January 16, 2014WAKEFIELD — At their first meeting of the new year Wakefield selectmen found themselves once again debating town policy on supplying winter sand to contractors.
Selectmen first discussed winter sand use at their Sept. 26 meeting last year where, based on a resident's complaint that giving taxpayer-funded sand to commercial operators was illegal, they decided that the town could no longer give town sand to contractors plowing private. Since 1937 Wakefield had been allowing anyone to use town sand for private roads and driveways. In 1997 that policy was amended to make clear that the contractor could not charge for the sand, just for the service of spreading it.
The selectmen's solution in September was to charge for the sand, at the town's cost of $4 per yard, using a system where coupons purchased at Town Hall were handed to highway department personnel, who then loaded the sand. Coupon purchases are recorded to track how much sand it being used. Sand was only to be given to contractors authorized to plow private roads.
Individual residents wishing to sand their own driveways were still permitted to take two five-gallon buckets at no charge.
Late in December a resident complained about contractors having their pickups loaded, presumably to sand private driveways, even though the trucks did not have sanding equipment. Selectmen heard the complaint at a brief work session held on Dec. 30 and agreed to clarify the sand policy at its next regular meeting on Jan. 8.
Town Administrator Teresa Williams led off the discussion, saying there were three issues. The first is that some contractors who plow private roads also do driveways.
The second was that some contractors who purchased coupons had sand loaded and brought it back to their locations where they loaded their sanders.
The third issue concerned people who do not do private roads, just private driveways and commercial parking lots.
Williams said she sent an email poll on sanding policies to town managers and administrators and received seven responses. All seven reported their towns do not sell sand to contractors, and most limit residents to one 10-gallon bucket of sand.
Selectman Charlie Edwards said, "When we set up selling sand to obey state law we didn't do it for the guy coming in with a 10-wheeler to load. If the guy has a sander in back, that's OK. I only have a problem with big users loading up on sand." He said he didn't like being dictated to by the state on how Wakefield distributes sand to contractors, "but I don't want large users to get their sand from us."
Williams clarified that the contractor involved in the complaint had the proper paperwork to do private roads. She also said that a truck having a sander on the back does not guarantee that the sand is being spread in Wakefield.
Edwards responded, "We don't want to be an Ossipee Aggregates. The town is not making money on the sand and I have a problem with abuse."
Former selectman and contractor Johnny Blackwood said, "What other towns do doesn't matter. Our big taxpayers are on the lakes and we need to think of them."
Williams pointed out that the problem is not providing the sand but giving it away. She said the other towns who responded used to give sand away too. "We are trying to deal with complaints. If you only want to deal with trucks with sanders or want to prohibit sanding private driveway, you should make that clear."
Blackwood said he sands a few driveways. "You help people avoid falls," he pointed out, adding "There are more important things to deal with than sand."
Selectman Chair Ken Paul noted that the board had agreed to provide sand for private roads. "What about commercial parking lots?" he asked.
Edwards responded that since 1997 the intention was to do private roads only.
Blackwood noted it has been an unusual winter with lots of ice and more sand is being used as a result. "My problem is with the little guy with a pickup who shovels sand from the pile getting between a loader and dump trucks. We need signs to keep them in a separate area."
Road Agent Fred Clough said he planned to bar off a separate area when the replacement salt shed is built. "We only load sand when personnel are working at the garage, and we don't preload before a storm."
Paul agreed there should be a separate area for residents picking up sand for personal use, and how much they shovel should be limited to four five-gallon buckets. After discussion the limit was raised to 10 buckets.
Blackwood commented. "Stockpiling sand makes no sense since it freezes unless kept under cover. We shouldn't worry about that."
There was some discussion of the price per cubic yard, which, considering the highway department screens the sand after it is purchased, seems too low. Blackwood suggested $6 a yard. The conclusion was that the price was set for this winter and should not be changed. It should be reconsidered for next winter.
Williams summarized the discussion and confirmed that the board policy now is:
- Only trucks with sanders will be loaded, at highway department convenience.
- Only contractors who have filled out forms specifying the private roads they are doing will be loaded.
- Contractors will pay for coupons at Town Hall and use coupons to have sand loaded.
- Personal use is limited to 10 five gallon buckets.
- Residents in pickups have to do their own shoveling.
During Public Comment resident Jim Miller said his head was still spinning from the sand discussion. His view was that government should take up issues slowly, one step at a time, and get plenty of public input. He added, "We have enough rules already."
Edwards said, "We are letting someone tell us how to run the town."
Paul said the issue has been discussed more than once and the board has received input from the public, including from Blackwood and Miller himself at this meeting.
Rocky Point Road sewer
The request from residents of Rocky Point Road to hook up to the town sewer came up again. Williams said the residents are concerned about having to pay for laying pipes and then finding that they can't hook up. A cost proposal from CMA Engineers has been received.
Paul said the fact that Witchtrot Road has just been paved and would have to be dug into to make the connection was the only issue he could see. However, there has been flooding at the sewer's Pumping Station One that has resulted in excess water being pumped to the septic lagoons. "We should get a proposal on fixing the flooding problem first, then deal with the extension," he said. The board agreed.
Williams explained that the contract to do the extension work would be with the town, but the Rocky Point Road Association would pay the bills.
Selectmen approved final details of two warrant articles: the cost of the new accounting software installation at $20,030 and changing the cost of a van for Parks and Recreation from $47,000 to $27,000. There are used vans available at lower cost. Edwards pointed out that user fees pay for the van.
A 2014 default budget of $4,242,940 was approved. It is only $90,000 lower than the budget proposed by selectmen.
A new pickup truck with plow is needed for the transfer station and sewer. The N.H. Department of Revenue Administration has approved drawing the $27,000 cost from the Sewer Fund, with no tax impact.
Selectmen approved replacing the starter on the Public Safety Building emergency generator at a cost of $333.23.
The board took a formal tally vote to discontinue the unused capital reserve funds for the aquifer and cemeteries.
The board formally adopted the Fund Balance Policy. There were no changes but it needs to be adopted every year.
The N.H. Department of Environmental Services notified the town that it has approved removal of the spillway of the Union Village Dam. There were no funds available to fix the dam, so removal is the only option, the board was told.
There will be three Eagle Scout ceremonies, on March 22, March 29, and April 16. A board representative will attend each and a commendation letter will be prepared.
The board approved a request from Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Robinson to remove the existing Christmas tree, which is overgrown and rotting, with a new live tree 12 to 15 feet tall and hopefully donated by generous resident.
The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.