Commissioners deal with pole barn collapse, budget issues


December 06, 2012
OSSIPEE — "As much as I hate to come to the Commissioners with bad news, the cat's already out of the bag. We had a problem with the pole barn. It went over on us this weekend. I don't exactly know what went wrong," said Carroll County Farm Manager Will DeWitte told Carroll County Commissioners at their Nov. 28 meeting.

He suggested high winds were to blame for the collapse and that perhaps a microburst came through and knocked it over. "We knew the wind was strong out there, but didn't know it was that strong," said DeWitte, calling the Nov. 24 pole barn collapse a "small setback for now." As reported last week, insurance adjusters were set to visit the site but as of press time this week there was no word on their findings.

DeWitte told commissioners on Nov. 28 that the town's building inspector came out while the building of the 30-foot by 120-foot pole barn, being constructed to store firewood, was in process. "He seemed to think it was very strong…He was shocked it went down," said DeWitte. The plan, as of Nov. 28, was to clean up the collapse and salvage as many of the building materials as possible before it gets covered in snow and then store the material until next spring when the barn will be rebuilt. DeWitte said the building inspector has been "very helpful" and has given a lot of good suggestions about extra things that can be done to help it stand up to the wind next time. "We're not out a lot of money, about either side of $15,000 in total," he said.

Because the pole barn construction is now back on his to-do list for 2013, DeWitte asked the commissioners to cut about $3,300 from his proposed budget with which he planned to purchase two calves and supplies needed to raise them. DeWitte said he just won't have time to take on that new program now.

Waiting on parts for six weeks, DeWitte expressed frustration that during this prime time of processing firewood, the farm's wood processor is down. Commissioners will be supporting DeWitte's request to spend $67,000 on a new processor. Using wood cut from the county's Ossipee property, the County Farm supplies firewood to state parks and to customers who receive firewood through Tri-County Community Action. The program brings in about $35,000 in revenue to the county.

Jail budget

Throughout the past month, the weekly commissioner's meetings have been mainly reserved for presentations of proposed 2013 budgets. Budget time is a time of compromise. Those who write the budget and those who approve it don't always agree on what's important. Jail Superintendent Jason Johnson made it clear at the Nov. 28 commissioner's meeting, however, that he won't be held liable for the commissioner's cuts to his request for additional security measures.

The annual county budget process takes about six months. Department heads prepare their budget and present it to the commissioners, who then whittle it down and finalize their version of it. Department heads then meet with the county delegation subcommittee assigned to their department to explain their budget. The subcommittee and the department head then go to meetings of the full 15-member delegation to present the budget. The delegation is ultimately responsible for approving the final county budget. That group has been known to either make further cuts, or in some cases, add items back into the budget that had been cut by the commissioners.

Going into this year's budget, Johnson requested two additional corrections officers, improved interior security cameras that scan rather than remain stationary as the current ones do, a new telephone system, and a perimeter fence around the entire jail complex. Commissioners went so far as to hear presentations and receive bids from vendors for the jail subcommittee-recommended telephone system and Johnson got bids for the perimeter fence. Commissioners approved the hiring of two new officers and the union-negotiated increase of 40 cents per hour pay raises for all corrections staff. In their final budget, commissioners cut out funding for the perimeter fence.

At the Nov. 28 meeting, Johnson told them, "I want it to reflect in the minutes I strongly discourage that. I want a letter placed in my personnel file that I will be released from liability for anything that happens pertaining to that decision. We know that there have been issues, contraband introduced into the recreation yard. There has been an escape. A secure perimeter was recommended some nine or 10 years ago. The liability question will be, 'what did you know, when did you know and what did you do about it.' You know we've had problems and you don't want to take actions to correct it. I don't want to be held responsible for it."

Sorensen said Johnson wouldn't be held liable, the county would. "We are supporting quite a raise for the union people and supporting two new people….just how far can we go?" asked Sorensen who suggested, "We put off the perimeter fence for another year." Commissioners also decided not to fund the new phone system.

Other meeting news

This year's county budget process has some elected officials, who won't be in office come January, preparing budgets for 2013– County Commissioner Dorothy Solomon, Sheriff Christopher Conley, and County Attorney Tom Dewhurst. The proposed budget has been finalized and sent to the state. When it goes to delegation review in January, the new officials will be working off a budget that was already prepared. In a refreshing twist, sheriff-elect Domenic Richardi has been involved in the 2013 budget preparation for the department and joined Lt. Michael Santuccio at the commission table to budget review, at Conley's request.

According to the MS-46 Form submitted to NH Department of Revenue Administration, the proposed county budget is up $885,434 to $28,021,825. Commissioners blame the budget increase, mainly on items they "have no control over" including pay increases for employees and related payroll expenses, and rising cost of health insurance.

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