HAVERHILL — Town Meeting will consider six petition articles related to the Woodsville Precinct.
Four are illegal, two are inflammatory, and none found support from the Select Board on Monday.
Selectmen recommended against approval of all six, on the grounds they were unworkable and unhelpful.
The warrant articles deal with Woodsville’s autonomy. Some seek to increase the precinct’s financial independence, others aim to dissolve it completely.
Select Board member Steve Robbins of Woodsville, who recommended against all six, said the petition articles — which throw fuel on an already roaring fire — were a step backward for the community.
“It’s just further division,” Robbins said.
Woodsville commissioner Paul Kidder filed four petition articles to undo legislation, signed by Gov. Chris Sununu last year, that severed town and precinct funding.
Two (Articles 27 and 28) would fund Woodsville fire and highway through $613,593 in town appropriations, rather than a separate precinct tax.
Two others (Articles 30 and 31) are advisory and ask the Select Board to petition the state legislature to divide Woodsville and the town into separate tax districts, with each supporting its own fire and highway departments.
All four are fundamentally illegal and go against municipal finance law, said Town Manager Brigitte Codling, citing multiple legal opinions.
Simply put, she said, all Haverhill taxpayers are obligated to fund the town, but the town is barred from supporting precinct operations.
Every Select Board member voted to recommend against Kidder’s four articles except Michael Graham of Woodsville, who abstained on Articles 27 and 28 (town funding) and recommended approval of Article 31 (separate highway district).
In direct response to Kidder’s proposals, Select Board Vice-Chair Matt Bjelobrk submitted two petition articles of his own.
One seeks to dissolve Woodsville highway and fire, and consolidate them into town departments, and the others aim to do away with the precinct altogether. Both would require the Select Board to petition the state legislature.
Bjelobrk said his warrant articles were advisory and simply meant to measure public opinion on the matter.
However, in an about-face, he voted to recommend against both on Monday.
He did so after Robbins protested, calling all six warrant articles misguided and bad for the town.
“What I want to do is stop this crap. What we ought to do as a board, and as a town, and as a precinct, we ought to sit down and work on this instead of just waiting until Town Meeting and doing this crap over and over again,” Robbins said, adding that his opinion was directed toward the entire town. “Let me be clear that I don’t support the division from either side. So I don’t want you to think that I’m sticking up for one side or the other.”
The board voted to recommend against Article 29 to dissolve Woodsville fire and highway, 5-0, and to recommend against Article 32 to dissolve the entire Woodsville precinct, 1-4, with Howard Hatch in favor.
When the time came to vote, Bjelobrk said, “Nay, in the spirit of cooperation.”
“We can do that,” Robbins said as he also voted nay. “We can cooperate.”