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Selectmen encourage Economic Development Committee to seek funding

May 14, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Selectmen met with the town's Economic Development Commission (EDC) last Wednesday, May 6, and encouraged the group to continue its efforts despite voter rejection of an Economic Development Strategic Plan last March.

The EDC had developed a proposal to perform a SWOT analysis, assessing the area's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and comparing Wolfeboro to similar communities. Nearly all of the data needed for this analysis is available but a third party is needed to gather and analyze it and make a coherent presentation of the information. Once the study is completed, the EDC argued, it would be able to take the information and develop strategies for retaining existing businesses and actively recruiting new ones that would help the town develop a broader and healthier year-round business community. Selectmen put the $24,500 proposal on the March warrant as Article 28. The Wolfeboro Citizens and Taxpayers Association recommended a no vote on the article, which it called "Not urgent this year," and the article failed by a vote of 911 to 1,233.

Chairman Frank Giebutowski and members Mike Cooper, Mary DeVries, Gene Leone, Bob Reid and Dave Tower were present, along with Denise Roy-Palmer of the Wentworth Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO).

Giebetowski said the EDC wanted to continue with the development plan and sought selectmen's approval of phasing a modified study and pursuing outside funding for it. He said that a first phase of the modified study, proposed by consultant Stu Arnett, would cost $9,000, which the committee would seek to raise through a grant and from private funding. Roy-Palmer said that WEDCO had applied for a grant from the N.H. Charitable Foundation for $7,500 for this purpose.

Selectmen approved this approach, authorizing the committee to pursue private funding and WEDCO to pursue any grants available on behalf of the town. Chair Dave Senecal noted that several articles failed in March that offered long-term benefits and said that the EDC should go forward any way it can. Selectman Linda Murray agreed voters did not want to fund studies this year and noted that the town's Milfoil Committee had taken the same approach of using grants and private funding to move ahead.

Town Manager Dave Owen noted that voters have given selectmen the ability to accept gifts and grants and said that WEDCO could manage any funds received on behalf of the EDC.

Reid noted that while the EDC felt the first phase could be funded in this manner, it would be coming back to seek funding for the second phase in next year's budget. Murray said she thought raising funds for Phase I would be a "definite plus" in seeking funding for a Phase II next March.

Railroad Station update

Public Works Director Dave Ford gave the board a status report on the Railroad Station repairs. He said a final building evaluation report was due by Friday, May 8. Once that was received and reviewed, he said that the department would prepare bid specifications for work that would address all of the problems identified and include roof repair and replacement, exterior painting, replacement of building sills and floor, lead paint abatement in the Nursery School space, interior painting and drainage and ventilation for the basement. After bids were received they would be evaluated. Ford said his goal was to review the bids and make recommendations to the town manager and board by June 10.

Ford added he had heard comments from a number of potential bidders that it might be possible to do the whole job within the funds approved for this year. The bids will show whether that is the case.

Murray pointed out that the Nursery School lease for their station space expires on June 30. She and Selectman Kristi Ginter volunteered to sit with Owen during negotiations.

Heather Larson, Wolfeboro Nursery School board president, gave the board an update on the school plan to hold classes temporarily at the First Congregational Church (see separate story on page A5). She thanked selectmen, Owen and Ford for their efforts to address the building problems and gave special thanks to Paul Kimball, who has helped the school move into its temporary space.

Other business

The board reviewed the Master Plan Implementation Matrix and updated items that were the responsibility of selectmen.

Selectmen also reviewed its own goals and objectives for 2009-2010 and accepted a number of changes, most proposed by Murray. Among the more significant were to have the Finance Director and department heads clean up old accounts with open balances, create a selectmen's handbook with key documents (RSAs, polices, plans, and water, sewer and electric rates) and a calendar of specific items to be reviewed (fees to be set, contract renewals, rate reviews), set capital guidelines annually for department heads, develop a Municipal Asset Management Plan (including Road Surface Management), evaluate establishing tax increment financing for projects and review boat docking fees.

As part of the goals review, Murray said the board should decide what to do about town offices. Senecal proposed a work session with interested parties to discuss a way forward. After some discussion, June 10 was chosen as the date for the work session, which would be open to the public.

The board signed a proclamation that Friday, May 8, was Arbor Day. The Parks and Recreation Department planned to plant a disease-resistant elm tree at The Nick to celebrate the day.

During public comments, Mark Wiggins asked if the board planned to drop its suit against the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Owen replied that the issue would be discussed in nonpublic session later. When asked by this reporter after the meeting what had been decided, Owen replied that the board concluded that the matter was in the hands of the ZBA, where it had been remanded by the court to clarify the reasons for granting a building permit. The minutes of the nonpublic session were sealed by a vote of two-thirds of board members. The ZBA is scheduled to review the matter at their next meeting on Monday, June 1.

Suzanne Ryan questioned the status of the town's Road Surface Management Plan. Owen replied that Ford will have an intern working this summer on the data provided by the Lakes Region Planning Commission for the plan.

Ryan also urged selectmen to establish a capital reserve for building maintenance and to develo

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