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New Durham selectmen set goals for the next year

June 02, 2009
NEW DURHAM — From developing a new employee evaluation policy to reviewing energy usage in town buildings, New Durham's Board of Selectmen set a wide array of goals for the next year during a work session on May 27.

Explaining that the board typically re-visits its goals on an annual basis, Chairman Ron Gehl added that the list compiled in preparation for last week's meeting included a "blow-by-blow" of what individual departments hope to achieve between now and next spring.

Reviewing its list on a department-by-department basis, the board turned first to Administration, where they felt the key issue would be ensuring up-to-date evaluations of all town employees.

Selectman Terry Jarvis said she had recently gone through the town's list of job descriptions, and had a hard time determining who was supposed to report to whom.

Describing that situation as a "hangover" from the days before a town administrator, current Administrator April Whittaker asked the board to come up with a directive for how they wanted her to provide input on department head reviews, since she is, at the present time, only responsible for evaluating the employees under her direct supervision.

Jarvis suggested that the board should also consider independently reviewing evaluations submitted by department heads, commenting that "we all will have different views" of individual employees.

"Our employees can be our best feature, or our worst feature," she said.

Other administrative goals included improved filing and centralization of tax records through a new digital mapping system; working to tailor the boilerplate personnel policy the town found through the Local Government Center to its unique needs; and establishing new rules of procedure.

Under Elections and Registration, the board felt it important to ensure that all town policies are placed on the municipal Web site, and to aim for better organization of the archives.

From the board's perspective, the central issue under Financial Administration was the development of a capital improvement plan for 2010-2020.

Commenting that she had followed the efforts of the Governor Wentworth Regional School District's Building Maintenance Committee, and felt they had done a superb job, Jarvis asked if it would be possible to form a group of qualified volunteers in New Durham to examine town buildings and other assets, and set up a maintenance schedule the selectmen could follow when requesting appropriations for capital reserve funds.

Replying that the budget committee was "very hot to trot on that idea," Whittaker said she and other department heads have found it frustrating to bring forward recommendations for long-term maintenance that were either shot down or under-funded.

This summer, she explained, a staff committee plans to take a look at all town buildings and compile a list of future maintenance needs that will be presented to both the selectmen and the budget committee.

"I don't think people realize that if we spend $5,000 now, we can save $15,000 later," Jarvis said, voicing her support for the plan.

"You're on the right track," Road Agent Mark Fuller commented, adding that "you've got a lot of maintenance ahead of you" due to the fact that building maintenance has been falling by the wayside as the town continues to grow.

Also on the list of Financial goals were a complete accounting of all town assets, rather than just "big ticket" items; the development of strategies for reviewing the Creative Kids and pre-school programs; and the implementation of recommendations from the town's 2008 audit.

Under Assessing, the board set a goal of ensuring the re-certification of property values by 2010, and working to develop a silviculture and stewardship plan for the Shirley Forest.

The implementation of a new wage scale was listed as the board's primary goal under Personnel Administration.

Planning, Zoning, and Conservation goals included the development of new zoning districts (such as a business district); revision of the subdivision and site plan regulations; wetlands delineation; the development of a new stormwater management ordinance and an impact fee ordinance; the crafting of a Class VI road policy; an audit of existing ordinances and regulations to ensure compliance with new workforce housing laws; revision of the steep slope regulations; the creation of an information database based on new digital tax maps; and the completion of a natural resource inventory.

Under General Government–Buildings, the board set a goal of implementing Phase I of the historic preservation plan for the Meeting House, and exploring the possibility of an outdoor bulletin board at Town Hall.

Among the fire department's goals were completion of the fire station addition and the implementation of a testing schedule for cisterns and dry hydrants.

The highway department's goals included road repairs; a re-evaluation of the road surface maintenance system; and the completion of hazard mitigation projects.

Asked by Jarvis how far behind the department was on road work due to the rising cost of asphalt and other materials, as well as budget constraints, Fuller replied that they are currently down to 1.4 miles a year from an average of five miles just a few years ago.

Cathy Orlowicz, the department's administrative assistant, commented that every dollar deferred on road maintenance translates to roughly $10 worth of work later on.

The board set the repair of the solid waste loader as the foremost goal for the town's equipment mechanic, along with establishing a maintenance schedule for all town vehicles.

Selectman Dave Bickford recommended that among their other goals, the solid waste transfer center staff look into creating new signage as part of a public relations campaign to encourage residents to recycle more.

The board suggested that the Recreation Commission look into more adult programming, complete work on the retaining wall at the town beach, and pursue an addition to the ballfield shed.

Under Code Enforcement, the board set a goal of bringing the town's building permit in line with the zoning ordinance by creating a checklist for compliance issues.

As a miscellaneous goal, Jarvis recommended that the board set up a joint meeting of all the town's boards, committees, and commissions, similar to the roundtable discussion Whittaker organized during her first year on the job, which Jarvis said she had appreciated.

Gehl suggested seeking out qualified individuals who might be able to provide energy saving initiatives on both a short-term and long-term basis.

While he was not convinced that large-scale initiatives would be cost effective for the town to pursue, Gehl felt that there were some "low hanging fruit" issues that could be addressed.

"We've got a lot on the plate here in a difficult year," he remarked, looking over the finalized list of goals.

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

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