Board preps budget for hearing

WOODSVILLE—School board members were told last week that they may need to raise an additional $1.6 million in revenue even though they have a mostly level-funded budget proposal for 2022.
Meeting on Jan. 11, board members reviewed a budget proposal that was $85,000 over the current year’s of $14,568,446. In spite of a nearly level-funded budget, the loss of current one-time revenues, including state adequacy funding, could result in a significant increase to the tax rate. As is, the increase is nearly $5 per $1,000 in assessed valuation.
But board members voted a series of changes, including relying on a potential $700,000 surplus, during the Jan. 11 meeting to reduce that by $2 per $1,000.

Rivendell eyes Visions return

ORFORD—A proposed Rivendell budget would move all of the district’s 6th graders to Rivendell Academy and restore afterschool and summer school programs, but reduce the number of staff in the district by nearly four full-time positions.
A public hearing on the draft budget is scheduled for Jan. 19, after this edition’s press deadline. The board could still make adjustments to the budget before sending it to voters in March.
Last week, school board members held a special meeting to preliminarily approve an $11,981,796 operating budget. In addition to expenditures under federal grant programs and nearly $240,000 in food service expenses, the district could ask voters to approve over $12.7 million in spending for three schools and the central office—a 7.2 percent increase over the current year.

Fire destroys Haverhill home

MOUNTAIN LAKES—A North Haverhill couple and their three children are homeless after fire ripped through their split-level home at 111 Hilltop View Drive in the Mountain Lakes district on Saturday.
Officials said Anne Foldeak, Robbie Schmead, and three children ages 8 to 15, were not home when the fire was reported at 11 a.m., prompting a large-scale response by local and mutual aid departments.
“There was heavy fire coming from the front half of the house,” said North Haverhill Fire Chief Phil Blanchard when crews arrived. “Things went as good as they possibly could given the logistics and getting water” to the scene.
Initial reports were that all three children were trapped inside the basement of the split-level home, which were unfounded.

Fairlee budget hearing focuses on employee pay

FAIRLEE—A raise in pay for town employees in Fairlee was the major topic of discussion during a budget hearing on Jan. 11.
Fairlee Selectboard member Cathy McGrath told the two dozen or so people who had checked into the Zoom meeting that the board had decided not to bestow cost-of-living raises in 2021. Most of the audience was employed by the town or represented a municipal department.
“We’re not doing cost-of-living raises because it [last year] was an incredibly unusual year,” McGrath explained. “Many taxpayers have been furloughed or had hardship, and this is a reflection on what’s available in the pocketbooks of the taxpayers. Many people, including myself, have been impacted by loss of work.”

Rivendell weighs staff cuts in next budget

ORFORD—Citing a potential “unconscionable” spending increase, Rivendell Interstate School District board members last week asked administrators to prepare a draft 2022 budget that would eliminate as many as five full-time equivalent staff positions.
After approximately two hours of discussion during a regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 5, board members deferred finalizing a figure to put before community members at a budget hearing later this month. They instead scheduled a special meeting for Jan. 12, after this edition’s press deadline.

Newbury teen has eye on the future

NEWBURY—Even six months after a terrible car crash, there are still plenty of signs and posters proclaiming “Sierra Strong” across the landscape.
As well as an encouragement to Sierra Longmoore and her family, they are a reminder of the determination and will to live and the combined prayers of those who support her.
Everyone wants to know about her journey and how she is doing.
The recovery of Sierra Longmoore has been nothing short of miraculous.

Newbury voters reject OUUSD withdrawal

NEWBURY—Newbury residents will remain part of Oxbow Unified Union School District, the school district formed with Bradford in 2019.
A special town meeting, with polling held on Dec. 29, concluded with a total of 310 votes cast, according to Newbury Town Clerk Nikki Tomlinson. Residents voted 140-169 on the question “Shall the Newbury School District withdraw from the OUUSD?” There was one blank ballot. There were 152 absentee ballots cast, while 158 people voted in person.
In contrast, 1,172 Newbury residents voted for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump the previous month.
Although Newbury and Bradford have long partnered in a unified school district to operate the 7-12 Oxbow High School, the towns maintained separate school districts to operate elementary schools in each town until Act 46.

Amid infections, vaccine gets early rollout

NORTH HAVERHILL—“The vaccine is the thing that will end this,” Grafton County Nursing Home Administrator Craig Labore said in a recent interview with the Journal Opinion.
The first COVID-19 vaccination clinic for GCNH staff and residents came earlier than expected, bookended by positive COVID-19 test results in nearly a dozen staff members.
On Dec. 14, a total of five staff members tested positive for Covid through GCNH’s standing testing practices.
The individuals were all asymptomatic, and Labore said he could not speak to the origin of the transmissions. Upon learning of the results, Labore said they notified the nurse they work with at the NH Department of Health and Human Services and arranged for facility-wide testing for staff and residents. These tests all came back negative. The initial five staff members were able to isolate and return to work once the period of concern was over.

Pellet plant could come to business park

NORTH HAVERHILL—A local wood pellet company is mulling a possible manufacturing plant in the town-owned industrial park next to Dean Memorial Airport.
Morton Bailey of Lyme Green Heat told selectboard members on Jan. 4 that his company is still drawing up engineering plans, but that the business has identified the North Haverhill site for a possible $7 million facility that would convert wood chips into wood pellets for heating fuel. Haverhill Town Manager Brigitte Codling said Bailey first approached the town several months ago about the proposal.
The two lots are located on either side of Business Park Drive. Conceived decades ago, the business park was developed by the town, which funded a lengthy sewer system extension from the Grafton County complex to make the lots more marketable.

Bradford, Newbury return to polls

BRADFORD—School officials held an informational meeting on Monday night ahead of the fourth vote on an Oxbow Unified Union School District 2020-2021 budget next week.
Monday night’s meeting—held via Zoom—was sparsely attended.
The budget of $16,780,183 is identical to the one defeated by 15 votes on Nov. 24. Board members unanimously opted to resubmit the same figure for another vote, citing significant cuts to the district’s schools—Bradford Elementary, Newbury Elementary, Oxbow, and River Bend.