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Beaches and parking still at forefront of residents' concerns

August 19, 2009
As summer winds down, Gilford residents and town departments came together last week to address issues with the selectmen at the annual summer forum. Taxpayers voiced concern over items such as guest passes and parking complications at Gilford's Town Beach, the mysterious trailers sneaking into town parking spaces, and the concern over Gilford Middle School's three-week closure this past spring.

After the Board of Selectmen opened up the town forum to the public, Wayne Swanson, a year round resident of Gilford, addressed his concerns for the town beach.

"I want to know why the board feels they have to tax residents for guest passes. I did my research and other beaches don't tax them. There (at Sunapee) each property owner gets a three-year guest pass that can be placed in any vehicle. Why do we have to be different than other towns?" asked Swanson.

Selectmen Chair Gus Benavides explained that the town thought long and hard about their decision and tried to make the residents of Gilford their first priority.

"Number one, we wanted to make sure the residents had access to the facilities, including Glendale. That's why taxes rose in order to maintain the facilities," said Benavides. Residents had complained about over-crowding, so the board tried to do something about it, he said, although the selectmen plan to reassess this year to see how successful the changes were.

"We wanted to see what we could do to make the beach facilities more accessible for residents. We also had some abuse from the guest cards, which was one of our concerns. We're not saying everyone did it, but some people were giving the passes to their friends and bosses," said Benavides.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn added that the town did not want the residents to deal with the overcrowded parking, and that the deed on the town beach and certain facilities restricted use for the town and for guests because the land was given for a particular reason.

Swanson suggested that the town get in touch with towns such as Sunapee and added that even gated facilities had more guest privileges than the Town of Gilford.

Residents also expressed their concern over parking by the Glendale docks, not just Varney Point road, and complained about the random trailers that stole their parking spaces.

Dunn responded by reassuring the crowd that he was already on top of the problem.

"I recognize we don't have sufficient trailer parking at the facilities. The trailers come out of nowhere. I drive around there, and I'll see a trailer I didn't see a few minutes ago. It's like they materialize," said Dunn, who added the town was currently looking for additional trailer parking.

Gilford resident Terry Stewart took the public session in another direction and asked Superintendent Paul DeMinico about the water issue at Gilford Elementary School last year. Stewart said he was concerned with the amount of time the leak kept the students out of school and wanted to know if DeMinico had learned anything, or had any back-up plans up his sleeve in case such an instance occurred again.

If a similar instance happened again, Stewart wanted to know if the school could find a way to keep the education going.

DeMinico gave some background information on the water leak at GMS and explained that a pipe leaked in the school building one weekend and burst on the third floor of the school, soaking every floor. DeMinico said school shut down for about three weeks, and afterwards, the School Board discussed how they could continue education and mitigate a similar situation from happening in the future.

"We had a public forum and extended days. We offer more public hours than the average schools," said DeMinico.

Stewart asked if the board looked into other facilities during construction, and DeMinico said the search would have been in vain.

"We looked into other facilities and felt by the time it took to move to these areas, bring the teachers and their materials, the school would have been ready," said DeMinico.

He added that engineers came to check the problem and found a weakness in the pipes that DeMinico referred to as a maintenance issue.

Meadows project clarification was also requested from residents including John Goodhue, who said that the deeded land, if it did not follow what was originally intended of it, would be given back to the Carey family. School Board member Sue Allen closed the discussion by announcing that this would be an amendment restriction.

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