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Selectmen approve sale of Lakeside Ambulance Service

Town puts temporary budget freeze in effect

June 24, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Brian Lord, President of Lakeside Ambulance Service, came to the June 16 selectmen's meeting seeking town approval to sell his business to Stewart's Ambulance Service of Meredith.

Under the terms of the current contract signed with the Town of Wolfeboro on April 23, 2009, "This agreement shall not be assigned by the Contractor without written consent by the Town." The Lakeside agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2013.

Lord had initially asked to discuss the matter in nonpublic session, but Town Counsel Mark Puffer ruled that out. "There is no exception in RSA 91-A: 3 which fits this situation; and arguably a town's contract for services is a prime example of issues that the public has a right to know about," he wrote in an email to Town Manager Dave Owen.

Lord addressed the board to urge approval of the sale. "We've had a long run," he said, but Lakeside has reached an agreement with Stewart's "that will benefit the town."

Stewart's owner, Justin Van Etten, was present at the meeting, along with President Steve Marsh and Manager Stacey Meyer.

Van Etten said that Lakeside currently has three ambulances in service – two at the Center Street station and one at Huggins – and Stewart's will maintain that number, even though the contract only calls for two. Stewart's will continue to use the Center Street facility under a long-term lease.

Lakeside replaced one ambulance last year and is due to replace another this year. Van Etten said Stewart's practice is to purchase a new ambulance every six months.

Finally, Stewart's has paramedic services that Lakeside currently lacks.

Selectman Marge Webster got to the heart of the board's concerns by asking if "the same players are in place" that were running Stewart's when the company withdrew from its contract in 2007. Lakeside had stepped in when Stewart's left town.

Van Etten said he bought the company two-and-a-half years ago and he assured selectmen that "a new team was in place." The company currently covers four towns: Meredith, Center Harbor, Sandwich and Moultonborough.

Lord interjected that he considered that issue carefully and concluded that the town would be in good hands with Stewart's as it is run now.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray said the Town Counsel Puffer recommended that Lord sign an agreement that if Stewart's fails, he will step in. She said she also felt that the contract should not be assignable by Stewart's to anyone else.

Town Manager Dave Owen said he wanted to make sure that the town gets a second new ambulance, a promise made in the original contract that supported rate increases in future years. The contract fees are scheduled to increase each year, rising from $189,204 in 2010 to $206,748 in 2013.

Lord stated that part of his agreement with Stewart's calls for him to be available, and he had no objection to agreeing to step in if needed.

The board asked no further questions. Owen agreed to have Attorney Puffer draft a letter agreeing to the assignment of the contract incorporating the terms discussed.

Budget freeze

Finance Director Peter Chamberlin reviewed expenditures and revenues through May. With one exception, expenses are running within budget and revenues are in line, aided by the payment of a large tax lien. The main concern is with the welfare budget. Despite being increased by 50 percent from 2009, the budget has been running over since the beginning of the year, and with $100,457 expended out of an annual budget of $150,902 through May, Owen and Chamberlin projected it could be over by $75,000 by year end. Owen said demand has been tapering off lately, especially for housing vouchers, but this usually happens in the summer.

Owen said that he and Chamberlin will be meeting with department heads to identify areas where the potential welfare overage could be offset. In the meantime he has placed a temporary freeze on non-critical expenditures, effective immediately. Once the review is completed, the temporary freeze will be lifted.

Milfoil update

Murray gave a progress report on milfoil eradication efforts. This summer the focus of milfoil removal efforts has shifted from Back Bay to Wolfeboro Bay, where significant growths of the plant were identified last year by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services. In the first of two planned sweeps, divers using Diver-Assisted Suction Harvester (DASH) units, worked for three days, from June 6 to 8 at the Town Docks, removing two truckloads of milfoil uprooted by divers and the sucked up to boats and extracted. The harvested milfoil was brought to Spider Web Gardens in Tuftonboro for composting (see photo on page A12).

On June 11 divers extracted regrowth from Back Bay, which has been worked over extensively during the past two years, and returned to Wolfeboro Bay on June 14 and 15 to attack a batch at the Windrifter moorings and the end of Lake Street.

Murray said a lot of work remains to be done in Wolfeboro Bay and the town's milfoil committee is looking for volunteers to help out in August and September. She said she and Kurt Dietzer work five days on the project but that Ken Marschner was there all eight days.

Selectmen signed the Intermunicipal Agreement on Milfoil Equipment and Services, which sets forth the terms for sharing DASH units for harvesting milfoil among the towns of Moultonborough, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro. The equipment purchase was funded by a grant from the New Hampshire Lakes Association plus contributions of $5,000 from each of the three towns. Current milfoil harvesting is done with equipment provided by the diving service.

Other business

Selectmen were invited to participate in the unveiling of a bronze plaque commemorating the placement of Brewster Memorial Hall on the National Register of Historic Places next Monday, June 28 at 10 a.m. at the clock tower entrance to Brewster Hall. Judy Breuninger led the fundraising effort to acquire the plaque. The Friends of Town Hall will hold a reception following the unveiling. Speaking for the Friends Joyce Davis reported that the Brewster Hall committee has met with the town's Energy Committee and identified general areas where energy costs could be lowered: Bob Lemaire will also meet with the Friends' architect to review the plans. Davis said the committee was close to having presentable plans for the renovations and would be meeting today, June 24.

The board approved renewal of the lease with the Wolfeboro Cooperative Nursery School for the use of space in the railroad station.

Selectmen also approved proceeding with plans to hold Employee Appreciation Day aboard the Winnipesaukee Belle at a date to be established for $10 per person, instead of holding a beach outing. Selectman Sarah Silk thanked Luch Van Cleve of the Wolfeboro Inn for being willing to provide the 120-capacity boat at a reduced rate for the event. Jeff Urquhart, who had negotiated the arrangement, was congratulated for earned Human Resource certification from the NH Bureau of Education and Training (see photo on page A7).

The board agreed to reimburse Wolfeboro Community Television $350 for the cost of compiling returns from a survey of Metrocast subscribers. More than 800 responses were received. WCTV Chairman Allen Bailey reported that 75 percent of Wolfeboro households have Metrocast. The town receives an annual franchise fee which is used to support broadcast of public meetings.

During public input, resident Josephine Amatucci again addressed the board about her proposal to build new town offices behind the library. She presented selectmen with a color photo and information about a new library just built in East Kingston and said she has been in touch with the contractor. Based on the East Kingston costs she said a new building could be built for about $1 million, which she thinks selectmen should consider instead of spending much more on renovating Brewster Hall. The board accepted her information without comment.

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