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Ashland selectmen sign off on contract with town employees

April 05, 2017
ASHLAND — At their April 3 meeting, the Ashland Selectmen signed the collective bargaining agreement with the town employees' union, met with their attorney on the Northern Pass site access agreement, made a few appointments, and discussed other issues.

The long awaited collective bargaining agreement with the town employees union was approved by the voters at the March town election by a vote of 192 to 156. The contract was signed at the selectmen's meeting by two union representatives, George Chase of the local union and Neil Smith of the State Employees Association, and by Selectman Harold Lamos, representing the Town. Chairman Fran Newton thanked Lamos and former selectman Steve Felton for their hard work in negotiating the contract.

The selectmen began their meeting with a non-public session with attorney Stephen Whitley on the site access agreement proposed by Northern Pass to enter town owned lands in order to prepare for the proposed power line project. The powerline would pass through the land

used for the town's water supply wells and the sewage treatment plant. After a half-hour private discussion, Newton explained that the attorney will rewrite the proposed agreement to allow access only for engineering studies and for no other purpose. Lamos later reported

that the site evaluation committee studying the Northern Pass project will visit Ashland on April 6.

The selectmen did make some appointments. Susan MacLeod and David Ruell were reappointed to the Heritage Commission. Steve Felton was appointed to the Economic Development Committee, Michelle Fistek to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and David Toth as an Ashland representative on the Lakes Region Planning Commission. Town Administrator Charlie Smith noted that there were vacancies or expiring terms on the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Conservation Commission, Housing Standards Board, Economic Development Committee and Heritage Commission that need to be filled. These

volunteer opportunities will be posted for all who are interested.

The selectmen postponed their own reorganization and appointments of their representatives to various boards at their last meeting because one selectman, Leigh Sharps, was absent. At this meeting, another selectmen, Tejasinha Sivalingam, was absent, so the reorganization was postponed again until all five selectmen are present. The board did vote to name Fran Newton as interim chair until a permanent chair is elected.

Newton and Smith reported on a meeting with the New Hampshire Department of Enivronmental Services, the Lakes Region Planning Commission and Nobis Engineers about the Phase II Brownfields grant for a portion of the woolen mill property, which will study the environmental hazards in the building and determine the means and costs of dealing with them. There may be funds available for the cleanup of the old mill property.

Newton also raised the possibility of a charette by Plan New Hampshire on developing the old woolen mill property. Lamos questioned why the Conservation Commission was not invited to the meeting, Smith did not know the answer., as LRPC set the meeting up.  Newton thought that the meeting was primarily to share information. Nobis Engineers will present a proposal which will be reviewed by the town officials before work begins. Kathleen  DeWolfe later passed out to the selectmen a handout on the duties of the Conservation Commission.

As State Rep. Jeff Shackett, who represents the House district serving Ashland and Bristol, has resigned, the question of holding a special election to replace him has become an issue. The Bristol selectmen sent a letter opposing such an election as the new representative would not take the seat until the legislative session is nearly over. The Ashland selectmen were in agreement that an election was an unnecessary expense.

Newton signed an agreement for town employees health insurance with Health Trust on behalf of the town. The rate increase proved to be less than expected, 5.3 percent instead of an estimated maximum of 12.9 percent. Michelle Fistek of Plymouth State University noted that the university is moving towards project-based learning, and that students might be

available to do research projects for the Town. A thank you note from Norman Marsh praising the Fire Department for their help with his wife Kathy was read. The selectmen ended their meeting with another non-public session.

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