July 19, 2012WAKEFIELD — After having discussed the idea at their meeting on June 27, Wakefield selectmen decided on July 11 to add a shorter afternoon meeting on the Wednesdays when they do not hold an evening meeting.
The first such meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 18, at 3:30 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room. That meeting may include a visit to the highway department garage, since highway department issues will be the focus of the extra meeting.
Also on the agenda for the July 11 meeting was a discussion of Town Hall hours, but Selectman Chair Ken Paul asked to table it. Selectmen are considering changing the hours that Town Hall is open to include one hour on Wednesday evenings. Town Administrator Teresa Williams has said that employees want to meet with selectmen before a decision is made, and that was one good reason to postpone the discussion.
Selectmen had two scheduled appointments on July 11. The first was with Dave Babson of Ossipee who has filed to run for County Commissioner in the District Two seat currently held by Dorothy Solomon (D-Albany). In the Sept. 6 Republican primary he faces off against Ossipee Selectman Kathleen Maloney and Jack Rose of Albany.
Babson said he is finishing his seventh term as N.H. Representative, not counting two terms he took off. During his absence from the House he said he attended 99 percent of Carroll County Commission meetings. He described the first meetings he went to as "secret" – too many nonpublic sessions: now they are more open.
Babson said he is running because he believe a $25 million operation like Carroll County "can be run on a more businesslike basis." He gave five priorities:
1) "There have been an ungodly amount of grievances," he said, noting that the county paid $17,417.50 in legal fees on one and now another 13-page grievance has also been filed. "Something needs to be done" about this situation.
2) The budgeting cycle needs to be changed from starting on Jan. 1 to July 1. As it is the delegation has until March 31 to approve a proposal prepared by the commissioners by Dec. 1.
3) The county needs to make better use of its 900-acre farm. Babson applauded the hiring of Farm Manager Will DeWitt three years ago. He said DeWitt has made great strides despite little support from the county delegation in producing camp firewood, blueberries and lately raising pigs and putting county jail prisoners to work.
4) The other 9,000 acres owned by the county but not open to the public needs to be put to use.
5) The county also has to resolve a request from three county towns (Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro) that do their own police and dispatching to get a tax break base don not using the County Sheriff's dispatch. Allowing tax breaks would mean higher costs for other county towns.
Selectman Peter Kasprzyk responded by saying that he gets offended when government competes with local businesses like those who sell firewood. He went on to say he had no problem putting prisoners to work, but not to compete with private enterprise.
Babson said that DeWitt has a contract with the state to supply camp firewood and does not compete with those who sell firewood for wood stove or bunches of camp firewood from the side of the road. He added that there is no competition in pigs.
Kasprzyk said he could get pigs locally very easily.
Babson said he agreed the county should not compete with private enterprise.
Paul said that privatization is the way things are going.
Selectman Charlie Edwards asked what the plan is for the old nursing home building.
Babson said it can be used for many purposes, including housing the UNH Coop Extension. "It should not be torn down," he said.
Kasprzyk gave his opinion that the new nursing home was "money well spent to get the patients out of that old cinderblock hell" of the old nursing home. He then asked Babson in what way the county could benefit Wakefield.
Babson said that inmates can help and have helped do project in a number of towns.
Kasprzyk then asked why the jail can't be self-supporting, at least in terms of food. They could raise food on the farm for the nursing home as well as the jail – instead of competing with private businesses in other areas.
Babson said the delegation won't give the money to get that started. Also teams working outside are limited to six at a time. The court has to order that a given inmate be allowed to work outside. Nonetheless, the idea of being self-supporting is a good one.
Ossipee Selectman and State Rep. Harry Merrow also addressed Wakefield selectmen during the public comment period, saying he is running for re-election in a new district that now includes Brookfield, Effingham and Wakefield as well as Ossipee. His goal was to introduce himself to as many of his new constituents as possible.
Merrow said he is a New Hampshire native from a family that has been in Ossipee for 200 years, most recently in the timber business. He earned an Electrical Engineering degree at UNH, served in the Air Force and had a 30-year career in industry. He has been an Ossipee selectman for 14 years and has served eight years as a state representative.
The board's second scheduled appointment was with the new Superintendent of School Administrative Unit (SAU) 64, Jay McIntire. McIntire was accompanied by Wakefield School Board Chairman Priscilla Colbath.
McIntire introduced himself by saying he was born in Rochester and grew up in Milton, so he is familiar with the area. This is his third superintendent's job. His first was in Wiscasset, Maine for 18 months: that district consolidated and his position was eliminated. The last three years were spent in SAU 13, which combines Freedom, Madison and Tamworth. McInitire said three years was the average tenure for a superintendent in New Hampshire. A major reason for coming to SAU 64 was the need to spend more time with his family: in SAU 13 he met with four boards, and meeting with only two boards "is a big improvement."
He pointed out that Paul School is in the midst of change, with new Principal Jerry Gregoire now on board and interviews being conducted for a new assistant principal. He stated clearly that he wants to look at turnover at Paul School. "Turnover is costly," he said. It is important to find out why it is happening and to take steps to reduce it, and the school boards is supportive of his commitment to do something about the problem.
Edwards remarked that the school seems to go through a principal every year or two.
Colbath said she was surprised that the Assistant Principal Doug Perley is leaving but he found a job closer to his home in Maine. Former Superintendent Gail Kushner went to a single-school district, which to her was an improvement over supervising two schools. She said the trend in New Hampshire is for SAUs to break up.
Colbath stated that the new principal has a three-year contract, which she said was "a step in the right direction."
McIntire said the school should consider a two-year contract for the new assistant principal.
Beyond working on the problem of turnover, McIntire said the school should focus on hiring the best people and not hesitate to seek legal consultation in advance of taking any action. He also said that he doesn't want people "skipping steps in the chain of command" when there is a problem.
Edwards gave his view that stability is important for children – "they suffer otherwise" – and that teachers should be more team-oriented and "less cliquey." He told McIntire that he was the board's liaison with the school board and looked forward to working with him.
Local channels issue
Resident Jim Miller reported that Time-Warner Cable stopped offering Channels 8 and 9 this week. He complained that this was on top of losing channels 2, 4 and 5 from Boston earlier.
While he acknowledged that the Board of Selectmen cannot dictate to Time-Warner what they offer, he presented the board with copies of the channel lineup from Metrocast Cable, whose monthly basic plan costs the same as Time-Warner but they offer the Boston channels as well as WMUR, New Hampshire's only statewide channel.
"Perhaps we should reach out to Metrocast," he said. "Time-Warner is not interested in giving people what they want."
Edwards reiterated his view that the former cable committee should be reestablished in order to deal with issues like this as well as helping the public access channel.
Station Manager Jerry O'Connor said it would be tough to kick Time-Warner out. He said according to Attorney Kate Miller the town would have to prove that the company treated customers badly.
Resident Dave Mankus supported Edwards on reforming the cable committee. He said he knows someone whose town was able to change cable companies and it happened in one day.
The consensus was to explore contacting Metrocast to see if there is an option.
Town Administrator Williams reported that Attorney Miller said that negotiations with Time-Warner should start in August. Paul suggested that Miller tell Time-Warner the town is having second thoughts, base don comments heard that evening.
The board approved applying 12 percent annual interest on sewer accounts more than 30 days overdue.
After some discussion selectmen accepted a bid of $300 for the former police cruiser last used by Code Enforcement Office Arthur Capello. Edwards felt the car was worth more for its steel but then someone would have to work on that.
Selectmen signed an agreement that spells out who does what on the upcoming Brackett Road project.
Kasprzyk reported that the Heritage Commissions did more plantings in front on the Railorad Station and that sheetrock is being installed shortly in the Freight House. The commission is looking for donor to buy plaques for $500 or more as family memorials to raise funds. Commission Chair Pam Judge added that $9,000 needs to be raised by the fall.
The new Vehicle Maintenance Committee had met the previous day. Kasprzyk reported that the school board is considering putting its buses out for lease but would consider sharing the cost of a maintenance person if the buses are retained. The Police Department supports having its vehicle serve done that the highway department. Paul suggested the committee consider approaching a large servicer to see what they would offer for a fixed maintenance contract.
Town Administrator Williams said she was wrong when she said at the last meeting that the highway capital reserve could only be used for new equipment. It can be used to purchase used, and, as a result, Road Agent Fred Clough wants to meet with the board to consider a 2006 Terex backhoe for the highway department.
Williams said Milton has asked to park their buses in the highway department lot for the summer. The board was not in favor for security reasons.
The board also approved an invasive species grant for Balch Lake and discussed closing issues on the Union Meadow conservation property: see separate story in this issue.
The Wakefield Board of Selectmen will hold a short meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, at the Town Hall. The next regular meeting will be on Wednesday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.