November 20, 2013WEST STEWARTSTOWN — Either Sheriff Gerry Marcou or Deputy Sheriff Keith Roberge, both of Gorham, will be on hand in uniform, including a sidearm, at all Coös County commissioners' meetings.
This decision was reached by consensus and not by a recorded vote at Wednesday's monthly commissioners' meeting after considerable discussion at which both Marcou and Roberge were on hand.
Chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson first brought up the topic, pointing out that as chairman he wanted to ensure that Sheriff Marcou would be on hand to maintain the commissioners' and county employees' safety.
Vice chairman Commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin sought to add that item to the agenda.
The idea was sparked by County Commissioner Rick Samson of Stewartstown's angry response to losing a vote on a bid award during a special evening meeting on Oct. 17, held to determine which of two firms would be awarded the contract to appraise the Granite Reliable Power wind farm in Millsfield and Dixville, both Unincorporated Places.
Samson glared at Brady and yanked a sheaf of papers out of his hands. When Brady told him firmly not to get in his face that way again, Samson apologized.
On Wednesday, both Brady and Grenier voted to add the item to the printed agenda, and Samson abstained.
Samson asked to review the board's policy on adding items to the agenda. Both commissioners not serving as chairman can ask the chairman through the county administrator to add an item to the agenda, Grenier explained. If the chairman does not agree, however, then the item can be brought forward under the agenda line: "Approval of the agenda." If the majority votes "yes," then the item is added.
Brady said he follows Robert's Rules of Order and does not lean on previous chairmen's practices. He declined to respond to Samson's request that he describe on what criteria he bases his decisions.
Samson asked if county forester Brendan Prusik could be scheduled come to a board meeting to set "landowner's goals and objectives" before developing a draft management for the county-owned lands around the nursing home. Brady said he would schedule him for an hour at the board's Jan. 2014 meeting.
Samson then requested that the draft Oct. 17 minutes be corrected to reflect his view of the action: that Grenier had cut off discussion by moving the question on the motion to award a $25,000 contract to low bidder George E. Sansoucy, P.E., Appraisal Services, while he was still describing advantages of going with MRV of N.J, that bid $58,000. "I believe you had every opportunity to discuss the matter," Grenier said, noting that the discussion had lasted 45 minutes.
"You didn't see the full results of my seven hours of research," Samson replied.
"I do my own research," Brady retorted.
Samson's motion to amend the Oct. 17 draft minutes was defeated, 1 to 2, with Samson voting "yes."
The motion to accept the minutes as drafted passed on a 2 to 1 vote, with Samson voting "no."
John Amey of Pittsburg said that he had served on a number of boards and understood the desire to have law enforcement on hand. Amey also noted that the local press had recently reported that Berlin's tax burden would be reduced by $129,000 due to the increased valuations in Millsfield and Dixville, thanks to the wind farm.
"Every other Coös community has also benefitted," Brady said.
Grenier agreed with Amey's statement that the new renewable energy project in Berlin would increase the percentage of what the City will pay as its share of county taxes.
Both Roberge and Marcou pointed out that having an armed guard at commissioners' meeting would not cost taxpayers an extra dime since one or both already attend these meetings.
Colebrook resident Mary Ellen Hasselbacher, who recently returned to her North Country roots, said, "I'm some disappointed with the wind turbines in Dixville; the wind farm takes away the wildness… in a fragile area. … Not everybody thinks they're great!" She also urged that the nursing home be maintained in West Stewartstown.
"I hate to see contentious feelings up there," Hasselbacher said.
Later Samson nominated Paula Swett of Millsfield to fill the single vacant alternate's seat on the Coös Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places. His motion was not seconded, however.
Brady said he is attempting to get someone from the Carroll area to serve because it has had little voice in county matters, despite paying the second highest county tax. The town is also adjacent to a number of Unincorporated Places.
Planning Board vice chairman and county treasurer Fred King of Colebrook stated that two Planning Board members or alternates live in both Districts 1 and 2, with six living in District 3, represented by Samson, plus ex-officio member Jennifer Fish.
When the agenda item on having an armed sheriff's Department member at all commissioners' meeting finally came up near meeting's end, Samson said that his years of military service gave him an edge over his two fellow commissioners.
Samson pointed out that in his frequent trips to the West Stewartstown facilities, he has always treated county employees with the "utmost respect." He accused Grenier of not accepting him as the replacement of former Cmr. Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg, who lost his final election bid. He also mentioned that Grenier is a used car salesmen.
Samson requested that a sealed set of minutes from a brief executive session held on Jan. 10 in advance of a joint meeting at the Berlin Nursing Home between the commissioners and county delegation of state representatives that Congresswoman Annie Kuster visited be unsealed since the issue had been resolved.
Samson predicted that making these minutes public would explain the tensions that have festered between him and the other commissioners.
(These minutes have not yet been found, however, and may not exist.)
"I'm sorry you feel threatened to me," Samson said.
Grenier noted that he is still amazed that Samson has written letters to editor and columns in the local press complaining about his fellow commissioners, including a chance meeting with King when he was already slated to have lunch with Judd.
"I had lunch in Colebrook with old elected colleagues with whom I've worked for over 20 years," he said.
In concluding that either the high sheriff or deputy sheriff should be on hand, Brady said, "I'm going to err on the side of my safety and that of county employees. It falls on my shoulders to err on the side of caution; we're not the insulated area we sometimes think we are."
In making his case, Brady, who sits between the two other commissioners, reached for some off-the-peg hyperbole: "I sometimes feel like I should wear a bullet-proof vest."
Other speakers had pointed out earlier in the meeting that the White Mountains Regional High School has a police officer on its premises during the school day, and that Carl Drega, a part-time Columbia resident, had gone on a shooting spree 16 years ago on Aug. 19, 1997 in Colebrook, gunning down four North Country residents: state police troopers Scott Phillips and Les Lord, part-time District Court Judge Vickie Bunnell, and Colebrook News and Sentinel editor Dennis Joos.
Brady reported in a short Saturday phone interview that Samson and Grenier had shaken hands after a very productive afternoon budget work session and had pledged to wipe the slate clean and in the future to work cooperatively together.