Article 9 Use of Road Improvement Capital Reserve Fund
Last year Warrant Article 44, sponsored by Experience Hampton, provided $300,000 for a study and engineering plans for the beautification and revitalization of the uptown business district. This included putting the utility lines underground and improving the street, sidewalks and lighting. It mentioned the potential of tapping into the Road Maintenance and Re-Construction Capital Reserve Fund established in 1998, which currently has $1.6 million in it. Although last year’s warrant article referred to the potential of using the Roads Capital Reserve Fund established in 1998, when there were objections raised by a number of people the Town Manager and John Nyhan, then President of Experience Hampton, assured the public that Experience Hampton would seek grants to accomplish their goals, that the $300,000 taxpayer commitment in 2017 would improve the chances of getting grants and that it would not be placed on the back of the taxpayers. Nyhan was quoted in the January 17, 2017 Hampton Union stating “We have no intention whatsoever to come back to the town two years from now and say, ‘Okay, we have now found out through this warrant article that the project is going to be $2 million, and now we want a warrant article for $2 million.” There has been silence on this issue for a whole year; hence we do not know anything about Experience Hampton’s status on their grant efforts. To date only $3K of the $300,000 approved last year has been spent with ($297,000) remaining. In addition, this current proposal to exhaust the fund with Article 9 appears to have overlooked the plan from last year to begin providing a long-term solution to Exeter Road down to Lafayette Road, which now has only a short term fix.
There is Existing funding of $613,212 left unspent from last year’s warrant Article 11, which was to complete the replacement of the sewer pipes in this area of Lafayette Road and reconstruct the road. That project is ongoing and the plan is to complete it in the spring of this year. The Town Manager indicated at the December 5, 2017 Budget Committee meeting that there is enough funding left from last year’s Article 11 to pave it and that all street issues will be taken care of even if this year’s Article 9 doesn’t pass. While Town officials are asking for $1.5 million in this year’s Article 9, at that same in a Budget Committee meeting the Town Manager indicated that quote “we don’t know how, or if, we’re going to address underground utilities”.
Given all of this, it raises the question why does this year’s Article 9 even exist?
This amount of money, $1.5 million, essentially empties the road fund. While it is stated on the warrant as having no tax impact, the fund will need to be replenished in order to address Exeter Road and other problem roads like Winnacunnet in the future. Thus there will be a future tax impact. There appears to be little question that Article 9 is driven by the Experience Hampton beautification / economic development project that was specifically described in Article 44 of last year’s warrant! What’s going on here? We believe that the Road Maintenance Fund is being used to help assure taxpayer approval do to the ability to state “No Tax Impact” on the Fiscal Impact Note. Article 44 was passed by the voters last year by only a 1% margin, it’s reasonable to believe that an amount five times last year’s amount for the same purpose would fail. This fund was established, and we quote from the 1998 article, for the “Maintenance and Re-Construction of streets”, not for economic development, beautification, ornamental lighting or sidewalk construction. It’s not clear that you can legally appropriate money from that fund for some of the purposes, in particular ornamental lighting, that is called out in this year’s Article 9. We question Selectman Bridle, who is a Director of Experience Hampton and whose son is also an Experience Hampton Director, as well as Selectman Waddell, whose wife is an Experience Hampton Director, voting to approve Article 9, as there is at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Rational Taxpayers of Hampton is adamantly opposed to this article. The Road Improvement Fund should be prioritized for use on those roads in Hampton that need to reconstructed, paved or otherwise improved, NOT for the beautification project by Experience Hampton in Article 44 of last year’s warrant. This is an irresponsible use of this Fund and unless sound rational can be provided, in light of the above information, this Article 9 should be pulled from the ballot and any vote discounted from a printed ballot that may already exist.