The 15-member Keene City Council has a pair of vacancies after two members resigned this month.
Ward 4 Councilor Margaret M. “Maggie” Rice and At-large Councilor Bartlomiej K. “Bart” Sapeta stepped down from their posts within two weeks of one another.
Sapeta resigned in a letter Monday, in which he wrote that he’s in the process of relocating. First elected to fill the remainder of state Sen. Jay V. Kahn’s seat on the council in February 2017, Sapeta was in his first full two-year term and up for re-election this fall.
Sapeta emailed City Clerk Patricia A. Little April 4 and said he had a family matter and wouldn’t be able to attend most meetings within the next three to four weeks.
From the first week in March through June 6, there were seven council meetings, one budget hearing and four meetings of the planning, licenses and development committee, of which he was a member. Sapeta missed nine of those 12 meetings.
After initially responding to a reporter’s request for comment, Sapeta was not reachable for an interview.
Rice submitted her letter of resignation to the city June 7, less than halfway through her first four-year term. She told The Sentinel last month that she planned to step down after her lease expired in early June because she was moving out of her ward. Rice also said she intends to focus on her continuing pre-medical school studies.
Mayor Kendall W. Lane told The Sentinel Thursday that this is the first time he’s seen two councilors resign at the same time.
While the council can still hold a quorum with two vacancies, Lane pointed out that it can run into problems with measures that have special vote requirements. The proposed closure of Ami Brown Road as part of the ongoing Cheshire Rail Trail loop project, for instance, stipulates that only councilors who were present for a recent site visit can vote.
“We’re only going to have nine councilors right now that are eligible to vote on that issue,” Lane said. “So if any of those councilors are absent, we’ll start running into issues.”
And the vacancies will remain for at least the next six weeks.
To replace councilors mid-term, residents file for candidacy as they would for a typical election, but the winner is decided by vote of the sitting councilors as opposed to the general public. Those interim councilors will serve from Aug. 1 through the end of the year.
They can run in the city’s November elections, if they choose — along with any other residents who file their candidacy — to fill the seats.
The filing period for both interim seats will run from July 2 through July 15, according to Lane. At the July 18 City Council meeting, he plans to announce all the candidates who will have filed for the two positions, and councilors will vote for the replacements at their meeting Aug. 1.
Lane said he wanted to give candidates, residents and councilors a couple of weeks to digest the information before voting.
Thursday night, Lane pointed out to the council that the filing period for the November election starts just a few weeks later on Aug. 21.
During that election, Ward 4 will have two seats up for grabs on the ballot: one for two years, representing the remainder of Rice’s term, and a regular four-year ward seat, since Councilor Robert S. Sutherland is up for re-election.
“I’m afraid people are going to be confused as to what they’re filing for,” Lane said. “... I’m going to do everything that I can to try to minimize the confusion as to what’s going on.”
As for the interim positions, Councilor David C. Richards noted Thursday that whoever gets voted in first will have to immediately sit on the council and vote to fill the second seat.
Laughing, Richards and Lane said the candidates will need to come prepared to what could potentially be their first meeting.
LANGDON — The Langdon Congregational Church figures into almost every momentous occasion in Doug Beach’s life. He got married there, and so did his sisters, brother, daughter and niece. He buried his dad there two years ago. Beach remembers seeing the white wooden structure on his way to the Sarah Porter Elementary School and the countless hours he spent there on Easter, Christmas and during Sunday school.
The 1842 building has punctuated his 63 years, he said, as it has for many of town’s roughly 700 residents. But the church on Village Road has seen better days. Its floors and foundation need work, he said, as does its roof.
And Beach, who chairs the church’s board of directors and co-chairs the building committee, wants to make that happen. Restoring the only church in town, he added, would mean residents would have a place to worship not just on major holidays, but every Sunday. The church doesn’t have its own pastor, Beach explained, but Maureen Lasell, who leads the Third Congregational Church of Alstead, holds services there on holidays.
The goal is to preserve the historic character of the church for future generations, Beach said.
“It sounds foolish, but we’re looking to spend a whole lot of money keeping (the church) the same,” he said.
The N.H. State Register of Historic Places landmark has had some renovations over the years. The church was painted, and the floor had been repaired in part. But the floor joists are disintegrating, and the church’s foundation has to be replaced, Beach said. The roof rafters, he added, are breaking, and the building needs a wheelchair-accessible entrance.
The church intends to make all of these improvements in two phases: First, a church-hired contractor will repair the roof, a smaller project for which the building committee already has the $6,800 it needs. The second phase — repairing the floors and foundation and adding wheelchair access — will cost roughly $160,000, about half of which would come from a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program grant the church plans to apply for. The other $80,000, Beach said, would come from other sources, including private donations. The organization already received a $9,646 matching grant from LCHIP last year to plan the renovation.
“We’ve got a road map now, we know what we need to do to get the building up and running for the 21st century,” said Dennis McClary, chairman of the advisory Langdon Heritage Commission who also volunteered to write the 2018 LCHIP grant.
But this renovation project won’t be the church’s last. Beach said the building could use running water, and repairs to its steeple, among other updates, all of which are on the books for a later date.
In the meantime, the committee plans to raise part of the money for the floor and foundation project through fundraisers, one of which is slated for this weekend. Saturday’s yard- and art-sale will feature artwork from Langdon native Caroline Cross, who died last year. According to her obituary, Cross’ work was frequently on display in Keene and elsewhere in the area.
Cross traveled all over the world and was known regionally for her oil paintings, according to her niece, Lorraine Chaffee, who said she drew people and landscapes and also reproduced old photographs.
Some of her work will be on sale Saturday, with the proceeds benefiting the renovation project.
Chaffee, who also lives in Langdon, said her aunt would have loved helping with the church project. When the Meeting House nearby was being renovated roughly a decade ago, she noted, Cross drew the building, and the committee in charge of the renovation made and sold postcards and prints of the piece to raise money for the project.
The Congregational Church was important to Cross, who grew up next door and used it as the subject of her paintings on several occasions, according to her niece. The art sale, she said, honors her aunt’s spirit and commitment to the town.
For his part, Beach said that though it’s a major undertaking, the restoration is within reach.
“With the support that the townspeople have given to us, this is a very doable project,” he said. “It’s a ton of work, it’s gonna take time, but ... Langdon has the personnel and the personality to be able to do this project.”
The art and yard sale is slated for Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Langdon Congregational Church on Village Road. For more information, visit the church’s Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/LangdonCongregationalChurch/