Acton-Wakefield canal now on National Register of Historic Places

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
March 06, 2014
WAKEFIELD — Town Administrator Teresa Williams informed the Wakefield Board of Selectmen at their Feb. 26 meeting that the Newichawannock Canal and Bridge have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The canal is on the border of Wakefield and the town of Acton, Maine, and the bridge is a shared gateway between the two states.

Heritage Commission Chair Pam Wiggin said the commission applied for the canal and bridge to be added to the list three years ago, along with the town of Acton. The application was supported by a $6,000 grant. Wiggin said this is the only case where two towns in two states have applied for and received a placement on the National Register.

Town Forest management

Code Enforcement and Health Officer Nate Fogg gave a status report on developing a management plan for the 45-acre Town Forest. Fogg is a member of the Forestry Committee, a separate committee of the Conservation Commission, that sent out requests for proposals (RFPs) to develop a forest management plan to seven area foresters. Three responses were received two from town residents but all three were rejected by the committee.

Fogg asked the board's approval to revise the RFP and send it out again.

He also wanted to be able to use Conservation Commission funds to pay the estimated $10,000 cost of the forest management plan. That cost and the estimated $1,000 cost of a boundary survey would be repaid with proceeds from harvesting timber, which Fogg said could take place within two years.

Selectmen were amenable to another RFP round, but Fogg needs to determine if commission funds could be used for the plan. Williams said that proceeds from the harvest would go into the General Fund unless a separate fund for forest management was approved by voters. In that case harvest funds could be used for future forestry expenses.

It was also agreed that the bids should be opened by selectmen, who would also make the final decision on who would do the forest management plan, based on a committee recommendation. Target date to open bids would be the second BOS meeting in March.

During public comment committee member Relf Fogg pointed out that the Town Forest was created by petition, which was submitted by one of the foresters bidding to do the management plan. He said, "I don't think someone should be allowed to gain from a town action he initiated."

Assessor candidate objects

Rosemary Stewart, who is running for election to the town assessor position against current Assessor Relf Fogg, used the public comment period to correct a statement made by resident Jim Miller at the Feb. 12 selectmen's meeting. She said she is not suing the town, as Miller alleged. What happened was that the town raised the value of her waterfront property by 18 percent in 2011. She appealed the assessment to the town Board of Assessors, was turned down, and then filed an appeal with the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) in Concord. Before the BTLA heard the case a compromise was offered during mediation that resulted in an abatement for 2011 and 2012. The assessment was raised again in 2013 and she has appealed that.

Stewart said she learned a lot about the assessment process during her appeals. She also stated that if she were elected as assessor, if her current appeal came up she would recuse herself. "I am running to get transparency in the assessment process," she said. The assessment data was not correct in her case and it is still wrong. She claimed that the town's assessment data, as kept in Town Hall, is different from the data sent to Concord.

Miller said he apologized if he misspoke about a lawsuit but stuck with his contention that the town was forced to spend more than $15,000 to defend itself as a result of her appeals and that he was uncomfortable with her being a candidate for assessor for that reason.

Other business

Selectmen opened two bids for septic tank cleaning and awarded the contract to pump 30,000 gallons twice a year to Lakes Region Septic of Brookfield at 17 cents a gallon. The losing bidder was Hartigan Wastewater at 18 cents a gallon.

The board approved the renewal of the lease with Faith Renewal Fellowship Church for a town building on Route 153.

Selectmen also approved a painting contract with Consider It Done Painting Services to paint the Opera House. Wakefield Projects Inc. will be paying for the project and approved the bid but the town owns the building.

The board agreed to let the Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition use the town meeting room on Saturday, May 10, for a housing expo.

Selectmen Charlie Edwards reported the town crews have been busy with plowing and sanding an average of two snowstorms a week. A spring had to be replaced on one of the trucks. He also reported that the annual fishing derby was on the coming weekend and that "No Smoking" signs will be put up shortly at the transfer station.

Selectman Connie Twombley said she has heard compliments about how well the town has handled the snow storms. She also reported that the carpet is in and painting done at the Grange Hall and that the Heritage Commission through Pam Wiggin has been working on getting the Freight House owned by PSNH moved.

At Twombley's suggestion the board voted to send a letter of appreciation to Fire Chief Todd Nason.

Selectmen approved a request to waive payment of the remainder of an ambulance bill by a resident of limited means.

The board also set the wage of the new assistant tax collector at $12.50 an hour.

After some discussion selectmen agreed to find out from contractor CMA about the cost of fixing Sewer Pump Station One to deal with the issue of flooding before considering whether residents of Rocky Point Road can connect to the town sewer on Witchtrot Road.

The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, March 12, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.

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