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Wolfeboro to avoid $277,000 in 2013 health and dental insurance costs


Legal costs in Wright Pierce effluent disposal suit reach $185,705


by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
November 29, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Finance Director Peter Chamberlin had good news for Wolfeboro selectmen at their Nov. 26 meeting. Based on switching from health and dental policies currently offered by the Local Government Center to those provided by SchoolCare, the town should save a total of $277,000 in 2013.

A significant part of those savings, about $90,000, was not reflected in the operating expense budget provided to the Budget Committee because costs for the second half of 2013 were not known at the time. Thus the operating budget can be reduced by that $90,000.

Chamberlin also went over his monthly report on revenues and expenditures through October with selectmen. Overall the financial situation "looks good, running below budget," Chamberlin reported. After 10 months or 83.3 percent through the year, the overall expended-to-date percentage is 77.7 percent: the General Fund is at 78.3 percent; the Water Fund at 88.7 percent; the Electric Fund at 73.6 percent; the Sewer Fund at 86.6 percent; and the Pop Whalen Ice Arena Fund at 71.3 percent.

Legal expenses

One expense area highlighted by Chamberlin were legal expenses in the Executive budget, which stood at 94.2 percent expended-to-date. "Based on an average monthly expenditure, legal is projected to be approximately $102,709.09 at year end," he wrote in his report.

Made available separately was a report on legal expenses that the town has incurred in its suit against Wright-Pierce Engineers, the firm that designed and oversaw construction of the town's Rapid Infiltration Basins (RIBs) for septic effluent disposal.

The basins were engineered and installed to provide capacity to dispose of 600,000 gallons of effluent per day. Shortly after the RIBs were put into service "issues" arose, including major leaks and breakouts down slope from the basins. A subsequent study by S.W. Cole Engineers revealed that the site had geological features that prevented a high level of disposal and that should have been identified earlier. Currently the town has a state permit allowing the disposal of 340,000 gallons per day but has only averaged 280,000 gallons. The former spray fields were partially reopened to make up the difference, and there is no danger that effluent cannot be disposed of safely. However, there is a major difference between being promised the disposal of 600,000 gallons per day and ending up with 280,000.

In 2011 bills paid for legal services from Hinckley, Allen & Snyder and Fuss & O'Neil amounted to $51,607.27. In 2012 to date the total has been $134,097.43, bringing the total to $185,704.70. The town filed suit against Wright Pierce on April 2, 2012 in U.S. District Court in Topsham, Maine. No trial date has been set.

"Blue laws"

It turns out that both the State of New Hampshire and Town of Wolfeboro have so-called "blue laws" that, with some exceptions, prohibit doing business on Sundays. In Wolfeboro's case Chapter 144 ("SUNDAY ACTIVITIES"), adopted by Town Meeting in 1932, prohibits "public dancing, horse racing, prizefighting, wrestling, pool, billiards, [and] bowling" on Sundays. It also states "it shall be unlawful to sell or expose for sale any merchandise whatever on the Lord's Day," except for "newspapers, periodicals, ice cream, soft drinks, confectionary, fruit, bakers' products, cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, smoking accessories, toilet articles, gasoline, oil, automotive parts and food for consumption."

The applicable state law is RSA 332-D, which states in Section 1: "Sunday Work. No person shall do any work, business, or labor of his secular calling, to the disturbance of others, on the first day of the week, commonly called the Lord's Day, except works of necessity and mercy, and the making of necessary repairs upon mills and factories which could not be made otherwise without loss to operatives; and no person shall engage in any play, game, or sport on that day."

Town Counsel Mark Puffer notes in an opinion to selectmen that the state law is never enforced and advised the board to consider revising Chapter 144 to allow activities that normally take place on Sunday but are in violation of the ordinance.

This matter was raised to Selectmen Chair Linda Murray and Town Planner Rob Houseman by Economic Development Committee member Charles Weibel.

The board asked Town Manager Dave Owen to do the requested revision and submit it for their review. Any changes would have to be formally approved by voters.

Public input

Resident Suzanne Ryan took advantage of both public input sections to the meeting to ask questions.

In the first session she had one request, a question, and a comment.

She asked that budget background material be included in budget books, and requested the cost to date of the Wright-Pierce lawsuit (see above). Her comment was that the town should avoid taking over maintenance of private roads, which the residents of Sargents Pond Road have requested. She said any maintenance expense should be shared and the Conservation Commission given the funds to pay the shared expense.

In the second session she asked what the impact has been on the town budget of the state downshifting pension costs. Owen responded that an additional $80,000 is included in the proposed 2013 budget.

Other business

The board acknowledged with thanks the donation of $5,000 from Christine and Dave Bowers to fund events that "in some way benefit our fine town employees." One result of this gift is a holiday party planned for Wolfeboro town employees at the Wolfeboro Inn on Friday, Dec. 14, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. that will include a sit-down meal.

Selectmen followed the recommendation of Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair Alan Harding and appointed Alternate Mike Hodder as a regular full ZBA member. Hodder has been a ZBA alternate for four years.

The board formally accepted the perambulation report for the Brookfield-Wolfeboro town line but held off on accepting the Tuftonboro-Wolfeboro report pending settlement of the issue of what to do about missing boundary markers. Selectmen agreed they were willing to pay half the cost of replacing them if Tuftonboro selectmen agree.

Selectmen are waiting for three cost estimates on refinishing the floor in the Libby Museum, as well as a letter from the family funding the cost that it is acceptable to proceed.

Murray reported on attending the recent Lakes Region Transportation Committee meeting where she reported that a survey taken of resident put roads as a top priority in the area while the committee itself learned that the state has no money to improve roads in rural areas. "We need new funding sources for roads," she said.

Selectman Sarah Silk reported that the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall met with representatives of nonprofit agencies about future uses of the building and received good input. One clear priority is that having kitchen facilities is important.

Silk reminded residents that the Wolfeboro transfer station is not open on Wednesdays and Thursdays between Nov. 1 and April 1. That means that it will not be open after Christmas this year (which falls on a Tuesday) until Friday.

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

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