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Wakefield selectmen introduce new town administrator

Legality of supporting Drew Mill Dam repair still in question

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

KELLEY COLLINS, Wakefield's new town administrator, was introduced at her first selectmen's meeting on April 12 (l-r): Selectmen Connie Twombley and Lino Avellani; Collins; and Selectmen Chair Charlie Edwards. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
April 20, 2017
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield selectmen began their April 12 meeting introducing Kelley Collins as the new Wakefield Town Administrator. Collins replaced Teresa Williams, who resigned on March 10 to take a new position with Health Trust in Concord.

Collins has been working in town government in New Hampshire since 1986. She comes to Wakefield after serving as town administrator in Greenville for seven years. (For more information, see separate article on Collins in this issue.)

Selectmen were also introduced to Seth Garland, the town's new highway foreman in the public works department. Garland reports to Director of Public Works Leigh Nichols.

Public Works discussion

Nichols came to the selectmen on April 12 to discuss three issues: 1) a crew request to modify the work week to four 10-hour days; 2) a request from UNH to host heavy equipment classes in Wakefield; and 3) the need to replace the department's C5500 medium-duty truck.

On the change to a four-day week, Selectman Chair Charlie Edwards said the town had tried that schedule before and selectmen shut it down. It was his opinion as an employer that you don't get a full 10 hours of work on that schedule – employees tire after eight hours.

Nichols responded by pointing out that the highway crew works 10-15 hours in the winter plowing. He said he favors it because employees will be happier, utility costs would be saved, and two more hours of work can be done after lunch; right now the best you can do in the afternoons is 1.5 hours. He added that the proposal is not to have this schedule year-round, but only from May1 to Oct. 1.

Edwards asked Administrative Assistant Toni Bodah why the four-day week didn't work before. Bodah said the crew started too early.

Selectman Lino Avellani proposed that the board take it under advisement and discuss it as the next meeting. Selectman Connie Twombley said she was not against the proposal. Edwards wondered if transfer station employees would object, but agreed to Avellani's suggestion.

As for UNH holding equipment classes in Wakefield, Edwards asked what the benefit would be to the town. Nichols said the town gets four free seats worth $60 each. Classes will cover excavator and front loader operation. Liability is covered by the state.The board approved the classes.

As for the truck, Nichols said the C5500 is next in line for replacement. Garland said it is the smallest truck the town has and it broke down several times this past winter while doing in-town plowing. Garland said he would not trade the truck in but keep it as a 4 x 4 diesel spare to use in sweeping and cold patching. The proposed replacement, a Freightliner M2 106, is an upgrade with a higher payload, a five-year warranty and comes fully equipped with a new plow for $77,000. A comparable Kenworth model has only a one-year warranty.

Collins was concerned that, even though the truck will be paid for from a capital reserve, cash to purchase will not be available until July. Nichols says it will take time to build after an order is placed.

Avellani said he would like to see more bids on the Freightliner from dealers in other states before proceeding.

Drew Dam funding questioned

During the first public comment period Jim Miller asked if petition Article 20, which was passed by voters and provides $34,500 in funding to repair the Drew Mill Dam, was to be discussed. Edwards said no because the board was lacking information it had requested.

Miller said he was concerned about the process used to make the proposal, which to him should involve talking about the need, checking costs and plans and then soliciting bids for the work. He said no plans or bids were presented on the dam.

He said there was talk about using the pond created by the dam as a fire pond, yet there was no discussion of the need for a fire pond.

Also abutters were not heard from. Miller said he looked at the tax map and saw what looked like a right-of-way, but questioned whether public access would be allowed and what impact it would have on abutters. It was said that recreational use would be allowed: how would that be done?

He also raised the question of accountability: he hoped the selectmen would make sure the money is spent for the purpose proposed. There should also be grants available to help fund the dam repairs.

Miller's final question was whether giving money to a non-profit in this way would set a precedent. "This is a big one for me," he said. Does it mean that any non-profit could submit a petition warrant article to double their budget, for example?

Edwards responded that these were good questions, but that the board did not have answers to discuss them since the information the board requested has still not been received.

Twombley noted that abutter Snooky Shea has said he is in favor of the dam repair.

She then asked Miller, who is president of ClearView Community TV, if Spectrum, which took over Time Warner Cable, has to honor the Time Warner contract. Miller said the contract is with the town, not ClearView. Twombley asked if Paul School has it own cable line yet. Miller said no.

Twombley also said that when she was on the school board, "precedent" should not be a main concern since every case is different.

Other business

Selectmen signed the grounds maintenance contract with Hales.

Two bids were received for septic sludge removal, from Hartigan of Vermont for 17 cents per gallon, including the required lab analysis, and from Lakes Region Septic Service of Brookfield for 17.5 cents per gallon. Bodah noted that, based on a total of 60,000 gallons, the difference between the two bids was $300. Edwards said the difference was too small and he favored the local contractor. The bid was awarded to Lakes Region Septic on a 3-0 vote.

Collins said there were five tax-deeded properties to be disposed. She recommended an auction service but added the value of the properties may not be enough to attract bids. Selectmen approved talking to vendors about auctioning the properties, as opposed to asking for sealed bids.

The board received a notice from the N.H. Department of Transportation that Route 109 will be repaved this year and the crosswalk near Burroughs Avenue will be repainted after paving.

Also received was a notice from Spectrum/Charter Communications that it will be dropping two channels from its cable lineup.

Selectmen approved the use of the Wakefield Opera House by the N.H. Department of Safety for an administrative hearing and to SCAMP to distribute extra posters for its 40th anniversary performance.

The board approved three capital reserve expenditures totaling $22,829.75, mainly for HVAC work done at the public safety building. Edwards said bids are expected on Friday, April 14, for sheetrock work, electrical, plumbing and the sprinkler system for the second floor completion project.

Collins reported that the required public hearing on invasive species capital reserve requests will be held on May 10, the first meeting in May.

Greg Hall and Gloria Belanger were reappointed to the Parks & Recreation Commission. Relf Fogg was reappointed as a member and Donna Martin as an alternate to the Conservation Commission, and Annette Perry was reappointed as a member of the Heritage Commission.

The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, April 26, in the Town Hall conference room.

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