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Selectmen vote to table four warrant articles

Audience frustrated by silence on town offices

December 03, 2009
WOLFEBORO — In a special work session held at the Wolfeboro Inn on Nov. 23, selectmen completed their review of proposed warrant articles for the March ballot and voted to pass over or table four articles totaling $1.5 million.

Audience members who had come to the special meeting expecting a discussion of the two recent proposals for new or renovated town offices were disappointed and made their feelings known to the board.

Of the 21 articles reviewed at the last meeting on Nov. 18, four with costs totaling $1,580,000 were tabled and 17 worth $2,988,750 were approved for public hearings.

Among the four warrant articles tabled was Article M, "John Brewster Memorial Building (Town Hall) Interim Improvements, Maintenance, and Repair," which would raise $110,000 to do the following: "constructing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant entrances, fix the leak in the roof, repair/replace windows and sills, install a fire alarm system, and reconstruct the rear entrance door/wall to include insulation." Not listed but also included was the installation of snow guards to prevent snow from sliding off the slate roof in key areas.

This article was initially approved to go to public hearing, but after the review of all warrant articles had been completed, Selectman Kristi Ginter moved to table it until the board had discussed what to do about town offices. Her motion was approved 3-2, with Selectman Chair Dave Senecal and Selectman Marge Webster voting with her in favor and Selectmen Linda Murray and Sarah Silk voting against.

Town offices

Chairman Senecal said he was not ready to discuss town offices. Silk said she felt a work session on town offices was needed. Murray asked why the board could not discuss the proposals tonight, saying "It's not even 8 p.m. We're here." Town Manager Dave Owen pointed out that warrant articles have to be sent to the town Budget Committee on Dec. 8. Senecal said he would be away until Dec. 5.

A work session was set for Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. After the meeting the Community Center on Lehner Street was chosen as the location.

Murray said she had a number of issues with the Lehner Street new building proposal that she would like to see addressed at the work session: where the proposed building sits in relation to lot lines; configuration of parking at the site (pointing out that reconstruction of Lehner Street will remove some on-street parking spots); removing the value of the Municipal Electric building from the Electric Fund; and how the monitoring well in the electric building will be handled (it was installed following an oil spill). Owen said the building was a town asset and could be transferred out of the fund and that the town had been given the option of filling the sump in the electric building by the state. She also asked whether any other town office proposals, such as leasing space in the Victor Drouin building, would be brought forward. Senecal said "not that I am aware of."

Silk questioned whether the state would have problems with taking down the Community Center building since they were very concerned about installing light poles at Foss Field. She also raised the question of compensation to the Tennant/Wallace Architects for doing the Lehner Street plans, adding that the Brewster Hall plans cost the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall $30,000. Senecal said no money was expended. Silk persisted, saying that the board is required to hold public hearings to accept gifts worth $5,000 or more. Also the gift of the drawings could be construed as an attempt to gain advantage in bidding for other town work, such as the library, where this architect was one of 16 bidders.

Murray read from the N.H. constitution about openness in government and also RSA 91A, the Right to Know law.

Ginter said she felt that Senecal and Webster were just bringing forward a proposal for consideration. Senecal added that the night the Brewster Hall proposal was presented he decided not to present Lehner Street, which was on the agenda. "You knew it was coming at the same time the Friends presented their proposal."

During public input more questions were raised about the Lehner Street proposal. Chip Maxfield, chair of the Chamber of Commerce Parking Committee said he was concerned that employee parking for the new building would "chew up" spaces in the new parking lot just approved. Several members of the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall also spoke in opposition. Don Hughes complained about the lack of an impact study on abandoning Town Hall if a new building is built, pointing out it will cost anyone who moves in $3 million to correct problems and asking that towns where town halls have been abandoned be identified.

Richard O'Donnell asked "just one question: What is your plan for Brewster Memorial Hall?" Specifically he asked if a buyer had been lined up. Senecal responded that the study last year identified a number of options for the building, including selling it or leasing it to a non-profit agency. O'Donnell went on the question the motivation for proposing the new building, given the fact that the Department of Labor was coming on Dec. 9 to look at Brewster Hall working conditions He also complained that there had been no response to the Friends proposal for Brewster Hall and said he felt "set up" because he brought up the idea of re-using the Municipal Electric building. He then stated, "Working with an architect [on the Lehner Street plans] if not illegal, it is unethical."

Gary Baker asked the board why anyone thinks a Lehner Street proposal would be passed by two-thirds of voters. Senecal said "people I have talked to don't like the idea of keeping town hall in Brewster Memorial Hall." He cited parking as an issue when Carpenter School was in session. "People want a new building."

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