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Wolfeboro Deliberative Session passes all but two articles


Two petition articles competing with Brewster Hall rehab zeroed out



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KATHY EATON walks away after casting her secret ballot on the proposal to reduce the amount on Josephine Amatucci’s Article 15 from $1.6 million to zero. The vote was 117 – 14 in favor of that reduction, which effectively killed the article. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
February 10, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Brewster Memorial Hall was the star of the show at the Deliberative Session the evening of Feb. 8, dominating discussion at the four-hour session, which began with a multi-slide presentation by Town Planner Rob Houseman, who described the building as having "great bones" and declaring it to be structurally sound.

According to Houseman, the town has spent $500,000 to date and the Friends of Brewster Memorial Hall has donated $45,000 for the architectural plans on display. He said the project has solid, sound numbers and is very close to having final drawings ready with which to enter the bidding process.

Right now, the cost is at $3.7 million with $270,000 included for contingencies, and the town is looking to establish a guaranteed maximum after considering costs for some additional energy efficiency components.

Houseman said that the school system plans to have Carpenter School employees park their cars elsewhere in the future, thereby alleviating parking limitations, and showed plans to eventually use three floors and the basement. The drawings showed offices for town employees, space for meetings and storage, and an auditorium on the third floor, which will be renovated with funds raised by the Friends of Town Hall.

The cost to taxpayers is estimated at 19 cents per $1,000 evaluation in the first year, going down to 10 cents in year 20. For a $300,000 property that's $57 in the first year and $30 in year 20. Houseman noted that the cost is less than half of his monthly cell phone bill.

Public Works Director Dave Ford said the historic building was built 120 years ago, a time of great buildings, built to last. Gary Baker, who identified himself as a member of the Friends group likened its iconic nature to University of New Hampshire's Thompson Hall of similar vintage. Mimi Dye spoke as a fourth generation resident, adding that it is "our signature building" that assures that we "don't look like Anywhere USA."

Steve Murray questioned the figure given for the impact on the tax rate, and Suzanne Ryan offered an amendment to read that the cost would not exceed the $4 million and would include $100,000 for the cost of renting, fitting out and moving to interim town offices at Huggins Hospital.

Article 16 asks for $50,000 for those expenses with a note that a similar amount will be be required in 2012. Selectman Chairman Linda Murray explained that by requesting that amount this year and separating the payments over the two different years that employees would be situated elsewhere, no bond would be needed, per the stated desire of taxpayers, thus saving interest. The Ryan amendment failed by voice vote.

An hour from the start, information on articles pertaining to the installation of a fire protection system at the Pop Whalen Arena, which is operating with a one year exemption from the state, and the Pleasant Valley Road Electrical Conversion Project was presented by department heads Ethan Hipple and Barry Muccio.

Josephine Amatucci spoke to her petition article for a $1.6 million "comprehensive plan" for building a town hall on the land purchased by the Wolfeboro Public Library's trustees, renovating Brewster Memorial Hall for energy efficiency, and eventually building a new library and new police department. She argued that the library was not given exclusive rights, a point disputed at the session by Town Counsel Mark Puffer.

Puffer countered Amatucci's statement from Attorney Santuccio noting that she did not say it can't be used for a town hall but neither did she say it couldn't be used for a Walmart or nuclear power plant. Puffer said that the covenant restricting the use of the lot for a library is enforceable and that the library's board of trustees has the right to enforce it.

Chairman of the library's board, John Sandeen, read a letter written and signed by Ida Glidden this month reiterating that she sold the land with the express purpose of library expansion and that she does not want it to be used for a town hall. After stating the library's intent to engage a lawyer to defend its right to expand the library on land paid for by library funds, Sandeen proposed an amendment to change the dollar amount in Amatucci's article from $1.6 million to zero.

A secret ballot ensued, resulting in a vote of 117 - 14 in support of effectively voiding the Amatucci article.

Less controversial articles followed, each with a separate presentation, on upgrading parking lots to ADA standards, maintenance of municipal buildings, radio communication improvements, upgrading of town roads, downtown sidewalk upgrades, reconstruction and resurfacing of basketball and tennis courts at Foss Field, additions to the capital reserve account for fire trucks and apparatus and public works vehicles and equipment, police union and AFSCME contract agreements, and appropriating $10,000 to erect a permanent memorial to Wolfeboro's namesake, General Wolfe. The town's $25,498,128 operating budget (Article 21) was also approved to go on the March ballot.

Article 29, specific to renewal of the lease for Dockside Restaurant, sparked discussion of the pros and cons of offering a five year lease with a five year extension. Town manager Dave Owen pointed out that the language in the articles states, "providing that both parties agree to such extension."

He also said he and Ford had met with the tenants, owners of Garwoods Restaurant, to go over a checklist of responsibilities and that they willingly took responsibility for numerous items.

Article 30, a generic authorization for the selectmen to rent or lease town property for a term of up to five years without further vote or ratification of the town, extended the discussion.

Ryan called it "short-sighted," and Bob Lemaire questioned whether that might preclude competitive bidding. Steve Murray offered the opinion that he thought it was a good idea to encourage a longer lease to encourage investment on the part of the leasee. John R. White spoke in favor also, supporting the idea that consistency is good for the tourist trade. People like to return to find their favorite restaurants still in place.

Kathy Eaton noted that a few years ago, selectmen chose the highest bidder, and it didn't work out so well, for the winner of the bid was not able to produce the anticipated income and meet all the terms of the contract.

The wording of Article 31, another Amatucci-inspired article, petitioning for retail use of part of Brewster Hall was changed from a directive to an option with the insertion of the word "allow" in regard to renting space, and the word "retail" was removed.

Ryan spoke to her petitioned warrant Article 33, regarding the adoption and implementation of a formal written sealed bid policy, and asked to amend it, since she has since discovered that the town has such a policy in place regarding the purchase of goods and services. Instead of "direct the board of selectmen," she changed that wording to "advise" and eliminated the part of the policy that is already in place. It passed, leaving in the suggestion of implementing such a policy in regard to leases and sale of real estate and assets.

The last article, a petition also submitted by Ryan and unsupported by either the Board of Selectmen or the Budget Committee, included $250,000 for specific repairs to Brewster Memorial Hall. Ryan amended her petition, making it more general so as to give leeway in addressing ADA and safety issues.

Ryan said she intended it to be a fall back position in the event that Article 12, the town's renovation article, fails, or as a choice for voters. Alan Kaskiewicz said that he felt voters wouldn't support the $4 million option and that the article gave an option to getting more work done on the building.

"I have very strong reservations about this article," said Baker of the Friends, "for $250,000 covers very few items. It's not based on an energy audit. It does nothing to improve working conditions or storage, and there are no professional plans. I think it is a red herring. It could be a means of defeating Aticle 12 (complete renovation)."

Ryan took offense at the words "red herring," explaining that she was planning to amend it upwards to $500,000. Lemaire, who said he supports Article 12, said he saw no harm in it, but Blair Moffett, said, " I respect her intentions; however, it is clear when you compare the articles, that Article 12 is researched and supported by professional information and it has a clear price tag. I think it is a false choice to put before the voters."

"I'm tired of putting bandaids on the problem," said Peter Goodwin, who then proposed an amendment to nix the article by amending it to delete the $250,000 and reduce it to zero. Dave Sklar offered his support for that proposal.

It was seconded and passed, eliminating articles that some have said would "distract" from the original proposal supported by the selectmen and the budget committee following five studies over 12 years.

The complete list of warrant articles with amendments will be on the town Web site shortly, as are design plans for the renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall.

Election day and voting on the warrant is scheduled for March 8. The polls will be open at All Saints Episcopal Church from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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