Happy to be back together, Hopkinton voters pass budget, solar farm and barn repair


After casting votes from their cars due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, Hopkinton residents were able to gather for their first in-person city meeting in three years on Saturday.

Voters were in a comfortable mood, passing eight of 10 articles in the warrant, including the proposed $8.3 million budget, leasing urban land for a solar farm and spending $875,000 on repairs to the Houston Barn that serves as a critical space for the Public Works Department and a warehouse for several city organizations.

“I think everyone was excited to be back in the gym,” said host Sara Persechino. “Drive-up voting worked when we needed it, but there’s no substitute for meeting up with your neighbors and talking about the issues at hand.”

The barn renovation was the first question of the day, asking voters to approve a $272,000 bond issue, which required a three-fifths majority. An additional $603,000 in repairs would be spent with American Rescue Plan funds. The question passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 221 to 48, conducted by secret ballot.

The need for a barn repair arose after a leak in the roof was found. Originally, the Select Board considered replacing just the barn’s roof, an estimated $80,000 project, but decided to take a closer look at the structure and commissioned the Houston Barn Study Committee, formed in January 2021.

The committee provided a number of cost estimates, including basic stabilization of the building, repair and refurbishment of the barn, and its demolition and new construction. Ultimately the repair and restoration was chosen to extend the barn lift while saving money on the full replacement.

The work will be carried out in two phases. First, the barn is jacked up to create a new foundation and fix any drainage problems. Once the barn is back in place, the second phase involves the installation of a new metal roof, electrical wiring, a fire suppression system, and the replacement of side panels and doors on the barn. Anything over the $875,000 will be funded through grants and private donations.

The barn currently serves as storage for the town’s Recreation Department, Hopkinton Youth Sports Association, Slusser Senior Center, Hopkinton Library, Boys & Girls Scouts and the High School Sports Department.

The operating budget of $8.3 million, representing an increase of $621,430 and an 8.1% tax increase, was approved by vote. Local residents also gave a thumbs-up to enable the construction of a solar farm in a 95-acre city-owned gravel pit on Clement Hill Road. The lease, which is yet to be negotiated, will last up to 41 years and will include “various easements to facilitate the operation of the solar farm.”

One of the most controversial issues of the day prompted voters to reclassify 150 feet of Bound Tree Road from Class VI to Class V to allow construction of a single family home. The change in classification meant the city had to maintain the small stretch of road near the city limits using Warner and Henniker.

Skeptics feared the decision would set a precedent and lead to more requests to convert sections of the road, which could detract from the city’s rural character. Proponents cited the limited number of buildable lots in the city and the minimal cost of maintaining such a small stretch of road.

The question eventually fell through with 133 residents voting no compared to 112 for.

The other issue voters turned down was a proposed warrant article demanding that all ballots cast in the city be counted by hand rather than by machine. Proponents cited electoral integrity and security, but expressed skepticism about machines being able to trust accuracy.

Similar questions were asked in more than a dozen cities this year, including Loudon, where it also failed.

State and local election officials claim AccuVote machines, the only licensed ballot counting machine in New Hampshire, have proven accurate and reliable.


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