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Lawn city? Not Bow, voters decide

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We had been talking about it for years.

The Bow School District and the city eventually turned their informal conversations to a new artificial turf field project billed as a multi-use community field, and put a proposal on the table in front of voters.

Plans began to be drawn up, community funding sources were identified, and bids were put in place should the project gain voter approval.

At the school district’s annual meeting, which took place on Friday evening, community members attended a 20-minute presentation by Bryce Larrabee, the current Bow School Board Chair. His presentation highlighted the proposed costs, benefits and uses for the project, but the proposed development was not met with the same level of optimism from voters.

It failed in a landslide – 373 votes against to just 155 in favour.

“We always knew that was a tough question because it was so much money to invest in something like that,” Larrabee said. “As a board of directors, we have tried to cobble together funds from many different sources in order to limit the tax burden. But, the majority of people clearly did not support the idea.

In the “basic” version of the proposed project, it would have cost $2.4 million to install the field, bleachers and stadium lights. For the “preferred” plan, it would have cost an additional $600,000 with amenities such as a snack bar, restrooms and a secondary half court.

More than a dozen people in the audience each took to the microphones in Bow High School’s auditorium to voice their opinions, ask questions and often lament the idea.

“I think it’s the wrong time and the wrong place,” Bruce Marshall said. “There must be a list of priorities, and the education of our children for me is the first priority.”

Marshall is one of the founders of the Bow Youth Football organization, and while he was more supportive of the idea, he noted that the money and effort would have to go elsewhere before a grass pitch could get the green light. Money itself was one of the most notable concerns. The $3 million sticker price caused a stir with people who demanded that the money be used elsewhere – particularly for the roof of the high school and the water systems in the schools.

While the proposed turf project was at the top of the agenda, several other items passed.

Members of the Bow teachers’ union will see an increase in their base salary. The current salary range of $40,438 to $79,541 will be increased to $41,247 to $82-723 next year.

Not only will teachers see a pay rise, but members of the Bow Educational Support System, which includes aides, orderlies, speech assistants, library assistants, technology assistants and secretaries, will also see a raise. These employees will move from a pay scale of $11.51 to $20.57 per hour to $15.05 to $21.19 over the next fiscal year.

Other elements that were passed included the continuation of the agreement allowing Dunbarton students to attend Bow High and Bow Middle schools. While the current contract is not yet ready to expire, negotiations between the two cities started early before the expiration date. The renewal will start from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2039.

The sports capital reserve fund was increased and a proposal to increase sports fees was approved with a cap of $200 per athlete.

Finally, after the sod pitch failed, the district’s proposed $300,000 increase to its construction capital reserve fund was increased to $500,000.