Wolfeboro selectmen get good news on electricity, equalization

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
February 27, 2014
WOLFEBORO — Despite concerns about potential cost overruns in the snow budget due to winter storms (see separate story on this page), Wolfeboro selectmen got two pieces of good news at their Feb. 19 meeting.

The first was that the town "won the lottery" on electricity prices in January, according to town energy consultant Mayhew Seavey of PLM. Not only did the town enjoy lower electricity costs due to its new energy supply contract, but the price basis was by far the lower of two options for the month. As Seavey commented in an email to Municipal Electric Manager Barry Muccio, "That means that, during the most expensive month that New England has ever experienced, your delivered price for energy was a little over 2-1/2 cents per kilowatt-hour."

Muccio noted that the budget for purchased power in January under the new contract was $529,923. Wolfeboro was actually billed $300,411.

The other good news was a report from contract assessor Todd Haywood on the town's equalization ratio, an annual calculation done by the state Department of Revenue Administration. Based on 145 sales from Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013, the weighted mean assessment was 102.61 percent, basically unchanged from last year.

This ratio is used to adjust valuations among towns in order to apportion school district and county taxes. The value of 102.61 percent means that properties are generally selling for 2.61 percent more than their assessed values. For 32 waterfront properties in the study the weighted mean was 101.09 percent.

Wolfeboro is scheduled for a complete revaluation in 2015.

Public comments

Suzanne Ryan spoke during public comment to make several comments and ask questions on warrant Article 7, the renovation of Town Hall.

She noted that Claremont restored its building to the Civil War period for $2.5 million, and pointed out that alternate uses identified by the Town Hall Options Committee in 2008 were not pursued.

She also criticized Selectman Dave Bowers' comment that interest rates were the lowest in five years, pointing out that the interest rate used for the 2007 $6.7 million bond proposal was 3.99 percent for 2008, that the rate used in 2011 for the $4 million proposal was 4.5 percent and that the rate projected by the N.H. Municipal Bond Bank in June 2014 would be 4 percent.

Bowers responded that his remarks concerned interest rates generally, not municipal bond rate specificly.

Ryan also asked why the town had not provided information on the financial impact of Article 7 on the tax rate, since it had provided such an analysis in 2011.

She said that in 2010 Selectman Dave Senecal asked Northeast Collaborative Architects if their plans could be reused and he did not get an answer.

She asked how the bid process was going to work, whether architectural services would be bid along with construction work, and who will manage the bidding process.

Town Manager Dave Owen responded that by state statute he was the contract manager and that architectural services were not bid but solicited as Requests For Proposals.

Ryan asked whether there would be a Clerk of the Works on the project. Owen responded that would have to be determined.

Ryan said that for 2007 there were detailed plans and estimates down to the cost of toilet paper holders, but nothing like that was available now.

Selectman Linda Murray responded that the project was being done as a "design/build" contract where the contractor would prepare detailed construction plans. "We are not going to spend $500,000 on detailed plans," as in 2007 she stated.

Selectman Chair Sarah Silk said, "We will handle this project as we always handle projects," adding that she resented the implication that the board would not "follow the RSAs" if Article 7 is approved.

Josephine Amatucci asked the board's approval to bypass Town Manager Owen to ask Finance Director Peter Chamberlin for his interpretation of the payroll record of Wolfeboro Police Patrolman James O'Brien on town letterhead. Amatucci has claimed that O'Brien was not working for the town when he arrested her in 2002 and is seeking to prove that claim. The board approved the request.

Franchise fees

Metrocast submitted its 2013 report along with a check for franchise fees of $112,053.23. This total, which is turned over to Wolfeboro Community TV, is up $1,279.53 from 2012 (1.16 percent). Despite a higher franchise fee rate of 4 percent vs. 3 percent through 2012, revenue growth is declining. Metrocast reported it had 2,423 Basic subscribers and 2,090 Expanded Basic subscribers for its TV services. Total revenues in 2013 were $2,693,587.

Other business

Public Works Director Dave Ford reported that as of Feb. 17 the snow budget for this winter was more than half spent 30 percent of the way through the season. Ford also gave his quarterly report on the status of 15 major projects. See separate story in this issue.

Finance Director Peter Chamberlin gave his monthly expenditure and revenue report for January. Though early in the year Chamberlin said he was concerned about expenditures for highways due to snow removal costs and in welfare. Cost savings were very good overall but especially for purchased electricity (see earlier discussion).

Selectmen approved the 2014 Voters Guide, which appears on pages A9-A12 of this issue.

Town Manager Owen showed a proof copy of the 2013 Town Report, which should be available early in March.

Owen also reported that new Fire Engine 1 arrived at the fire station on Monday, Feb. 17.

Selectmen approved permits for the Wolfeboro Area Children's Center Fairyland Festival, to be held in Cate Park on July 5, and for the New England Lyman Boat Show, to be held at the Town Docks on June 14.

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

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