In Merrimack political issues are never simple and this week proved this once again.
In a shocking turn of events Dave McCray was voted out as chairman of the town council. The reason given was "inappropriate behavior". Dave is someone everyone in town knows to be passionate and in some cases tempered. This was well known when the other members of the council voted him in as the chairman.
As the past few weeks progressed this was slowly building as a result of the heated discussions surrounding the land for the Merrimack Court house. In a non public meeting the council voted 3 to 2 with 1 absent and 1 abstain that they would not donate the land to the state for a new court house. One of those who voted not to donate said afterwards that she felt she did not have enough information at the time to make a vote. Dave McCray claimed the selectmen (the town was recently chartered hence the change from Selectmen to Council) had always agreed they would lease the land and he disagreed with the idea to donate the land.
Soon after, members of the past selectmen Dick Hinch and Chuck Mower came out insisting Dave was lying saying the idea was always to donate the land. This I think helped cause decention in the council and helped feed the fires of disagreement as now in reading that argument it would have appeared the newer council members may not have been given all the information.
Dick Hinch however had sent a letter to the state in January 2006 (reprinted in full in this weeks Merrimack Journal) from the Selectmen that backed up what Dave was saying and completely went against what both he and Chuck Mower claimed in the Union Leader. Here's an excerpt from that letter:
To that end, the Board of Selectmen is committed to securing and designating a minimum of two (2) acres of land that can, in turn, be leased to the State of New Hampshire for the construction of a new Merrimack District Court. We must trust that the appropriate State officials will view this commitment letter as a gesture of partnership to ensure the expeditious construction of a new facility.
On behalf of the entire Board, I thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing this request.
I understand Dave's concern as if the town donates the land vs leases it, Merrimack could eventually open up the door in the future for the state to turn around and use the land for something else. I'm sure though that the town could put stipulations on such a donation in that if the state stopped using it for a court house ownership would revert to the town.
Any rate, over the past couple weeks of discussing this issue tempers rose and there was some behind the scene fighting between Dave and other council members. Leading to last night during which a 4 to 1 with 2 abstains vote removed Dave as the chairman. The council also voted to donate 1/2 acre to the state for the court house reverting the earlier vote with Dave continuing to contest the idea.
I don't know if donating vs lease was the right idea. Heck for all I know Merrimack may have been better off letter Bedford donate their land. I do know however that this issue blew up far beyond what it should have and allowed members to get far more heated with each other then was called for. I'm sure there is more to their disagreements then just this one issue as anyone who has ever followed politics knows that political discussions lead to disagreements. It's their very nature. I'm also fairly sure that this story hasn't ended here either with the new court house or with the dynamics of the Merrimack Council. One thing is for sure though... I will have plenty to write about!