Budget Committee member to quit

LITCHFIELD – A seasoned Budget Committee member is not running for another term, citing what he considers the committee’s unwillingness to have more discussions on the proposed elementary school.

Bill Spencer, who has been on the committee for more than a decade, had originally filed to run for another term.

Budget Committee member Laurie Ortolano has also announced that she is resigning. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Spencer said he was upset that the Budget Committee was not willing to reopen discussion on the school after voting to recommend it at a previous meeting.

Voters will be asked to approve a $14.2 million bond for a new school to house grades 1 to 4. The original price tag was about $15.5 million.

The Budget Committee voted 5-3 to recommend the school.

The committee received the warrant article for the school at its last scheduled meeting, Spencer said. “It was too late to ask intelligent questions,” Spencer said.

He and Ortolano had done additional research and had additional information that they wanted to discuss with other committee members, Spencer said.

His concerns about the new school included the costs of running two schools if Griffin Memorial School remained open, the future of GMS and the overall cost of the school.

Those were all issues that should have been dealt with before the committee voted on the project, he said.

In the past, the committee allowed members to reopen items for discussion as a common courtesy, he said. However, the majority of the committee voted not to reopen discussion on the school, Spencer said.

Some members said although there may be some problems with the school, they felt something needed to be done about overcrowding. Others said although they weren’t sure if they would vote for the school, they wanted voters to have the chance to decide.

There’s no question additional school space is needed, Spencer said. However, he said, it “blew” his mind that the committee wasn’t willing to discuss it again.

“It’s not worth the kind of work I do to be part of a committee that didn’t want to spend the time to look at the facts in the matter,” he said.

After that meeting, Spencer said, he withdrew his filing for the committee.

“The issue isn’t over the particular school,” he said. “The issue is attitude of the Budget Committee (and) the lack of thoroughness that took place when the Budget Committee gave it a stamp of approval.”

Reopening the discussion probably wouldn’t have changed the final vote, Budget Committee member Ralph Boehm said.

Some of Spencer’s concerns about the school, such as the proposal coming in late, are right, Boehm said. It’s too late to do anything about that, he said.

“I didn’t think it would have changed anything,” Boehm said of having another discussion. “Why waste any time?”

Cindy Couture, the School Board’s representative to the Budget Committee, said Spencer is entitled to his opinion about the proposed school, but information has been provided about the proposal.

The district has been exploring space needs and issues since 1994, she said. “I think the (building) committee and board has done the best to come up with the best solution possible.”

Couture praised Spencer’s service on the committee.

“I think he’s done a lot for the community. He’s always been tough but fair,” she said. “He deserves credit for the time and commitment he gave to Litchfield.”

Anne Lundregan can be reached at 594-6449 or lundregana@telegraph-nh.com.