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Town holds public hearings on Amatucci town offices proposal

JOSEPHINE AMATUCCI presented her $1.6 million petition warrant article proposal in public hearings before the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee last Thursday, Jan. 13. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
January 20, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen met at the Town Hall meeting room last Thursday, Jan. 13, at 5 p.m., just prior to the Budget Committee meeting, for a public hearing on Josephine Amatucci's controversial petition for the town to build a town office building on land sold to the library by Ida Glidden for library expansion.

The public hearing was necessary because the project would be paid for with town bonds.

Her $1.6 million proposal would separate town office functions into two locations. One would use the land next to the library for a 6,000 sq.ft. building for "certain employees;" the other, Brewster Memorial Hall, would undergo "minor repairs" including asbestos removal. Amatucci included $100,000 for each building for geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Amatucci claimed that according to "an unbiased attorney," it is possible to build on the land purchased by the library because "the language of the deed is supplied only by the Grantor, which is the town, which are the citizens of the town. The 'intent' of Ida Glidden, the Grantee, is never mentioned in the deed." Her argument was that if townspeople voted for her article, the town, as Grantor, would then have the right to use the land for other purposes.

John Sandeen, president of the Wolfeboro Public Library Board of Trustees, pointed out that Amatucci incorrectly referred to the town as the Grantor and Ida Glidden as the Grantee. Ida Glidden, not the town, is the Grantor, he said, and the town is the Grantee. He said also that Glidden's intent has been clear from the start, when she approached the library board to sell her adjacent property. In addition, said Sandeen, library trust funds alone were expended for that purchase, with voter approval – not taxpayer money.

Amatucci also contended that her legal source, Danielle Santucci from the Dewhurst law office in North Conway, said that "according to the Master Deed the library does not have the only or exclusive use for occupancy on the Ida Glidden lot."

Selectmen Chair Linda Murray said that while that may be argued, Glidden's intent has been clear. Murray then read a quote from Glidden in an article in the Granite State News' Dec. 23, edition in which she said of the land, " I don't want the town to put a town hall or anything like that on it." As to whether the land is deeded for library purposes only, she says," I thought it was kinda clear."

In his remarks to the board, Sandeen emphasized the three-year process involved in getting to the library's current plan, which includes the use of both lots. He also stressed the trustees' "legal and fiduciary responsibility": "We are compelled to uphold the library deed. Any other use violates the terms of the agreement."

He went on to say that the trustees will not accept the warrant's reimbursement of $174,460 for "costs incurred to retain library/parking privileges on the land." "We will defend against any illegal use with a legal challenge," said Sandeen, adding that it was his understanding that the cost of defending that right can be sought from the petitioning party.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 not to recommend the article, but Murray explained to those who "might be wondering why an illegal warrant article is allowed to appear on the warrant," that state statutes requires that the article, certified by the Town Clerk, must appear there.

A Dec. 30 letter to Town Manager Dave Owen from town counsel Mark Puffer states: "The moderator or someone at the deliberative session should tell the voters that the property at 263 S. Main St. may not be used to build new town offices. If the voters want to leave that language in and there is an affirmative vote for this article, it will not have the effect of allowing the town to proceed forward."

Budget Committee hearing

Amatucci read her petition to the Budget Committee at 7 p.m., telling them, as she had the Board of Selectmen, that they need to be mindful of energy efficiency. She concluded her presentation with the statement, "If you don't see this, you write down what a Budget Committee is."

When Chairman John MacDonald offered his opinion that the board "has a moral responsibility to Joe and Ida Glidden [for] they could have sold the property for more money but chose the library," Amatucci countered with "Let a judge decide the intent."

Allan Bailey began to speak, but Amatucci interrupted him, saying, " I don't want to hear you," then speaking to the board, she explained," I don't like what he said to me at the last session," and then back to Bailey, " I don't care what you have to say." She then accused members of having a bias, sparking a retort from MacDonald, "My bias is as a community member for over 50 years."

Sandeen repeated the presentation he had given at the selectman's meeting, again correcting Amatucci's contention that the town was the Grantor, therefore the voters could determine the use of the land. Ida Glidden was the Grantor.

Selectman Dave Senecal spoke against the petition warrant article, saying that there "was not sufficient detail to back the estimates" and commented that the asbestos removal mentioned in the Amatucci plan was not necessary, for it has been sealed and is no longer a hazard. In his opinion, the article contained "too many ambiguities…We have a decent proposal to go by [and] $100,000 is not enough for a geothermal system."

As to the question of whether the library has exclusive use of its property, the deed does not say that a town hall could be built on the site.

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