By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LITTLETON – After months of emotionally charged meetings and public comment related to downtown art and LGBTQ+ issues, it was a relatively quiet night at the regular Littleton Selectmen’s meeting Monday, although the issues are still simmering in the community.
The board plans to make an announcement in January about their position on public art after retaining an attorney to help them with the legality surrounding it, after Selectwoman and Republican state Senator Carrie Gendreau sparked outrage in the region when she said she felt three murals on a private building in the downtown funded by an LGBTQ+ organization did not belong in her community.
She said she has a religious and moral compass that does not support such things when members of the community argued that the issue was about inclusion of all people.
The mural issue was followed quickly by more comments Gendreau reportedly made related to theatre productions with gay themes in public buildings.
Now a petition signed by more than 1,200 is asking the board to tone it down on these issues because it is impacting the town’s downtown economy and reputation.
While some fall meetings were attended by more than 200, only about 20 members of the public were at the Littleton Community House for Monday night’s meeting.
They watched as selectmen approved an ordinance related to overnight parking permits for city lots, accepted $49,972 from the state for additional road work and tabled a three-year lease agreement for community skiing on Mount Eustis.
And rather than listening to a line of public members being limited to three minutes of comment, there was only one person taking advantage of the opportunity Monday.
Rudy Gelsi said, “What kind of comments do you want? If somebody asks you a question you are not going to answer, right?”
Chairman Roger Emerson confirmed that the public comment period was just that, not a question and answer opportunity.
“What garbage,” Gelsi shouted.
And that was the end of the comments for the night with the next meeting in two weeks.
After the meeting, Gelsi said he wants to see a new majority on the board and thinks there should be provisions within the state’s right-to-know Law, RSA 91A that allows when the selectman are in non-public session, the person who is the subject of that deliberation be notified in writing.
Asked if he himself would run, he shook his head and said he was supporting another candidate who would help improve the political climate.
But contrary to petitioners saying that the discourse was impacting the economy and identity, Emerson noted that he is hearing that business and traffic in the downtown are better than usual with more people and that businesses are happy right now with the way the holiday season is rolling out.
In attendance in addition to Emerson, were selectman Linda MacNeil, vice chair, and Gendreau. Jim Gleason, town manager also led the discussion.
Flume Media, which provides remote video service for the board and is available on YouTube usually days after a meeting, is no longer going to be able to provide that service due to the owner moving the business out of the region, the board was told.
But Gleason said another potential vendor Zach D. Videos (with a new name pending) have indicated willingness to provide that service.
The only concern is his ability to provide live broadcast for town meeting deliberative sessions from the school.
Gendreau said she thought it was important to many residents who cannot physically attend to have that be available.
“That’s super critical,” she said. Gendreau suggested rental of equipment or help from the school.
The selectmen approved the new contract with Zach D. Videos with the understanding he would work on that live feed issue for that meeting in a few months.
The board also got an update on sold public works vehicles which could not pass inspection and were deemed surplus.
The town will receive $12,000 in revenue from the sales with people coming to get the vehicles.
Police Chief Paul J. Smith also gave an overview of a proposed ordinance that passed, which will allow the department to register overnight vehicle use in three municipal parking lots, primarily used as tenant parking downtown.
This will give police the ability to notify owners if there is a need to move the vehicles for maintenance. The fee would be $50 a year, beginning Jan. 1 and there would be a $10 fee payable to police for single use overnight parking.
Based on a similar model used by the Town of Plymouth, the point would not be to make money but to recover administrative costs, Smith said.