Franklin approves SAU withdrawal, whitewater park study grant
Concord Monitor | Elodie Reed
Franklin’s city council has decided to withdraw its school district from SAU 18.
This came after more than an hour of discussion between councilors Monday night. Some argued that the expected $21,802 in net savings from the withdrawal wasn’t worth the lost relationship with Hill.
Others said that money, however little it seemed, was needed for a school district currently unable to fix a broken door or call a plumber for a backed up pipe due to a budget freeze.
In the end, the decision was tied 4-4 before Mayor Ken Merrifield cast the deciding vote to withdraw from the SAU.
Explaining his choice, Merrifield said he spent this past school budgeting session losing sleep, waking up nauseated at 3 a.m. and ultimately deciding to forgo his $2,000 salary in the face of an almost $1 million shortfall.
The mayor even held a fundraiser several weekends ago to raise money for the Franklin High School music department, which Councilor Jim Wells tearfully thanked him for Monday.
“We truly came up with everything we could think of to heal the budget gap,” Merrifield said. He added that he felt withdrawing was the only way to go in light of the estimated $1.3 million gap between revenues and expenditures for the next school budget year.
Withdrawing, in combination with consolidating the school district’s finances as a sub-account with the city, Merrifield said, is the only option left.
“It’s a requirement,” he said. “I have no other solutions for next year.”
Though the city council made the withdrawal decision with its back pressed against a wall, it also voted to apply for funds and study an opportunity for a more prosperous future.
The council unanimously approved an application for up to $12,000 in Community Development Block Grant money to study a potential whitewater play park along the Winnipesaukee River.
Outdoor New England founder Marty Parichand is looking to install paddling amenities, a mountain bike pump track, a community garden, “eco-village” camping and event space on a city-owned parcel of land behind Kerner’s Car Wash. The area is home to the ruins of old mills.
A half dozen residents expressed support for the idea during a 20-minute public hearing Monday.
“I feel this is another good example of how local residents, private business and city government can come together,” Scott Brown said.
City councilors took their cue and unanimously approved the application for study funds.
(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, email@example.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)