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Holmes fine settlement up in the air again after objections


July 09, 2009
TUFTONBORO — Last week, on June 29, the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen put off a final agreement with Bill Holmes, who, in their opinion, recently met the June deadline for clearing his property of numerous unregistered vehicles, in favor of further consultation with the town's attorney, Richard Sager, regarding the terms suggested by Sager, which they thought to be more strict than necessary.

Codes Officer Jack Parsons had suggested at the June 15 selectmen's meeting that Holmes pay a $2,500 fine to help offset the cost to the town over the years as it worked toward resolution. The board agreed, voted to waive Holmes' accumulated fines of $55,700 with the stipulation that he remain in compliance, and asked that he set up a payment schedule at the town office.

They received a revised stipulation from Sager, which Chairman Dan Duffy brought forth at the July 6 meeting for Holmes to sign. However, a recent letter from Attorney Susan Slack on behalf of Holmes' abutters, John and Melanie Ratcliffe, stating their dissatisfaction, complicated matters, requiring further consultation.

In addition, Holmes himself was not pleased with the revised stipulation. Though he agreed to pay the $2,500 fine, he took issue with having the other fines over his head for a year, contingent on his compliance, especially considering that his compliance is not currently considered acceptable by his neighbors, the Ratcliffes, who are reserving their right to sue.

Selectman Bill Stockman commented, "Everyone has a junk yard if you read the RSAs," and Duffy added, "Bill [Holmes] has the right to own things." Once again, the matter will go back to Sager for discussion.

Department updates

Fred Sargent reported that activity is up at the transfer station and that items are leaving the swap shop about as fast as they are being brought in. The new container for the swap shop is expected to arrive in three weeks.

Building Inspector Parsons said he has given out 47 permits for new construction, completed 192 inspections, and signed 17 certificates of occupancy so far this year. He is also seeking contractors for the job of shoring up the Town Hall foundation.

Police Chief Andrew Shagoury reported that all categories of activity to date are up once again, with the exception that the number of accidents has gone down from 20 to 10 in the period from January 1 to June 30.

He announced that the new police vehicle is in and needs to be set up for operation. Shagoury said that he has signed the department up for Nixle, a new, free communications service that will keep subscribers updated via text message, email or the Web on weather, school closings, missing persons, traffic and road closings, and location and time of events. Anyone can sign up at www.nixle.com .

Shagoury is also thinking of looking into using Twitter, after noticing that officers in Epping were able to catch someone alleged to have dumped bags of garbage on a roadside, by communicating with Twitter on a cell phone.

He noted a recent change in state law that requires towns to start assuming 100 percent of medical subsidies to employees as of the end of the month, explaining that towns were being reimbursed for their share of expenses, but the state was not. He suggested that the rate for police details be increased from the current $40 an hour with $30 going to the officer and the rest to the town, to $60 an hour with $30 going to the officer and the remainder to the town. The selectmen agreed.

Shagoury said the department would change their required minimum of four hours for a detail to three, offsetting the increase in some instances.

Feral cats have been proliferating in various areas of town, according to the chief, leading to calls from citizens three in just the last couple of days. One officer was bitten and he heard that a resident also had been bit. They have been placing Havahart traps to capture the cats.

Selectman Carolyn Sundquist asked for final word on raising the Dame Road speed limit. Shagoury replied that now that the road has been paved, the limit can be increased by state law to 35 mph and said that in his opinion, a speed study would support that.

Public Safety Facilities Committee

John Lapolla, chairman of the Public Safety Facilities Committee, said he had received comments in regard to the cost figures reported in the paper, based on a background report provided by the group, for the various options under consideration, and noted that the committee believes that they can reduce costs by using local contractors.

As reported last week, the architectural drawings are merely conceptual and the estimates are not firm.

Lapolla said that he was recently approached by a local architect who is willing to work on a design and said that grant money could be available for a fire station. Lapolla offered to get figures together for a July 10 deadline. No objections were raised.

The committee is scheduled to meet at the Town Hall on Monday, July 13, at 7 p.m. They have tentatively set July 30 for their public forum. They are waiting for confirmation from the Tuftonboro Central School and will release details as soon as possible. They intend to offer residents a chance to fill out a questionnaire at the end of the presentation and give their opinions on the various options.

After the forum, the results will be handed over to the selectmen for final consideration.

Public Input

Paul Zimmerman responded to Parsons' comment earlier in the meeting that he was looking for contractors for strengthening the foundation of the Town Hall with a name of someone he recommends. He also recommended oiling the Town Hall's wood floor.

Zimmerman also asked administrative secretary Darlene McWhirter to send notices of town events to him via email so that he wouldn't have to go to the Web site and the newspaper to look for them. She replied that she believes that is a feature of the new software for the Web site, which she expects to be online on July 8, but asked for some time to learn how to use it.

Zimmerman offered to hire an artist to make a rendering of a proposed addition to the Tuftonboro Free Library in keeping with the architecture of the building, and stated that the town should sell the Dearborn property and put it back on the tax roll. He said that a new public safety building is not likely to be supported this year or the next.

Selectmen are scheduled to meet next on July 20 at 7 p.m. at the town offices.

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