or may not be needed to fix items not covered by the above. If not needed, it won’t be spent.

The goal is to remove the asbestos, fix the wiring and address the other issues raised by the fire marshal after he was invited in by the fire chief and selectmen. This would buy years of time, bring the town into compliance, fix the stove and vent for community groups to use the building and meet the September 2016 deadline set by the fire marshal.

If a reader wants to see the source documents, they appear on the website of the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow at http://www.bowtaxpayers.org under the heading “Hot News.”