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Board may join suit against state over pensions

Town critical of state draft proposal to sell off Wentworth State Park

July 23, 2009
WOLFEBORO — At its July 15 meeting the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen discussed joining a lawsuit against the state proposed by the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) to block the underfunding of the state's share of pensions for teachers, policemen and firefighters.

In the just-passed state budget, lawmakers reduced the state's share of pension obligations from 35 percent to 30 percent in the year beginning July 1, 2009 and then from 30 percent to 25 percent for the year beginning July 1, 2010. The budget legislation says its will restore the 35 percent share in the next biennium, but there is no guarantee, and the NHMA is concerned that the legislature plans to eliminate state contributions altogether.

The reduction by the state will cost cities and towns $27 million in the next two years according to the association. The NHMA views this as an unfunded mandate, prohibited under Part I, Article 28-a of the N.H. Constitution

The NHMA also advises towns to make pension payments after July 1 under protest, referring to Article 28-a.

Selectman Linda Murray asked how much joining the suit will cost the town compared to how much revenue the town will have to make up from the state's reduction in pension payments. Town Manager Dave Owen said he could come up with an estimate for the board's next worksession meeting on July 22.

The board agreed to defer a decision on joining the suit until then.

Selectmen were also critical of a draft "Strategic and Capital Improvement Plan" produced by the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Parks and Recreation, that placed Wentworth State Park and the Governor John Wentworth Historic Site in Wolfeboro on a list of 27 properties to be considered to closing or disposal. Though the draft report has since been withdrawn in the storm of controversy that followed, Owen met with the Lake Wentworth Association and drafted a letter to Parks Director Ted Austin criticizing the proposal. Selectmen reviewed and approved the letter, which points out that the land for Wentworth State Park was given to the state in 1934 by the town with the condition that it "shall be used forever as a public bathing beach."

Owen's letter also points out that the state recently realized $39,839 from timber sales on the Governor Wentworth Historic Site with little if any cost of maintenance. The underlying argument in the draft study was that since state parks have to pay for themselves without any state subsidy, those that don't should be closed or sold off.

Public Works review

Public Works Director Dave Ford advised the board that two out of three recent routine water samples tested positive for coliform bacteria. As required by the state the water system was inspected and additional samples were taken, none of which showed coliform bacteria. State regulations require that water users be notified of any problems with the water system, so notices are being sent out. However, Ford emphasized that at no time were any users exposed to harmful bacteria and whatever caused the contamination in the samples is no longer present.

Another problem Ford brought up concerned Canadian geese fouling the town docks. The geese have increased over the last few years and now number 33, including 21 adults. Ford said each goose leaves one pound of droppings per day and the mess is becoming unmanageable. He reviewed a number of options to deal with the problem. In the end the board authorized spending up to $2,000 from the Buildings and Grounds budget to round up the geese and relocate them at the rate of $500 per roundup.

Ford also updated the board on other capital projects, beginning with the Railroad Station. As reported here last week, in the process of making repairs to the floor system, the contractor discovered that the floor under the Chamber of Commerce was in good shape and did not need to be replaced like the floor under the Wolfeboro Nursery School. Ford said this discovery will save money in the most expensive part of the project, but advised that some of those savings will be going into other problems discovered during the reconstruction work. These included faulty plumbing, a sewer pipe that was not vented, a chimney that needs to be lined, and other code-related issues. Overall, Ford said the project is still under budget and should be completed earlier than planned.

A detailed review of outstanding capital projects revealed that most projects authorized by voters are well under way and under budget. The only problem area concerned the Rapid Infiltration Basin site, where a state inspection uncovered problems needing correction. The additional work is covered by the budget, but because of it Ford planned to cut back on plans to reduce the level in the septage lagoon from the current level of 76 million gallons to 20 million. To do that he will resume spraying on a limited basis until the full 650,000 gallons a day can be processed by the Rapid Infiltration Basins. Ford said that he expects to get the lagoon back down to 20 million gallons by year end. None of the spraying will be directed toward the area that ultimately drains into Mirror Lake.

Other business

Selectmen held a public hearing to accept a $73,499.50 Hazard Mitigation Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the first installment of two for replacing culverts on Varney and Trask Mountain Roads. The board signed papers extending the time to spend the money to December 2010, as requested by the state.

Another public hearing was held to accept a 2009 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant of $10,714 for the Wolfeboro Police Department. The department will use the funds to purchase

The board accepted with thanks an American flag from U.S. Army Captain Mary E. Laase. The flag has been flown over Afghanistan on April 15 in an F-15 aircraft, part of the 492nd Fighter Squadron.

Selectmen approved the appointment of Peter Cole, Deborah Hauser and John Peterson as alternate library trustees.

There was only one application received for the position of Recording Secretary to replace Amy Capone-Muccio, who is expecting a baby. The lone candidate, Terry Tavares, works in the town planning department, and since she is a fulltime town employee already, would have to be paid at an overtime rate to do the work. Selectmen Kristi Ginter and Sarah Silk asked if it would be possible to reduce Tavares' hours in the planning department to avoid overtime. Since that possibility is not certain, the board voted to hire Tavares on a temporary basis at the overtime rate and advertise the $13.08 per hour position again.

Selectmen scheduled two public hearings on Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 on the acceptance of land adjacent to the water tower from the school district and the sale of lot 52 on Forest Road. Both proposals were reviewed and approved by the planning board and Conservation Commission.

Tilton School
Martin Lord Osman
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