Conway Town Meeting
Conway's annual Town Meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday nights may have set the course the town will take not only for the coming 12 months, but for the next several years as well.
With the reelection of incumbent Selectmen William Hounsell and Paul Ashnault, the approval of five amendments to the zoning Ordinance and the rejection of a proposed Article to raise $2.2 million bond for a regional solid waste system, Conway voters spoke loudly and clearly. Other articles, however, such as Number 9 - committing Conway to join into a regional solid waste cooperative - and Number 37 - asking that the New Hampshire congressional delegation introduce a resolution requesting a nuclear arms freeze - were hotly debated. Although Number 9 passed and Number 37 went down in a narrow defeat, each showed that decisions at Town Meeting offer the chance for very open discussion.
Reacting to the defeat of Article 2, Assistant Town Manager John Walsh noted that the bottom line may have been the deciding factor. Since the Article called for a bond larger than $100,000, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass, a majority which many consider difficult to muster in the face of ever-rising taxes. "You have to be a realist when people's pocketbooks are concerned," Walsh said, "and we have recognized from the start that this issue would be a tough decision." the votes against Article 2 totaled 833, with 679 ballots in favor of the measure.
Still, as Walsh pointed out, the idea of a cooperative regional solution to solid waste problem is far dead. "Albany, Eaton and Conway did ratify the agreement to form a cooperative," he added, "and Ossipee - which tabled their decision - still has until July 1st to decide if they'd like to join." Moreover, Conway voters did ratify the allocation of $97,157 from the Federal Revenues Sharing Fund to be used for the long-term solution of the solid waste disposal problem, a decision which means that approximately $200,000 has been set aside for the project.
"We don't have the money to construct the incinerator," Walsh explained, "but we do have the cooperative agreement, which leaves the door open for other agreements in the future. We also feel that the Town has made a sincere attempt to reach a solution and that we'll continue to move in that direction." Because of this effort, and because of the ongoing work to hammer out a plan for solid waste disposal that all communities in the cooperative can accept, Walsh believed that the State Department of Health and Human Services will continue to deal fairly with Conway.
The reaction of townspeople to the five amendments to the Zoning Ordinance proposed and recommended by the Planning Board was markedly one-sided. On ballot vote, by margins on an average of nearly two to one, voters approved Articles 4,5,6,7, and 8. While two of the Articles - Numbers 4 and 6 - will mean that existing ordinances covering mobile home and flood plains will now be included under the present Zoning Ordinance, a more complete sign ordinance (Article 5), a more flexible density ordinance (Article 8) and a temporary one-year restriction on the construction of manufactured entertainment facilities, water slides, and arcades were also voted in.
Newly elected Planning Board member Marilyn Miller - who won voter endorsement for a three-year term along with Grayson Lynn - expressed satisfaction with the response to these Zoning Ordinances Amendments. "The vote shows that the people of Conway are ready to address the needs of the community in ways that serve everyone's best interest. More than half the registered people in Conway voted on these Articles and we believe that was important. The Planning Board hopes to establish a strong network to keep people informed about what's going on."
Late Tuesday night, in a vote which was decided by a division of the house, Conway residents narrowly turned down approving Article 37 which endorsed the call for a mutual nuclear arms freeze between the United States and the Soviet Union. Unlike 27 other New Hampshire communities, Conway rejected this Article by a 131 to 112 tally.
During the 20-minute debate over this Article, arguments ranged back and forth not only over the merits of seeking a mutual nuclear arms "freeze' with the Soviet Union, but over the logic of including such a question on the Town Warrant. Those supporting the measure pointed out that it was an issue - more than any other - which belonged on the Warrant.
"Last night and tonight, we've debated numerous issues, but this issue deals with the most important issue of all - life on this planet," Sally McAlpine said. As one of the organizers to place this question on Conway's Warrant, McAlpine stressed the need to forget past animosities and concentrate on ways to reduce international tensions. "It isn't an issue of how much we may hate the Russians," she said. "We're both on the wrong track and our course must be changed".
Others objected to the idea, noting that the Soviet's actions in Poland, Afghanistan, eastern Europe, and elsewhere made it clear that they weren't to be trusted. Mrs. Ron Figuly pointed to the continued Soviet build-up in arms and weapons while others cited the Soviet edge in nuclear missiles in Europe as a sign that an arms freeze would work only to the Soviet's advantage.
Joe Sullivan arguing against the Article, drew a round of applause when he asked for clarification. "Mr. Moderator," he said. "I'm a bit confused. How many towns in Russia do you think will have this question at their town meetings?"
In response, Bill Marvel also drew a round of applause when he pointed out this was all the more reason to take action. "If people there are repressed from making such a gesture," he said, "doesn't it behoove us to do this ourselves? Last week President Reagan said he wanted to know how the Americans felt. Isn't this a good way to let him know?"
Following the rejection of Article 37, voters agreed to pass over Articles 40 and 41. Article 40 would have abolished the position of Assistant Town Manager while directing the Selectmen to search for and employ a qualified person trained in Municipal Government. Article 41 - asking that the Selectmen seek waivers on current EPA standards - was also passed over.