Wolfeboro selectmen questioned about legal expenses

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
November 14, 2013
WOLFEBORO — At the first public input session of the Nov. 6 Wolfeboro selectmen's meeting resident Bob Lemaire noted that court filings in the town's lawsuit against Wright-Pierce Engineers showed a lack of arbitration and asked who would make a decision to go to arbitration.

Selectman Chair Sarah Silk responded that any decision "is made by the Board of Selectmen in discussion with the attorney."

Selectmen Linda Murray asked who said there was no arbitration.

Lemaire said he read in a filing by the Wright-Pierce attorneys that Wolfeboro has repeatedly refused offers of arbitration.

Murray said she is not aware of arbitration offers and such matters are only discussed in non-public session.

Selectman Dave Bowers commented, "We consider Wright Pierce tactics to be suspect. We are carefully handling this case."

Lemaire commented that so far there have been no depositions and there is no date for a trial, while the costs of the case continue to go up. He said he for one would like to hear the opinion of a third party in a non-binding arbitration.

Bowers said in his opinion the matter was "going along nicely."

Silk ended the three minute comment session by stating, "We are not going to disclose strategy here."

After the meeting Lemaire shared with this reporter a 10/31/13 court filing by the attorney for Wright Pierce, it was clear that Wright-Pierce had been requesting mediation, not arbitration.

"I have used the terms mediation and arbitration interchangeably, and will be more careful going forward," Lemaire wrote in the commentary on his blog,

"In following up with the Selectmen," Lemaire went on, "I tried to make the point that we are cruising past the million dollar mark in this lawsuit and it would be nice to have a neutral third party review the case (mediate) and give us a fresh, disinterested opinion of the merits and possible outcomes. The Selectmen assured me that the lawsuit is going 'nicely' and that they have numerous opinions, that the case is solid.

"In fact, that's what struck me as I listened to their response. It seems to me that several of them are emotionally invested in this lawsuit and very defensive. Regardless of how it is going, there is now no way out. The train has left the station and it's burning fuel at the rate of half-million a year."

Quilters' gift

The Ladies of the Lake Quilters' Guild had an estimate done of the cost of upgrading the electrical system at the Wolfeboro Community Center on Lehner Street to allow the safe use of their members' sewing machines and irons during meetings. Rick Burns of RB Electric came up with a quote of $3,679.59, which included grounding rods and upgrades to the basic service as well as the circuit upgrades and lighting improvements needed by the quilters. The quilters voted on Oct. 23 to make a donation of $2,962 to cover the cost of their upgrades in return for the town waiving the $25 annual fee to use the building.

The balance of $717.59 for basic work would be paid from town maintenance funds.

The quilters have been meeting the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge. By adding the upgraded Community Center the group plans to meet on the first and third Tuesday in the evening. The guild makes 365 quilts a year for David's House at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth as well as quilts for the Child Advocacy Center and Wolfeboro Police Department.

Chairman Silk, who is a member of the guild, stepped down for the discussion and vote. Led by Selectman Murray the board voted 4-0 to accept the donation and waive the annual fee.

Other business

The board adopted the 2014 budget it had developed during hearings in October as well as a list of proposed warrant articles. The selectmen's budget now goes to the Budget Committee for hearings starting Nov. 12. Presentations on the 15 warrant articles will be made at the board's next meeting on Nov. 20. See separate article in this issue for details.

At the recommendation of Finance Director Peter Chamberlin, the board voted 5-0 to seek a 20-year bond on $700,000 needed for the Center Street Reconstruction project. This will reduce the tax impact.

Selectmen also accepted Chamberlin's recommendation to select Meredith Village Savings Bank to place $1,500,000 in Tax Anticipation Notes at a rate of 1.5 percent to cover an operating cash gap created by the delay in setting property tax rates.

The board approved a temporary events permit for the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce to hold First Night Wolfeboro.

Selectmen also voted to accept $35,281.55 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the costs of overtime and equipment rental for the March 18, 2013 snow storm, which was declared a federal disaster.

The board adopted a change to the Commercial Vessel Landing Permit specifying the size and placement of signs on the Town Docks.

Town Manager Dave Owen reported that two members are needed in the town's Information Systems Advisory Committee. Anyone interested should contact him at 569-8161.

He informed the board that the town's old Zamboni was sold on eBay to someone in Exeter for $4,600.

The town received an award from health insurance provider SchoolCare for the highest employee participation in its health improvement program.

Thanks again to an anonymous benefactor, town employees are invited to a Holiday Party and Dinner at the Wolfeboro Inn on Friday, Dec. 13. This is the second year for the party.

Paving of the Town Hall parking lots should be completed within a week.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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