June 26, 2013

Budget passed, but controversy ensued by Jon Bolduc

Last Saturday Windham voters sacrificed a beautiful morning for the sake of politics, and ultimately approved the municipal budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Voters passed each article presented to them, and agreed on a municipal budget of $14,346,348 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Although each article passed, there was lively, and at times fiery, conversation ranging from debate over the proposed Donnabeth Lippman Park, to outrage over the Town Council’s suggestion to termination the skate park’s attendant position.

The skatepark was given $5,000 in the budget. Though some seemed to be concerned over funding for the park, the town council was adamant that there was no intention of shutting it down.

“Nobody is talking about closing the skatepark,” said councilor Peter Anania.

Anania affirmed the skate park's place in the town’s budget, but said that cuts would have to come from the attendant position.

“We have money allocated in the budget for the skatepark,” said Anania. “We’re talking about not having an attendant in the skatepark, like every other town, locally. We feel that kids can police themselves, and be good citizens down there. If there are issues at the skatepark, the town council can decide what to do.”
However, some citizens did not agree with Anania’s, and the council’s perspective.

“We have an issue in town with alcohol and drugs,” said former councilwoman Donna Chapman. “I think we are making a big mistake by not having someone there,” she said.

Diane Loring, a Windham resident, also expressed her displeasure at the proposition.

“The kids were here, saying that they need our supervision,” said Loring. “That should speak volumes to all of us.”

It seems as if the changes have already been made. The Windham Parks and Recreation website reads “As of July 1 the Windham skatepark will be an unsupervised facility.”

Citizens also addressed the future of the Donnabeth Lippman Park. Although Council members were not certain of the overall cost to construct and maintain the park during the meeting, the cost stated in the budget amounts to $468,975.

Although voters approved the overall budget, some were concerned with the future of the park, citing the town’s previous shortcomings in the development of public places.

Donna Chapman used the unfinished bike park as a potential example for Donnabeth Lippman Park’s future.
“I drive by the bike park, and it bothers me,” said Donna Chapman. “If we’re going to cut the attendant for the skate park, I’m assuming we’re never going to finish the bike park that was approved by prior councils,” she said.

“I’m concerned with the Lippman Park Funding. Do we have goals? To start it, build it, and finish it? Because we haven’t finished a bike park across the road,” said Chapman.

Chairman Matthew Noel addressed Chapman’s concern, stating that the bike park initiative was lead by a group of volunteers, and although the abandonment of the project was unfortunate, he invited a group to continue the project.

“There were no monies, other than a fence appropriated to the bike park from the town council, other than the use of the land. The town council never listed this as a town priority, it was a community priority,” he said. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been well formed or executed.”

“If there’s a group of people out there who want to restart that effort, we’re all in favor of it,” he said.
Noel also addressed Chapman’s concern for the Donnabeth Lippman Park.

“Lippman Park does have a master plan,” he stated. “A well-thought out, well-presented, and well-detailed plan. It does list items that are required to be built and maintained,” he said.

“There have been several meetings and discussions that focus on that,” he said.

Also of concern was the balancing the construction of the new park, and the maintenance of established public spaces.

“We have walking paths in our town already that people are not using because they need maintenance,” said Diane Loring. “We already have space here that people aren’t using.”

“I don’t understand how we can have a $469,000 park, and how we can support it,” she said.

“It is a challenge,” Noel responded. “What we have done this year, as part of this budget, we created a new capital fund, land and building improvement fund, very similar to the fund that we created for capital equipment. We’ve established that fund, we’ve funded it with $100,000 this year,” he said. “We have an established plan.”

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