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Motion to bring fire chief back receives no second

Selectman David Bickford, residents, ask selectmen to bring back Peter Varney

by Tim Croes
Staff Writer - The Baysider
May 28, 2014
NEW DURHAM — Selectman David Bickford made an attempt to bring back Peter Varney as the New Durham Fire Chief during the board of selectmen meeting on Monday, May 19, but his motion received no seconds.

Bickford felt that the Varney could be brought back as the fire chief. Varney has filed a lawsuit against the town. Bickford read letters from Fire Chief Fowler of Farmington and Fire Chief Scott Williams of Alton supporting Varney.

Bickford made a motion to reappoint Varney as the chief, but the motion died for the lack of a second by either David Swenson of Terry Jarvis.

Bickford said that if the town brought Varney back on as chief, the lawsuit would go away.

Resident Ann Ruel brought forward a petition with 163 signatures asking that Varney be reinstated as chief. The petition was presented to Bickford.

Bickford said that Paul Sanderson said it would be good to discuss the issue about the former fire chief with the town attorney. Bickford feels the selectmen should meet with the town attorney regarding the issue.

During public input, questions were raised about the administrative leave of Valerie and Marc Behr and when they would back on with the fire department.

The board approved a motion to authorize a veterans exemption.

The board discussed a finalized version of the welfare guidelines with Laura Zuzgo and approved a final draft of the document.

During public input, Gregory Anthes voiced concern about the town not bringing Varney back as the fire chief.

Jeffrey Kratovil talked about concerns about part-time police department employee Katie Woods and hours spent in the office.

The board met with Police Chief Shawn Bernier and he provided the board with statistics on how the department compares to Gilmanton and Strafford County.

Bickford questioned why New Durham couldn't trim the number of officers and pointed to Barnstead as an example. Bernier said he had spoken to the Barnstead Police Chief and that they are having problems in the town and that the department is understaffed.

The board approved for Bernier to apply for a Class VI OHRV Grant from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department totaling $1,080.

The board also met with Mike Clarke, the road agent, and he reported that the budget is $32,000 less than last year's budget. Clarke said he is working on getting data on how the town compares to other towns in the area, but it's hard to compare the towns because they have different roads to maintain. He asked the board if it would be reviewing its purchasing policy in the near future.

The board also met with Joe Bloskey, the solid waste foreman. He was asked if he would be hiring a part-time employee and said he would be for the summer months.

Kratovil came forward with a treatise on the town's fund balance. He was thanked for providing the information.

The board reviewed the town administrator's report and approved offering a conditional offer for the position of town treasurer for the stipend position.

The board discussed a donation that was given by the conservation commission to Moose Mountain Regional Greenways.

The board feels the commission didn't have authority to make a donation, and requested that the town administrator write a letter requesting that the monies be given back to the town.

The board approved the minutes of May 5 and April 21.

The board approved invoices for $4,380.63 for police dispatch and $2,333 for fire EMS dispatch.

Kratovil voiced his concern on a number of topics including concerns about the Creative Kids Club, suggested a study of the police department and questions about an investigation into the fire department by the state.

Other members of the public also voiced concern about the state investigating the fire department.

The next scheduled meeting of the New Durham Board of Selectmen is on Monday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the New Durham Town Hall.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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