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Selectmen review goals, talk perambulation

New Durham board also briefed on new ambulance

by Mark Foynes
Contributing writer - The Baysider
June 06, 2017
NEW DURHAM — Following a discussion of routine business, the New Durham selectmen provided an update on several goals the board set for itself earlier this year.

The June 1 session began with wishes of condolences to Fire Chief Peter Varney and Police Chief Shawn Bernier - both of whom lost close family members recently.

The BOS next heard from Neal Burns of the NDFD regarding the acquisition of a new ambulance. He said the chassis was paid for upfront, and that custom modifications would ensue. Upgrades will start in late June and take place over the next several months. A completion date is targeted for early October. In the interim, the NDFD is using a loaner ambulance that is being provided to the town, per its agreement with the vendor.

Among the features of this new asset is a self-loading stretcher that will help load care receivers onto the ambulance with minimal manual lifting. Burns said this feature will "reduce wear and tear" on personnel transporting people from an emergency site onto the ambulance. There will also be a motorized stair chair to help personnel navigate steps in getting a client from their home to ground level.

Burns said some equipment has been deemed fit for resale to other municipalities, while most of the current equipment will be transferred to the new Dodge ambulance.

As for the current unit, Burns noted that the town has a solid offer of $3,500 - but that the department intends to put the vehicle out to public bid to see if the market will yield a higher price.

Among the equipment that won't be repurposed is the present stretcher. Burns said that Middleton has expressed an interest in buying the stretcher. Selectman David Swenson said the town should endeavor to exchange the property with the neighboring town as a partial in-kind payment for a recent perambulation project discussed later in this piece.

During public input, Ellen Phillips noted a five-figure discrepancy in the police budget. She said that as a budget committee member, she has access to budget figures and said that there is a delta of perhaps $12k-$14k in the personnel line.

Selectman Swenson said that the variance is a function of fiscal year timing and when month-to-month expenses hit the books. He added that this is not a departmental budget management issue, that numbers are on track, and there will be no effect on the town's hiring an additional police officer, per the town-approved budget.

During Scott Kinmond's town administrator report, the TA noted that Allstate Asphalt will apply a chip seal protective coating to Berry Road later in the month. The $35k expense will be covered by a $20k CRF transfer, with the remainder covered through the public works budget.

Kinmond also proposed a means of disposing of surplus town property via an online sale. Some examples might include office furniture, computers slated for replacement, and other non-capital property. Swenson said he wanted to see a policy in place that would provide certain safeguards to ensure preference isn't given to certain buyers. Selectman Rod Doherty agreed but added that he wouldn't want to hinder efforts to dispose of unwanted items.

The board agreed that a dollar threshold should be determined to guide what Kinmond can dispose of himself - and what might require BOS consultation.

The board also made some adjustments to purchase orders relating to paving and repairs to a 2015 Dodge 5500 at Kinmond's request.

The BOS also considered the Capital Improvement Program Committee's meeting schedule. They recommended that the group meet nine times over the next two and a half months. Meetings will be held weekly on Wednesdays, with the exception of one Wednesday when the planning board also meets. The goal will be for the group to be in a position to make recommendations to the budget committee when it convenes in the fall.

Currently, at-large CIPC members are appointed to one-year terms. This means there is the potential for 100 percent annual turnover. In the interest of ensuring, in Swenson's words, "some continuity" and "retaining some institutional knowledge," he suggested that the at-large term be extended to two years. This would begin with an extension of Terry Jarvis' term being extended by a year. The BOS approved this measure.

Kinmond also spoke about progress on the perambulation with Middleton. This involves confirming that the boundary between the two communities remains mutually-agreeable. The practice of perambulation goes back centuries to a time when surveying practices were less precise than they are now. One selectman questioned the need for its continuance. Town historian Cathy Orlowicz, who's participated in past perambulations - including the one involving the "Five Corners," said that the practice is a longstanding tradition that is embedded in N.H. RSAs, obliging the town to comply.

Orlowicz said that the monuments marking the Middleton-New Durham boundary are easy to find. She added that many of the markers are granite features that have been chiseled with documented markings. Selectman Cecile Chase volunteered to accompany a field effort to relocate these monuments as part of the effort.

Earlier in the year, the board agreed on a set of goals relating to specific policies and various projects.

High among these goals was a cyanobacteria mitigation initiative. Cyano blooms in the past two years have resulted in government advisories regarding Downings Pond along the Merrymeeting River waterway. The pathogen can cause skin burns, nervous system impacts, and alter local ecosystems.

Doherty is the BOS liaison to efforts to explore and remediate the effects of the toxic algae. He said he was "struck by the level of local, state, and EPA officials" at a meeting covered in a recent issue of the Baysider.

Doherty said the next stakeholders meeting will take place in Alton on June 22. He predicted, "This will not be a short process," which "will likely take years to fully address." He said continued testing is slated for 2017, while the cross-functional group concurrently deliberates strategies to restore water health.

The Zechariah Boodey House Committee was meeting the same night. Committee chair Orlowicz came to the BOS meeting after her group adjourned; she said she would brief the board at a future meeting.

Regarding the 1772 Meetinghouse, it was noted that there is a June 7 RFP deadline for work to be done on the historic building's foundation. This is the second issuance of such an RFP - the first of which yielded only one bid. Funding for the project is provided by a grant from the N.H. LCHIP program, and matched locally. The town currently has an extension from LCHIP to accommodate the extended timeline.

Another BOS goal involves a revision to the town personnel policy. The board requested an Excel spreadsheet that lays out current policies, proposed changes, and a description of the proposed changes. The BOS reckoned that an August review represents a realistic deadline.

For the immediate future, the BOS is meeting monthly - but remains open to meeting in the interim on an as-needed basis. A meeting calendar is available on the town web site.

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