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Selectmen vote to restore first floor bathroom in Brewster Hall

Water and sewer rates to be reviewed in light of recent shortfalls

August 13, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Selectmen held another workshop on town offices at the Aug. 5 meeting and once again found themselves struggling to find areas of agreement.

The discussion began with Town Manager Dave Owen presenting the board with information on $41,240 he has identified in the operating budget that could be used to fund building evaluation and design services needed to prepare a warrant article for the 2010 ballot.

Selectman Chair Dave Senecal said that he and Selectman Marge Webster had met with a construction company to look at the Municipal Electric building site on Lehner Street using the conceptual plans prepared by Richard O'Donnell. O'Donnell had proposed at the selectmen's last meeting that the empty building could be adapted for use as two floors of office space and a lower-level storage area, allowing current personnel in Brewster Hall to be moved during construction work on that building while also providing a potential permanent home for the planning and public works departments now housed in the Brewster Hall annex.

Webster said the contractor was also asked to provide estimates for extending the building toward the Community Center, up to a total of 15,000 square feet. Senecal added that the extension could involve demolishing and replacing the Community Center. He also said the contractor was working on a parking plan and that there would be no cost for the estimates, which should be ready by the next meeting on Aug. 19.

Selectman Linda Murray said she had questions about the Lehner Street site. She said she was concerned about property lines, the water monitoring wells in the electric building, possible loss of parking spaces from the lot the town just bought, and what would be involved in transferring ownership of the electric building from the Municipal Electric Enterprise Fund. She pointed out that the Lehner Street option was rejected by 65 percent of voters last March and questioned whether voters would support a building extension, given current economic conditions, including a decline in town and state revenues.

Senecal interrupted Murray to say that there would be no decision made that evening on town offices and that what he and Webster were doing was gathering facts.

Undeterred, Murray went on to point out that downstairs in Brewster Hall has been wet all summer and that the building itself has been neglected for more than 50 years. She recommended taking the $41,240 identified by Owen and any other operating budget funds that could be found to improve staff working conditions "right now." Specifically she recommended reinstalling the bathroom off the conference room using the plumbing that was still in place and making a section of the conference room a staff break room as well as a storage area for the Supervisors of the Checklist. This would make it unnecessary for staff to go down into the moldy basement. Murray also recommended removing all storage from the Brewster Hall basement to the electric building, have the building professionally cleaned especially rugs and floors and if there is money left, have the asbestos removed from the basement.

Selectman Kristi Ginter said she was concerned with putting money into Brewster Hall, saying that there may be toxic mold issues elsewhere than in the basement. She said the town should not try to make improvements to the building "without knowing what we are getting into." She criticized an effort Owen had organized to vent the basement air to the outside, saying "we may be spreading a problem."

Webster repeated Senecal's statement that at this point they were only gathering facts. "We all have to come together on one plan. There has to be give and take," she said.

Senecal agreed with Ginter on the need to find out "what we are dealing with." He advocated air quality testing in the basement and working areas, including carpets. Senecal, however, did support Murray's recommendation to restore the first floor bathroom. "It would cost about $500 to set and toilet and hang a sink," he said.

Selectman Sarah Silk moved to authorize up to $3,500 to get the testing done and restore the bathroom, and the board agreed. Owen said he would stop the ventilation project and get the testing done.

Water and sewer rates

Public Works Director Dave Ford presented selectmen with an analysis of how water and sewer rates have worked against the projections made when the rates were last increased.

For various reasons, revenues for both water and sewer are falling short of projections. The shortfall in water revenues is less than that in sewer revenues but still significant.

In 2008 sewer revenues came it at $869,631, which was $56,759 less than the $926,390 projected. Projecting from revenues in the first half of 2009, Ford is concerned that sewer revenues for this year could be short by $100,000.

Recently the town discovered that the school district was not being billed for sewer services to Crescent Lake School, due to a last-minute change that was made from using a septic system to hooking up to the town sewer. While that oversight has been corrected, Ford pointed out that the district's new Kingswood facility will use rainwater for toilets, creating metering issues, and the new toilets will use less water, further reducing revenues. The new Huggins building will also use less water. Without getting into specific recommendations, Ford told the board that the town will have to both cut costs and increase rates to pay for operating costs of the sewer system.

Water usage has also gone down even for those not on sewer. Part of this problem is that in 2007 the town adopted a conservation rate to encourage people to use less water, and the rate is working well too well. Large water users such as Brewster, Huggins and the school district have been particularly aggressive in reducing usage.

Ford set that the town needs to set the rates for large users for 2010 soon so they can budget for the increases. He expects that he will have better information for setting rates by the board's next meeting on Aug. 19. Summer users will also need to be notified about rate increases for summer use that should be implemented next year.

Ford presented board members with copies of a draft "Fats, Oils and Grease Prevention Program" designed to reduce these elements in sewage. He proposed to move slowly in implementing the policy in order to help restaurants comply without incurring fines.

Ford also informed selectmen that the sewer department will be doing inspections during the last two weeks of August to identify private inflows to the sewer system from roof drains and sup pumps that increase unbilled flows into the system.

Public hearings

The board held initial public hearings on two strips of land, The first concerned the acceptance of a strip of land from the school district next to the town's water tower. The Governor Wentworth Regional School District board has already voted to convey the land to the town in order to adjust deeds to reflect the location of buildings adjacent to the tower that are otherwise partially located on land owned by the school district. The transfer will also allow Green Mountain Communications to add a second cell tower arrays to the water tower.

The second strip of land is located along Forest Road opposite Carry Beach. The strip of land was left when the town relocated the road. The town proposes to convey the land to the three abutting property owners, to be merged with their lots and thus be added back to the tax rolls. The land in question does not include the narrow passage across the road known as the Carry used by kayakers and canoeists to carry their craft between two bays. Both the Conservation Commission and the planning board have approved the transfer.

The board will hold another public hearing on both transfers at its Aug. 19 meeting and then take a formal vote on both at its Sept. 2 meeting.

Other business

Selectmen finally adopted a No Smoking policy for "all town buildings, enclosed spaces and vehicles." In addition the policy prohibits employees from smoking while at work. After some discussion it was agreed employees could smoke in designated areas or in their personal cars while on break.

Also adopted was a policy on accommodating people with disabilities seeking to do business with the town—see separate story.

The board approved temporary event permits for the American Legion to hold a 45-minute memorial service on Sept. 11 for the victims of the 2001 terrorist attack and for bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall to The Nick in Wolfeboro from Sept. 24 to 28. Jeff Adjutant said that the 9/11 memorial was begun in 2002 and has always been non-political. He pointed out that the Moving Wall was not sponsored by the Legion but by the Auxilliary to the Marine Corps League, and reviewed the planning for the event.

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