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Joyce Endee

Town considers acquiring derelict Lehner Street buildings

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
August 23, 2012
WOLFEBORO — During the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 15, Town Manager Dave Owen brought up for discussion the possibility of the town buying the two dilapidated, boarded-up buildings at 74 and 80 Lehner Street, demolishing them and incorporating the properties into the adjacent Foss Field playground.

Owen's stated rationale is that "The removal of these two eyesores will further enhance the improvements of Lehner Street, and will add to the Foss Field complex. This will benefit the programs of the Parks and Recreation Department and the Lehner Street neighborhood overall." The acquired properties could serve as the site for a new Foss Field building when the time comes to build one.

Owen shared with the board a letter of understanding countersigned by property owner Paul Dumont on Aug. 6, outlining "a methodology for determining the fair market value of these two properties similar to that which was used in the recent acquisition of another residential property, the house at 255 South Main Street (between the Library and the Public Safety Building)." The town and Dumont would split the cost of hiring a reputable real estate appraiser acceptable to both parties and agree to accept the valuations, provided the price was acceptable to both parties and, ultimately, the voters.

According to the tax assessment property cards, the values for the two properties were $77,200 for 74 Lehner and $71,500 for 80 Lehner a total of $148,700. Owen also provided a Capital Improvement Plan Project Request that gave a ballpark estimate of $180,000, which would include purchasing the properties, with appraisal costs included, for $150,000 and $30,000 for demolition of both buildings.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray said the project was not a high priority to her. The soil conditions at the sites are unknown, there has been vandalism in the area, and the town already owns the vacant Municipal Electric building just up the street.

Selectman Sarah Silk said she was also concerned about the soils but felt it was a good idea to look into. She gave her view that the Municipal Electric building was not a choice site.

Owen agreed to look into testing soil conditions.

Selectman Dave Bowers was more positive. He said he would like to walk the two properties and take a closer look at them. He said a person who stores cars in another building on Lehner Street may be willing to sell or give it to the town. Bowers said he felt the board should look into improving "the whole site," meaning Lehner Street as a whole.

Selectman Dave Senecal said he is in favor of testing the soils and doing an appraisal. He noted that the latest Capital Improvement Plan has not been presented, so this project could be added to it.

It was agreed that Bowers and Senecal will tour the properties with Town Planner Rob Houseman.

The board voted 5-0 to hire an appraiser and split the cost with Dumont.

Town Manager's report

Owen reviewed a report from Police Chief Stuart Chase on complaints from abutters about excessive noise from the Inn on Main on the night of Saturday, Aug. 4 into the morning of Sunday, Aug. 5. The issue was reviewed with management of the Inn and steps will be taken to avoid future loud noises.

A birch tree will be planted in Clark Park near the Pleasant Valley School to honor former Tree Warden Allen Stevens, who passed away on July 25. Birch was Stevens' favorite tree.

Owen reported touring the new Kingswood complex last week with Superintendent Jack Robertson, who offered the use of the new lecture hall (pictured on the front page of last week's GSN) for town meetings.

Front Bay Park will be formally opened on Sept. 12 at 11 a.m. Bowers offered to pay for a cake and refreshments to honor Mike Hodder for his outstanding work on the project.

Owen said the Request for Proposals for assessing services is ready to go out. The current contract expires at the end of 2012. A one-year contract with a one-year option to extend is being offered. An team to interview prospective bidders needs to be se tup.

An agreement with Fifth Estate for improvements to the Public Safety communications system has been signed. Finance Director Chamberlin will oversee the bidding process on the radio tower and equipment.

A draft easement for the sidewalks at Depot Square has been sent to Chip Maxfield, who heads the condo association that owns the sidewalks. The agreement provides that a four-foot clear corridor will be maintained for passage of wheelchairs.

The budget season will begin on Sept. 19 with a hearing on requests from social service agencies. Murrray said she would like to get the first department review in the first week of October. Otherwise hearings will be scheduled for the weeks of Oct. 22 and 29.

Employee Appreciation Day will be held on Friday, Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Town offices will close at 11 a.m. that day.

Priscilla Keaton was been hired as Deputy Town Clerk, replacing Martha Krause, who retired Aug. 3.

The Health Insurance Task Force has met and reported 54 percent of employees responded to questionnaires. Proposals are now being requested from insurers.

Other business

During the two Public Comment sections of the meeting the board heard complaints from resident Bobby Hanson about the handling of ADA issues. Please see separate report.

Selectmen approved the 2012 Town Investment Policy submitted by Treasurer John Burt. He said it is essentially the same as the 2011 policy.

The board reviewed the Monthly Expenditure and Revenue Report presented by Finance Director Pete Chamberlin. He reported that all budgets were in good shape at this point of the year except for the higher legal fees relating to the Rapid Infiltration Basin suit.

A draft of guidelines for island residents storing boat trailers in the gravel lot at the Pop Whalen Ice Arena were reviewed. A formal discussion will take place at the board's Sept. 5 meeting.

Selectmen approved mounting a three-foot-high banner promoting the "Seven to Save" event at Town Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 22, as requested by Maggie Stier for the N.H. Preservation Alliance, which is sponsoring tours of Brewster Hall from 4 to 5:15 p.m. followed by a talk on town hall buildings by James Garvin at the First Congregational Church.

The board authorized Owen to proceed with the renovation of the assessing office at Town Hall with a total cost not to exceed $2,600 following the agreed plan.

Selectmen also approved $947 for a new desk for the appraiser that will meet the ergonomic recommendations of Primex, the town's insurer.

The board committed to completing forms for the annual performance appraisal of Town Manager Owen for the meeting on Sept. 19. Murray will then complete a master report and the board as a whole will meet with Owen on Oct. 3.

Murray reported that milfoil harvesting is taking place in Back Bay and will continue for two weeks. The warm winter produced a strong regrowth. "There is lots to harvest, and I'm not sure we are winning the battle," Murray said. Another chemical treatment may be required.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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