Town Meeting in N.H.'s Smallest Town - Hart's Location

Mar 12, 2014

The annual town meeting at Hart's Location might be a small affair, but it usually attracts almost 80 per cent of its registered voters and this year was no different.

Not far from Bretton Woods and Mount Washington - the biggest ski area in the state and our highest mountain - sits the smallest town in New Hampshire - Hart's Location. Population, I'm told, just under 40.

Before the town meeting begins, Moderator Les Shoof announces the unofficial results of the just completed town election.

So, the unofficial results within the town offices.  All of the uncontested races were all decided. And you are all elected. 

Les Shoof grabs the gavel to bang in the meeting as the 17 people in attendance take their seats and open up the meeting notes and its list of warrant articles up for discussion. 

Alright - so I'll call the meeting to order (Fx: gavel hit).  Article 1 - to choose the officers. We just announced who those will be.  For those of you elected, for those of you in the room, we need to do an oath of office immediately following the meeting.

One of the ongoing troubles in this tiny town is getting enough participation.  This year, Chairman Mark Dindorf proposed a stipend program to incentivize the job.  500 a year for first term and then 750 the next.

We have, as many of you know, had challenges through the years getting people to run for these offices and serve in these capacities.  The new structure basically rewards those who have stuck it out and learned the ropes.

After a run-through of the town's forecasted budget of $31,380, State Rep Ed Butler calls for a clarification.

Is the budget something that the select board discusses in the meeting or is this something that you put together and is being presented?
Well you all had the opportunity to attend the budget hearing in January and most of you declined to exercise your right to take that opportunity...

Les Shoof calls for a vote on the proposed budget.

Any other questions, discussion on the budget, Article 2?  Alright I'll call Article 2. All in favor?
Opposed?  Alright, budget is approved.   Alright Article 3.  This is the tough one. Conduct any other business that may legally come before the town.

Here Chairman Dindorf brings up a concern that many other towns in the state are grappling with. 

I actually do have an item of business that I would like to bring before the town and it has to do with basically the possibility of commercial wind applications being made for properties here within Hart's Location.

Dindorf proposes that the town issue a one year moratorium on the granting of wind permits  until a study group can return at next year's meeting with an ordinance that keeps the town charter in mind.

Could I have a vote please.  All in favor of the motion?
Opposed? Ok.  Passed.

After a final discussion that focuses on keeping the moderately rickety town hall in good shape, the meeting adjourns with all the articles unanimously approved.

Amber Dindorf - at 18 the youngest registered voter in Hart's Location and the town's only student - made her way outside.  This was her first town meeting and the first time she's ever voted.

It's kind of funny here because a lot of them there's no contenders so it's sort of just like marking this person for school board and selectman, but it's still cool to be part of the process.

Confirming that even in the tiniest of towns, the grandest of social contracts - the town meeting - is upheld in earnest.