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Selectmen debate election location and more

June 13, 2017
ALTON — The Alton Board of Selectmen meeting on the evening of June 5 began with the announcement that the town clerk and tax collector offices would be closed on Wednesday, June 7, due to their attendance to an educational workshop session. Town administrator Elizabeth Dionne and board members Virgil MacDonald, John Markland and Philip Wittmann were present.

The public hearing portion of the session focused on road reconstruction on Barnes Avenue. It was discussed that there will be "minor brush cutting" along the sides of the road and replaced or renovated culverts "within the next few weeks." The road will then be grinded, grated, compacters will be used to "put the road back together," and two inches of pavement will be placed. One year will pass and a wear coat will be placed on top to correct anything that was missed the first time.

Moving on to appointments, Attorney Francis Brutton, representing Colchester Properties, LLC approached the table at the front of the meeting room in town hall. Colchester Properties had a request to unmerge map 39 lot 11, but a consultant was unable to attend the meeting, so Brutton requested to have the discussion on the topic during the next board of selectmen meeting, which was granted.

Next was Levey Park trustee Jonathan Downing, representing the Parks and Recreation office, for an update on Levey Park. Maps of the public park were distributed throughout the room. Downing explained that the 94-year-old park is supported mostly by trusts, not taxes. "There is no burden on the town," he emphasized. Downing also discussed with the selectmen that there is currently a $500 discrepancy from yearly donations. The money goes primarily toward maintenance of the trails and trees, in order to keep it safe for visitors to explore. "Our budget is very minimal," he said.

He and other trustees are hoping to develop the Kettle Hole, a cleared area in the center of the park, for concerts and potentially powwows like those that were held there by Native American tribes.

The park has access to the Merrymeeting River for kayaking and other activities, and it has "one of the most gorgeous views of the lake," as Downing described.

The selectmen showed interest and concern in the financial discrepancy and the value of the park for the town. MacDonald asked if there was anything the town could do to help, and Downing replied that help would be appreciated if anything major comes up. Right now, it is manageable on their own.

Continuing, there was an update by the planning board, with representatives including Chairman Peter Bolster and Vice-Chairman Roger Sample. They highlighted that there are currently five vacancies for alternates for planning board meetings.

They then transitioned into excavation regulations, which have been recently updated, and residents who own gravel pits have been informed of these updated regulations.

The planning board members then moved on to goals for 2017. They want to update site plan review regulations, update construction observation guidelines, "reinvigorate" the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) (they will review the policy handbook at a meeting on June 20), and update the 2007 master plan.

Lastly, they discussed regional planning. One speaker said that the planning board voted unanimously to stay involved, because it helps "keep you plugged in with neighboring communities and what's going on in your region."

In the first public input session, two community members came forward to discuss their respective stances on the election location and police control of traffic allegedly being more frequent around noontime in the citizen's area of town than when school is starting or ending.

Two of the four topics of discussion for new business were tabled, the review of assessments to sales report for 2017 by tax assessor Tom Sargent, and the proposal and approval for the police department to lease or purchase a boat.

Approval was given to Parks and Recreation purchase a Billy Goat Leaf Collection System from Turf Depot in Portsmouth. The budget was $3,100, and the quote for a unit with an electric start was $2,810.49. It will be used by Parks and Recreation and the Cemetery Department, and will allow for the departments to be "more efficient and produce less waste."

Approval was also given for the New Hampshire Boat Museum to use the town docks on Aug. 12 from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. for a boat show.

The issue of the sidewalks on Main Street near and in front of Village Fitness, as well as by Bizzy Bear's Corner Store was brought up. Ramps were determined to be needed by the corner store that are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, and the sidewalk on parts of Main Street need to meet ADA standards as well. Tristate Curb in Weare will be doing the work for $2,400 for the Main Street project and $31,803 by the bay.

A lease agreement with the Lakes Region Tourism Association was re-reviewed. The current contract between the town and LRTA requires no lease payment. Dionne suggested a $1 per year lease to make the contract legal.. Wittmann countered with a suggestion of a $100 lease from May to October.

It was concluded that the lease agreement would be reopened and tabled while costs that other towns charge for similar services are analyzed.

There will be a meeting with the cyanobacteria committee open to the public at the Gilman Museum on June 22 at 7 p.m. Even with excess rain, pH levels are high in the rivers for this time of year, and untreated, cyanobacteria may begin to affect lakes. Sunlight hitting the bottom of the water body, a high pH value, and particularly high water temperatures, among other factors, contribute to growth of cyanobacteria.

One of the final topics debated was the election location. Representatives from the school board, as well as the town moderator, described that elections in Alton began at the fire station, but as the population grew, it was moved to the high school gymnasium, and then to the auditorium so it wouldn't be as far of a walk for the elderly. Voting during the presidential election last year took place at a Catholic church in town, but there were complaints from West Alton residents about the distance to the church. Dionne explained that an offer was made to use the Christian Conference Center in Alton Bay, and a representative speaking about the election locations said that the church has asked the elections to continue.

Several options for modifications of the aforementioned previously-used locations were suggested, but the debate will continue.

It's "good to know we have options," said one of the speakers.

In July, since Monday, July 3 is the night of the fireworks at the bay, it was decided that the first board of selectmen meeting of the month would be Wednesday, July 5, and the following meeting would occur as scheduled on Monday, July 17.

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