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Wakefield resident criticizes MRI report

Selectman complains about proposals not going to the voters

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
January 17, 2013
WAKEFIELD — Connie Twombley came to the Jan. 9 meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen to offer her critique of the report on town operations prepared by Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) last year and delivered on Nov. 14.

She prefaced her remarks by saying she respects MRI and its president, Don Jutton, who was Town Administrator in Wakefield some years back. Twombley then went on to detail her issues with the report.

The first issue was with the treatment of the Tax Collector's position. She objected to it being described as "redundant," and to the idea it could be combined with the Town Clerk's office.

Twombley also disagreed with the idea of appointing the Tax Collector. She described a situation years ago when am unnamed couple moved into town: he was elected a selectman and she was appointed Tax Collector without any knowledge of what was required for the position. Ironically the Deputy Tax Collector was elected. After that experience the decision was made to have the Tax Collector appointed.

She pointed out that at one time the Police Chief and Road Agent were also elected, not appointed.

Another problem with a combined office is a lack of privacy. Twombley cited the Ossipee town office, where both Town Clerk and Tax Collector share the same space. Sometimes people need to talk about making partial payments on taxes, for instance, and it is impossible to do that in a space where others can overhear. She added that the Finance Clerk should also have privacy in a room where the door could be closed.

A last point about combining positions Twombley said is that the townspeople have said they don't want them combined.

A second issue Twombley had with the report was its comments on the Water Department. She said that no one from MRI talked to anyone in that department. In her opinion the department is well run and provides good service.

In conclusion Twombley said she felt it was a good report to get ideas from but was "way too expensive": "$36,000 is a lot of money to pay only to be told you're too frugal."

Maple Street Bridge again

President Steve Porter and Vice President Russ Neal of the Evergreen Valley Snowmobile Club came to ask selectmen to widen the gap between barriers at the Maple Street Bridge in Union to eight feet to allow snowmobiles and the club's trail groomer to cross the bridge and avoid having to detour on roads to get around the bridge. The club would create a snowbank to block cars that would still allow its vehicles to pass.

The club's request was supported by Wakefield Police Chief Ken Fifield, who was concerned that if the request were denied, the groomer and its 21-foot drag would be diverted to Route 125/153, which he felt was potentially dangerous to cars that use that route.

Selectman Peter Kasprzyk said he would like to see a sign warning snowmobilers to pass at their own risk if the barriers were moved. He also said he was concerned about snowmobiles hitting cars parked at the garage at one end of the bridge.

Neal said the club has a $3 million liability policy to cover any damage. He also said the club had permission in writing from Cynthia Wyatt, who owns that property to allow snowmobiles to pass.

Selectman Chair Ken Paul said (with a twinkle in his eye) that if the bridge collapsed due to snowmobile use the policy would cover the cost of repairing or replacing it.

Selectman Charlie Edwards said, "We need snowmobilers," and moved to allow a gap of eight feet to allow the groomer as well as snowmobiles to pass.

Kasprzyk modified the motion to add that Town Administrator Teresa Williams would check with the Local Government Center about the town's liability in allowing use of the bridge.

The motion passed 3-0.

Later in the meeting Williams reported that Union resident Wyatt asked the town to file a request with the N.H. Department of Transportation to estimate the cost of repairing the Maple Street Bridge. Williams noted that DOT does not charge for this service and by getting a repair estimate the bridge is added to the state list of bridges in need of repair.

Selectmen voted unanimously to request the estimate.

Edwards speaks up

During his Liaison Report, Selectman Edwards, who is Selectmen's Representative to the Planning Board, criticized how the recent planning board public hearing on proposed zoning changes went. "Everything was tabled," he complained. "There were 14 people in the audience and they shut everything down. Why is it always 14 people blocking things so voters don't have a chance to vote on them? Things should go to the voters and be voted on."

Selectman Kasprzyk said he watched the hearing on the PEG channel and "it made a good movie."

After the meeting Edwards elaborated that he had no problem with any of the people who actually show up at public hearings. In fact he would like to see more Wakefield residents show up and get interested in and be active in town government. He just does not like to see proposals worth considering not being put on the ballot for the rest of the townspeople to consider. He was disappointed that planning board members did not "stick to their guns" on proposals that they had devoted so much time and thought to bring forward.

Other business

Sally Soule of N.H. Department of Environmental Services presented the town and Road Agent Fred Clough with certificates of appreciation for the stormwater improvements done on Brackett Road. See separate article on this.

Following a public hearing the board approved the Flood Plain Maps of the town that become effective March 19, 2013. The maps have been updated to correct errors. By adopting the maps selectmen make it possible for residents in designated flood zones to get flood insurance.

Selectmen approved 3-0 Warrant Articles 4 through 19 and Article 21. Edwards voted against Article 20, which is a petition warrant article asking voters to approve the purchase of 121 acres in Union Meadows using $135,000 in grants. Edwards said he is in favor of the town purchasing the properties but without using grants that have strings attached. A complete listing of warrant articles, with the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee will follow next week.

The board signed a contract with Virtual Towns and Schools to take over management of the Wakefield town website. Virtual Towns and Schools of Maynard, Mass., also manages the websites for the towns of Brookfield, Farmington, Middleton, New Durham, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro. Kasprzyk commented, "It fits our needs quite well. Four people can update it." Chief Fifield expressed interest in adding the police website to the town's.

Town Administrator Williams informed the board that Clearview Community Television Services will be on the agenda for the next meeting to discuss its draft agreement with the town to run the public access station as a nonprofit organization.

Williams noted that there is no handicap parking space in the lot behind Town Hall though there are two out front. The board asked her to check with the Local Government Center to see if one is required. Selectmen Paul will also speak with the Governor's Council on Disability.

Selectmen set the rate of pay for the Deputy Code Officer at $20 an hour, based on the $500 budgeted for the position.

Resident Relf Fogg asked how much the town has paid to have the part time town planner and Town Counsel Rick Sager at Planning Board meetings during the year. He asked in light of Edwards' complaint that so many proposals ended up tabled and not put on the ballot. Williams said she would get the information.

The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.

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