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Selectmen face a number of questions


May 27, 2009
NEW DURHAM — During the citizen's forum of the Monday, May 18 New Durham Board of Selectmen's meeting, town resident William Chase stood up and said if Peter Rhoades, a non-member of the board, can attend a non-public session of the board, he wants to be present as well.

Chase said it appeared in an article that appeared in the May 14 issue of The Baysider that Rhoades had sat in on the non-public session of May 4. He offered his name and phone number to the board so he could be notified in advance of these sessions.

Selectman Dave Bickford replied Rhoades was neither present during the session nor was he invited to it.

Chase said it seems Rhoades, a former selectman, is trying to influence the board in some way.

"I feel someone with an agenda has no place in this room," he said.

Editor's note: The May 14 article mentions the fact that Rhoades stayed at Town Hall for the duration of the board's non-public session while awaiting a decision, but gives no indication that he sat in on any aspect of the discussion. We stand by our reporter's depiction of events.

Lucinda Erwin, a former member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, also addressed the board during the citizen's forum and asked why it had considered appointing someone other than her to fill the three-year term she recently completed. Erwin's term has expired and needs to be replenished for another three years.

The board returned to Erwin's inquiry later on in the meeting. When the conversation was rekindled, Gehl replied the board had received several applications from applicants who wished to fill Erwin's position. After being impressed by the resume of a particular candidate, he made a motion to appoint him, he said.

Erwin asked what the board's issue with her was, as there has been a tradition for the board to heed the commission's recommendation for filling vacancies.

Gehl said the board did not support his motion to appoint the man, but instead had asked for an "explicit" recommendation from the commission. This is why, he said, the board asked the commission for this recommendation.

Kristyn Bernier, chair of the commission, said that she felt the process by which the commission aids in the appointing or reappointing of members was circumvented by the board. She also said the commission was unaware of the applicants.

Gehl said the bylaws of the commission do not necessarily apply to the board, which has the final authority in these issues.

Bernier expressed the importance of the recommendation of the commission.

"We know where we're headed; we know what needs to be done," she said.

The commission met Friday, May 15, and formally decided it wants Erwin reappointed to the position, she said. She praised Erwin's tenure, stating that among other actions, Erwin has volunteered for many hours, and helped with budgeting and grant writing.

Bickford said the board needed to make sure information regarding applicants is communicated to the commission. He said it is also important that the commission vets those being considered.

The board appointed Erwin for another three years as commissioner, and she was officially sworn in.

The board appointed Tom Goss for a one-year membership to the Capital Improvement Committee (CIP). Gehl was appointed and sworn in as an "ex-officio" alternate to the planning board. Vacancies remain for the Boodey House Committee, the Trustees of the Trust Funds, and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Barn easements granted

The board held a scheduled public hearing to review two applications for Historic Barn Preservation Easements. According to Cheryl Cullimore's application, her barn is of 18th Century English style, is post and beam, and has 'gun stock' corners. Cullimore said the framework in the barn is all original.

Clayton and Susan Randall's application states that the "Moses Randall" barn on their property is probably more than 200 years old due to the "scribe rule construction" found in it that was in common use until around 1790.

For each application, selectmen gave their answers to a list of questions pertaining to criteria to legitimate granting the easement. Their answers were based upon a brief inspection of the barns they made previously. The questions dealt with the amount of historical and aesthetic value of the buildings.

The board agreed that both applications met the criteria, and Town Historian Cathy Orlowicz enthusiastically stated the barns were worth preserving for their historical value. The applications were approved, and Town Administrator April Whittaker said they will be handed over to the town assessor to determine the financial details of the easements. She also mentioned she would speak to the town Appraiser.

Gehl said the town provided for the easement, which allows barn owners to save money on their property tax bill for keeping the state of their barn preserved, in its Master Plan. He said he was elated to see this provision coming to fruition by these two approved applications.

"[T]hanks for helping us get out feet wet on this process," he said to Cullimore and the Randalls.

Other business

The board quickly discussed the status of additional funds the town has yet to receive through the state's Hazard Mitigation Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money is being received to provide for a box culvert on Davis Crossing Road.

The board went into a non-public session following the citizen's forum to discuss a letter to the editor that appeared in the April 30 issue of The Baysider. Upon its return to the regular meeting, the board read a statement it prepared regarding the letter.

Among other things, the statement points out that the board wishes to reassure the employee discussed in the letter that the release of his protected information was without the approval of the town. Personnel issues are normally discussed in non-public sessions, the statement continues, and any invasion of privacy is protected by RSA 91-A: 5 III.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for June 1 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall. Yesterday, May 27, the board was scheduled to have a work session to discuss goals it would like to accomplish before Town Meeting. Whittaker said she had a list of steps and guidelines to help produce the town budget and which she would like to see reviewed. Street mapping and name changing were also on the agenda.

Road Agent Mark Fuller said he wished to name the road leading to Nip Muck Trail. He said he recently renumbered Nip Muck Trail to aid police and rescue missions and to prevent any problems for the town. These issues were also on the agenda for this meeting.

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