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Northfield and Tilton talk joint property agreements

December 08, 2010
NORTHFIELD —Tilton and Northfield selectmen met last Tuesday to discuss a long-standing "gentlemen's agreement" on jointly owned property and how the two towns should move forward with maintenance, winter plowing and upkeep of Cannon Bridge, Island Park, the Winnipesaukee River Trail, Hall Memorial Library and the Pines Community Center.

Following an incident this summer where the bridge to Island Park needed emergency repairs, Northfield officials noticed there was nothing in writing to specify how those types of situations should be handled. At the time the two boards held a joint emergency meeting and had the bridge repaired, but it opened their eyes to the lack of documentation regarding the towns' shared responsibilities.

After some discussion, Northfield selectmen wrote a letter to Tilton suggesting the formation of a committee to handle the affairs of shared properties. That letter prompted a request from Tilton for the two boards to sit down together and come to a mutual agreement.

Chairman Pat Consentino told Northfield selectmen at the meeting that she was "committee-ed out" and felt there might be better way things could be handled. Northfield agreed, and they began to dissect the various issues facing each facility.

The topic of Pines Community Center and Island Park became the focal point of much of the discussion between the two boards.

Tilton Selectman Normand Boudreau commended the Town of Northfield for taking on the responsibility of plowing parking lots at the community center over the years but disagreed that Tilton has a responsibility to plow.

"Just stop; let them get a contractor. It might increase what we both pay them but Tilton pays its share," he said.

Coonsentino said the Pines had nothing to do with the conversation between the two boards as they are a separate entity, not owned by either town.

"Why would we want to share in the plowing?" she asked.

Tilton Selectman Katherine Dawson pointed out the same for Hall Library. Since the library has their own set of trustees, she said, it was admirable for Northfield to assist in plowing their lots, but it is not a mutually shared responsibility of the towns.

Northfield questioned why Tilton continued to handle Island Park's upkeep on its own and not communicate with Northfield about what work is done.

Chairman Steve Bluhm of Northfield said he had heard of a "gentleman's agreement" made years ago in which Tilton would handle summer maintenance of the island while Northfield handled plowing of Hall Memorial Library and the Pines.

Only Dawson said she had heard of the agreement and said things had just "always been done that way" as long as she had been a selectman.

Ziminski and all of the selectmen felt times had changed and "gentleman's agreements" would no longer suffice.

"So we're in agreement that whatever agreement existed before does not exist now," he said.

Tilton suggested Northfield might consider creating a Parks Commission, much like theirs, so the two could communicate on maintenance and use of the island, and Northfield agreed to consider it. In the meantime, Tilton members said periodic inspections of the park by their DPW director or park commissioners could be forwarded to keep them informed on conditions within the park.

Emergency response to Island Park is a concern as well. While access to the property is from the Tilton side of the Winnipesaukee River, the island itself actually lies within the borders of Northfield. Police patrols, details for events, and other requests for an officer do not fall under the jurisdiction of Tilton police, but under Northfield. Tilton may respond to a call on the Island, but they are required to either ask permission through Mutual Aid or pass the call on to Northfield's officers.

"What we need to do is have it documented that if the Tilton PD is working a detail on the Island they have the authority to do so," Ziminski said.

It was decided the two police chiefs should meet to draft a document for police service and response to the Island and return that document to both boards for approval.

In the meantime, selectmen concurred that maintenance of shared resources such as the Pines, Hall Library and the Winnipesaukee River Trail will be left under the auspices of their own trustees and the two towns will continue to offer whatever financial backing they feel is justified on an annual basis.

Also discussed was winter maintenance and repairs to Cannon Bridge. Tilton representatives said the road agents had managed to work out their own agreements on plowing and minor repairs over the years.

"It it isn't broke, don't fix it," said Boudreau.

Bluhm felt Boudreau made a good point and agreed the two DPW directors should work together now to draft an agreement on plowing and maintenance.

Major repairs to the bridge, which will be required in the coming years, was a separate matter though. State funding for repairs and reconstruction of bridges will become available again in 2020 and both sides agreed now is the time to begin the application process for those monies.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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