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Fuller tackles enforcement comments

June 02, 2009
ALTON — A recent series of public complaints from planning and zoning board members about what they saw as lax enforcement of town ordinances drew heavy criticism from Alton's Board of Selectmen during its June 1 meeting.

Reporting to her fellow selectmen Monday night on the recent activities of the zoning board, Selectman Pat Fuller said she was "very distressed" to hear comments from some zoning board members during their last meeting accusing various department heads of not adequately enforcing local land use ordinances, and suggesting a joint meeting with the planning board to discuss the issue.

"They [the zoning and planning boards] have nothing to do with enforcement," she said, explaining that enforcement is the exclusive province of the town's code enforcement officer and other department heads, and ultimately falls to the selectmen.

Any complaints about lax enforcement, she said, should be submitted to the town administrator's office in writing, not aired in public during a board meeting.

Selectman Dave Hussey (who serves as representative to the planning board) agreed, adding that he felt "inappropriate" comments had been made, and that planning and zoning board members were dragging what he saw as personal issues into the situation.

Board Vice Chair Peter Bolster suggested that anyone with a grievance, whether or not they serve on a town board, should follow appropriate protocols, and address their concerns to the town administrator.

"Sometimes, people don't follow the chain," he said. "The channel should be followed."

Alton Shores road work sparks debate

Calling the board's attention to an upcoming culvert replacement on Alton Shores Road, Town Administrator Russell Bailey reported that Highway Agent Ken Roberts recently approached him with a proposal to save the town $17,000 and cut down on man hours by completely shutting down a section of Alton Shores Road during the installation, and re-routing traffic onto a nearby private road.

In exchange, Bailey said, the Highway Department would have to re-grade a portion of the private road at an estimated cost of $7,400.

Town Attorney James Sessler was made aware of the proposal, he added, and said it could be handled through a temporary road construction easement.

While Hussey and Bolster favored the idea, Selectman Loring Carr voiced reservations about setting a precedent by putting taxpayer money into a private road.

Bolster compared the situation to leasing a piece of equipment, explaining that the town would essentially be leasing the private road for a brief period of time.

Commenting that he felt Roberts' proposal was akin to leasing a piece of equipment and putting a new motor in it at the town's expense, Carr asked what the issue was with the existing culvert.

Bailey replied that the culvert cannot effectively hold water during storms, and has frequently led to flooding and wash-outs in the past.

Fuller and board Chairman Steve McMahon echoed Carr's doubts about the proposal, voting against it initially.

Asked by Hussey whether she truly felt it was preferable to inconvenience residents of Alton Shores Road and spend a net total of $10,000 that could otherwise be kept in town coffers, Fuller replied that the idea of setting a precedent concerned her.

"There'd be inconvenience either way," she said.

"I don't know $10,000 is $10,000," Bolster commented.

"Well, a precedent's a precedent, too," Carr replied.

In an effort to make the proposal more palatable, McMahon suggested that the board clearly stipulate that it is to be a "one-time thing."

Asked by Carr whether the town would be committing itself to any future liability for its work on the private road, Bailey replied that under the terms of the easement, the town would be absolved of any responsibility for maintenance or repairs.

In an effort to prevent property owners along the private road from stepping in and claiming that the town did not do enough, Carr asked who would decide when the work was complete.

Bailey said the sole determination would rest with Roberts.

Hussey asked whether it would be possible to bid the project under both scenarios (with and without traffic re-routed onto the private road), "just to see what the difference is."

"We can do that," Bailey replied.

With a new motion on the table encompassing the issues raised by Carr, the board voted unanimously in favor of Roberts' proposal.

County commissioners coming to Alton

Bailey announced during his bi-weekly report to the board that a work session with representatives from the Belknap County Commission has been scheduled for Monday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

The meeting will consist of a brief presentation by the commissioners outlining what they do, followed by an open forum during which board members and local residents will be invited to raise any concerns they have about funding or other issues at the county level.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board voted (acting as the Board of Health) to grant a series of waivers on septic system designs submitted by engineer Tom Varney; accepted a bid from Creative Concrete in the amount of $11,744 for the paving of the plaza surrounding the flagpole at the B&M Railroad Park; accepted rental bids from T-Quip of Londonderry in the amount of $6,400 (for two months' use of a roller) and $15,000 (for one month's use of an excavator with a 10,000-pound hammer); accepted separate bids from MST and Micro-Survey Software totaling $8,051.13 for an accident scene reconstruction kit; and voted to subscribe to the Nixle service (a free Web-based notification service that alerts subscribers to road closures and other emergency situations).

Next meeting

The board's next regular business meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 16, at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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