Town to delay start of monthly water and sewer bills

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
December 26, 2013
WOLFEBORO — A late start by the contractor and technical problems with new water meters will delay the start of monthly water and sewer bills from Jan. 1 to April 1, 2014, following a vote by the Board of Selectmen on Dec. 18.

The new rates and fees, however, will go into effect at the start of the new year.

Tax Collector Brenda LaPointe came before the board with Deputy Tax Collector Kathy Ferland. LaPointe's department is responsible for sending out water and sewer bills. The town has been billing water and sewer users quarterly on a rotating basis since manual reading of the 2,206 water meters has taken three months to complete. This fall of new radio transmitting meters were installed so that all meters could be read every month and make monthly billing possible.

Unfortunately the installation process has not gone as well as expected, LaPointe reported. The firm contracted to do the work got a late start and then ran into some problems. While all but 88 of the 2,206 meters have been installed by now, there are problems reading 334 accounts with inside meters, 92 devices are giving invalid readings and as many as 470 meters may need to be reprogrammed. LaPointe said some meters "go to sleep" and may not read effectively.

The contractor is responsible for fixing these problems, but all the work will not be finished by Jan. 1. LaPointe said all of the problem places have been identified. Inside meters that can't be read by radio can be read manually, but that means making appointments for the inside readings until the problem is fixed.

Only one person has refused to have the radio meter installed and asked for manual reading be continued for him.

LaPointe asked if monthly billing could be delayed until April 1. She also said the board may want to delay the rate changes now set for Jan. 1 as well. If the rate change is delayed, she estimated that the revenue loss would be $5.26 on water meters and $8.08 for sewer users (who are billed based on water usage).

Selectman Linda Murray said she did not want to delay the rate change because the water and sewer departments need the revenue and the Budget Committee has cut $20,000 from the water budget. However, the delay of monthly billing to April was OK with her.

The board voted 5-0 to delay monthly billing but go ahead with the rate change on Jan. 1.

In connection with the new rate, LaPointe brought up an issue of the deduct meter reading fee. Deduct meters keep track of water used for lawn watering and other uses that don't put the water into the sewer system, and the reading from that meter I deducted from the reading of the incoming meter before sewer fees are calculated. LaPointe said there are 200 deduct meters installed.

Some people have asked if they could avoid the deduct meter fee by disconnecting the deduct meter for months of low/no deductible use.

After some discussion, including whether there should be a charge for disconnecting and reconnecting the meter, the board agreed that the water meter rules and regulations need to be reviewed.

Pine Hill Cemetery

Randy Tetreault of Norway Plains Associates presented selectmen with his research and engineering report on the Pine Hill Cemetery, which the town accepted as a gift from the Pine Hill Cemetery Association, along with perpetual care funds. Tetreault was asked to define the boundaries of the property and to provide an assessment of how many remaining gravesites there were.

Tetreault gave a PowerPoint presentation on his findings, which included an aerial view with boundaries, a timeline from 1856 to 2013, his research on cemetery plot rights, surveys from 1930 and 2011, plans of existing plots with surnames and a final overall plan with possible future plots.

Approximately 60 additional plots are available, according to his analysis. The final number will depend on testing of soil types.

Tetreault also provided examples of alternate types of burial, including a Columbarium (an upright, above-ground structure with niches for cremains, and a cremation area with small plots for urns.

Murray commented that although the town is currently developing a new cemetery on Middleton Road, having 60 additional plots at Pine Hill now can help in the interim.

The board thanked Tetreault for both his extensive research and plans.

Default budget

Finance Director Peter Chamberlin presented the board with the 2014 Default Budget, which would take effect if the operating budget warrant article failed to pass. The operating budget proposed by selectmen and being reviewed by the Budget Committee is $24,526,600. The Default Budget is $24,114,657, which is $411,943 or 1,7 percent less.

Chamberlin also presented his Monthly Expenditure and Revenue Report through November.

"The budget is in really good shape," he said, noting good expenditure control. The overall expended-to-date vs. the budget is 87.67 percent with 91.67 percent of the year completed. Adding open purchase orders to expenditures beings the total percent to 90.67 percent still favorable.

Chamberlin said the welfare expenses are "not as bad" as he had expected earlier in the year.

On the revenue side, the General Fund collections were at 105 percent of budget through November and revenues in all enterprise funds were up over last year.

Other business

Selectmen held a public hearing on three 2014 warrant articles that will require bonding: the reconstruction of Middleton Road for $1,350,000 (with the state to refund two-thirds, leaving the town's net cost at $450,000); the reduced-scope renovation of Town Hall at $3,889,699 (to be reduced by $110,301 in capital reserve funds and private donations from the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall, currently at $730,000 and rising); and public works garage upgrades totaling $160,000. There were few comments on the Middleton Road and public works garage articles, and the board approved them for placement on the warrant 5-0; however, the Town Hall article barely passed on a 3-2 vote. See separate article on that discussion.

Residents Phil Holberton and Jim Collins were appointed to the Information Systems Advisory Committee.

Selectmen set the date of Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 1 p.m. for taping their presentations on the 2014 warrant at theWolfeboro Community Television studio.

Town Manager Dave Owen reported that new phones were installed last week that offer, for the first time, a voice mail feature. The town completed its switch of phone service over to BayRing Communications last week.

Bids on constructing the roads and underdrains for the new Middleton Road cemetery came from 14 contractors ranging from $57,000 to $119,000. Unfortunately there is only $39,000 available, so only the underdrains will be done for $29,000, with the rest of the work to follow.

Owen met with the Wolfeboro Nursery School about renewing their contract at the railroad station. More sessions are planned.

In accordance with the contract, the rent for the Dockside Restaurant was raised 1.6 percent based on the Consumer Price Index.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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