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Highway department issues top agenda for Barnstead selectmen

July 30, 2014
BARNSTEAD — The Barnstead Board of Selectmen began its July 22 meeting with a highway department meeting, discussing matters at length with Road Agent Jim Doucette.

Doucette informed the board the highway department was nearly finished with the work on Cold Bath Road. He assured the board his crew would be "off that road" by the end of the following week.

He also informed the board of a letter he received from the state of New Hampshire informing of their intent to overlay parts of Route 126, which would include an area from Route 28 to the town line.

Doucette stated there are three roads on 126 which have no aprons coming off of them and are, therefore, very dangerous when grading. He stated watching the blade on the grader makes it difficult to also watch for cars.

One of these roads is Depot Street.

"Depot Street, I would say, is the worst of all of them," stated Doucette.

He told the board the state is only planning to do a shim overlay on that area of road and if the town put a base coat coming out of Depot Street at a cost of around $350 to the town, then the state would overlay it.

Welch Road is another road Doucette felt could benefit with some work while the state is in the area.

Doucette informed the board it is difficult to see cars coming in either direction and an apron would be beneficial in that area.

The third road Doucette discussed was French Road, which he stated the town could "live without" improvements if they had to since it has "good visibility in both directions."

Chairman David Kerr, responded to Doucette's suggestions by saying they sounded like a "good idea."

Selectman Priscilla Tiede questioned when this work was scheduled to occur and Doucette told her September.

Tiede made a motion to approve the work proposed by Doucette. He interrupted to make sure the board was clear about the number he proposed was just an estimate.

The board went forward with the vote and unanimously approved the work in preparation for the state's work.

The board questioned Doucette regarding a bill the town received from the power company for the highway department tripping a breaker on a transformer.

Doucette explained his crew was cutting trees on Province Road when one hit wires tripping the transformer, "I didn't think they were going to dock me for it," stated Doucette.

Selectmen's Secretary Karen Montgomery agreed this type of bill was very unusual, saying she had never seen a bill like it before.

Selectman Andy Houle questioned if they should "fight it," but Kerr wanted to know what could be done to prevent a similar problem occurring again in the future.

"It is just one of those things…took a little too big of a tree and it went the wrong way," explained Doucette.

Kerr mentioned the employees have had a chainsaw safety course, but Doucette said the course covered mostly safety and they only dropped one tree during it, although it was a large one.

Kerr again asked how to keep this from happening again.

Selectman Ed Tasker said he felt the town should have "guys to cut trees who do it for a living."

Doucette agreed with Tasker, as did Kerr.

"It is a skilled job, particularly if we don't have the right equipment," said Kerr.

Tasker said another benefit of contracting the tree cutting out is the workers have their own insurance.

Kerr questioned how to handle the current bill, but Montgomery said she would like to hear back from the power company first so she could find out why the town was billed since this has never happened before.

Doucette said he was very surprised at the bill since the power company usually worked well with the highway department.

Tasker asked Doucette to provide a schedule of where, tentatively, he would be working from week to week.

Houle stated that would be more of a "wish list" since Doucette never knew for sure where he would be since he didn't know what would "come up."

Tasker recognized Houle's consideration, but asked for the schedule starting with the month of August.

Doucette recognized the need for Tasker's request saying he gave the board a list of his goals through June, but he needed to update it.

Fire truck grant

Acting Fire Chief Shawn Mulcahy met with the board of selectmen again regarding the grant the town has been awarded for a new fire rescue vehicle from FEMA, but before Mulcahy was present for the meeting the discussion began.

Houle stated the matter at hand was simple, "[We] just need to decide if we accept the grant. The rest is something we can bring to the people."

The issue got contentious quickly when Kerr challenged Houle as to whether he, himself, had read the grant.

Houle said the grant had "too many legalities for my little head," but even though he didn't understand all of it, he had read it.

Kerr also mentioned he would like to have another opinion regarding the frame separation on engine one to see if it is repairable since it is so expensive to replace.

Houle accused Kerr of not trusting his fire chief.

Tiede, however, intervened saying, "Andy, there is trust and there is disagreeing."

Kerr informed the board the town of Chichester has frame spread, which they are repairing.

When Mulcahy showed up for the meeting Houle immediately made a motion to go forward with the grant.

Tiede seconded the motion, but Tasker clarified the motion was for the forestry truck not the proposed upgraded vehicle.

Mulcahy reminded the board it was for the grant in general; what the town chooses to buy with the money is up to them at a later date and holds no bearing on just accepting the grant.

The board voted unanimously in favor of accepting the grant. Gordon Preston was not present at the meeting.

Kerr then told Mulcahy what he was discussing earlier with the other selectmen; he would like to have a second opinion on the frame spreading issue.

"Absolutely," agreed Mulcahy.

Kerr stated he would like it to be completed by the manufacturers of the truck and Mulcahy informed Kerr that the company would probably come to Barnstead to evaluate the truck if asked.

Houle questioned the average cost for frame replacement, but Mulcahy stated he was unsure since he only knew of one instance and it was a smaller truck. That truck, however, cost $70,000 to have the work done according to Mulcahy.

Tiede asked Mulcahy about the Chichester truck and Mulcahy stated he was unsure of all the details in that situation, but he believed it was under partial warranty, which Barnstead's was not.

Mulcahy stated he will look into the situation. He also stated he will work with Montgomery on the grant situation going forward so the selectmen will be aware of the progress.

"I am making fleet recommendations is what I am doing," stated Mulcahy and informed the board he will get them the contact information to have someone else look at engine one's frame.

Painting Town Hall

The board of selectmen again visited the idea of painting the Town Hall. They had put out for bids, received two, spoke with both candidates and considered alternative options such as having the Laconia inmates do the job, however, they were still in need of a final decision.

Tasker stated he did not think the Town Hall needed to be painted.

Doucette and Tiede both stated they have asked around and agreed with the one bidder who stated pressure washing would be detrimental to an older building like the Town Hall.

Houle made a motion to hire the lowest bidder. Tasker agreed, but stated he would want to direct the person to not pressure wash the building. He stated he would second the motion to move it along, but wanted the contractor to come in for directions regarding the pressure washing.

Kerr voted with Houle and Tasker, but Tiede was against the vote.

The Barnstead Board of Selectmen meets each Tuesday evening in the town hall at 5 p.m.

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