New Durham voters abolish ethics ordinance


James Grigg honored as Citizen of the Year



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DOT VEISEL presents James Grigg with the New Durham Citizen of the Year Award. Tim Croes. (click for larger version)
March 16, 2011
NEW DURHAM — The town's ethic ordinance was a big topic of discussion at New Durham's Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 9.

Among the warrant articles, there were 11 articles involving the ethics ordinance. Article 13 was set up to repeal the ordinance, and articles 14-23 dealt with specific legal problems that had been brought forward.

Jim Femske brought forward an amendment to Article 13 to repeal the ethics ordinance and reinstate an ethics policy intended to provide guidance to town employees on what is considered ethical behavior.

This amendment and the article passed. Femske also brought forward a motion to strike articles 14-23 and have moderator Cecile Chase appoint a board to rewrite the ethics policy. This motion was also approved.

Prior to Femske's motions, Selectman Dave Bickford read a letter from the Local Government Center (LGC) that pointed out legal flaws in the current ethics policy.

Selectmen Chairman Theresa Jarvis pointed out that there were issues addressed in the ethics ordinance that aren't allowed by law.

Peter Rhoades, who brought a complaint to the ethics committee in the past, talked about the ethics policy and pointed out that everyone should be treated fairly.

Barbara Hunter, a member of the ethics committee, spoke in favor of the ethics ordinance and said there is no need to repeal the ethics ordinance if it isn't broken.

At the beginning of the town meeting, James Grigg was introduced as the Citizen of the Year by Dot Veisel, and Kristyn Bernier introduced James Nyman, Robert Joy and Trevor Joy as the New Durham Parks and Recreation Volunteers of the Year.

Article 3 sets the operating budget of the town. David Curry, the chairman of the budget committee, brought forward an amendment to reduce the bottom line number from $2,994,140 to $2,953,808.

Curry said the reason for the reduction is that the difference, $40,332 is listed in Article 4. Curry also pointed out that the budget committee and the board of selectmen agreed on the number. He explained that the bottom line number is 2.2 percent decrease from last year, and the article was approved.

Article 5 authorizes the selectmen to enter into a five-year lease/purchase agreement for $189,000 for a grader with wing gear for the highway department and raises and appropriates the sum of $40,332 for the first year payment.

Road Agent Mike Clarke said that the grader the town currently owns would cost too much to fix. According to Clarke, the John Deere grader needs a new motor and a new transmission, and there would be no guarantee that it wouldn't break down again.

The town received three bids, with the best being for a new Volvo grader. Clarke explained that the old grader was doomed from the start.

Clarke was asked if there was a contingency plan, if the town didn't approve a new grader. He said that the town would be out a grader until the middle of the summer, and the article was approved.

Article 5 raises and appropriates $138,000 for the purchase of a highway truck with a plow and wing, with $100,000 coming from the Highway Truck Capital Reserve Fund and the remaining $38,000 from the unreserved fund balance.

Clarke said that this article has no impact on the tax rate, but Ron Gehl pointed out that this article depletes the Highway Truck Capital Reserve Fund.

Clarke said he that couldn't predict the prices of trucks in the future. Ron Malone asked if it made business sense to look into a lease/purchase when looking for trucks.

Clarke pointed out that the trucks come from the state, and that municipalities are offered the state bid price, which is always very reasonable.

Jarvis addressed the cost of maintaining the fleet of trucks, which should go down in the coming years, and the article was approved.

Article 6 raises and appropriates $117,038 for the Road Surface Management System for 2011. The New Hampshire Highway Block Grant Aid will offset this sum. Clarke said that the grant may be running out by next year, and the article was approved.

Article 7 raises and appropriates the sum of $46,955 for the purchase of a police cruiser and laptop computer, approves the withdrawal of $34,740 from the Police Cruiser Capital Reserve Fund and accepts a grant of $2,215 from highway safety for the purchase and installation of the laptop computer.

Police Chief Shawn Bernier said that a new Ford Explorer would replace the 2003 Ford Explorer.

A question was raised as to how the Police Cruiser Capital Reserve Fund would pay for the cruiser if didn't have the funds in it. A later article adds to the fund, and Jarvis said if the money isn't in the fund then it can't be taken out. The article was approved.

Article 8 raises and appropriates the sum of $15,000 for a historic assessment of town hall, with a $7,500 grant to come from the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and the rest to come from general taxation. This is a non-lapsing article and will not lapse until Dec. 31, 2016, or until the project is completed, whichever is sooner.

Jarvis spoke in favor of this article and explained that the town hall is much need of repairs.

An amendment was brought forward to remove the non-lapsing language, but that amendment failed. The article was approved.

Article 9 raises and appropriates the sum of $10,000 for the purpose of purchasing a drive on scale system at the transfer station. This is also another non-lapsing article with the same time frame.

Joe Bloskey, the foreman at the transfer station, said having a drive on scale would allow the town to measure the weight of materials. Currently, the town charges by volume, and this is estimated.

Jarvis said the transfer station lost more than $15,000 last year after getting rid of donated materials.

Bickford said the total cost of the scale would be $35,000, and the town could have the scale in four years.

Bickford explained that it would cost $400 to have the scale calibrated each year and said the scale would be primarily used for weighing construction materials.

Ron Gehl said that there a number of unknowns with the drive on scale and that money should be added to Solid Waste Capital Reserve Fund.

Bickford said the cost savings of the scale would be $15,000 a year.

An amendment was brought forward to raise the total cost of the scale, $35,000, but that amendment and the article both failed.

Article 10 raises and appropriates $10,000 for the purpose of upgrading a new fuel depot system. This is another non-lapsing article with the same time frame.

Clarke said this article would help add a card system to the current pump system. An estimate of $27,500 to completely replace the system was given, but it was decided to just add the card system to the existing system.

He explained that accountability would be much easier with the card system, but there would be no cost savings by adding the new system. Town vehicles, the police department and the fire department use the town pumps. The vote on the article was very close, but it failed by a vote of 56 to 52.

Article 11 raises and appropriates the sum of $9,000 to come from the unreserved balance to pay Preservation Timber Framing Inc. monies owed for dismantling of the Boodey House.

Cathy Orlowicz brought forward an amendment to reduce the sum to $7,000 that was approved. She said fundraising had been done to reduce the number and will continue.

Gehl objected to the town paying for it. He recalled being told that the town wouldn't encumber the cost.

The bill from Preservation Timber Framing Inc. has gone unpaid for a couple of years, and they have requested payment by the end of the year. The article was approved.

Article 12 raises and appropriates the sum of $7,500 for milfoil treatment and withdrawal of $7,500 from the Milfoil Capital Reserve Fund. There are still parts of the Merrymeeting River that need to be treated for milfoil, and the article was approved.

Article 24 discontinues the Sidewalk Capital Reserve Fund. The article was approved, and said funds, with accumulated interest to date, will be transferred to the town's general fund.

Article 25 discontinues the Addition to the New Durham Fire Station Capital Reserve Fund. The funds, with interest, will be transferred to the town's general fund. Jarvis said the reason for closing this fund is that there are no plans to add to the current fire station.

Article 26 changes the name of the Town Hall Computer Systems and Office Equipment Expendable Trust Fund to the Computer Systems and Office Equipment Expendable Trust Fund. Additionally, $5,000 is deposited into this fund and the board of selectmen is appointed as agents to expend. This was a special warrant article, requiring a two-thirds vote, and was approved.

Article 27, also a special warrant article, rescinds provisions of RSA 31:95-c to restrict the revenues from the ambulance charges to expenditures for the purpose of ambulance vehicle repairs, renovations and new purchases. This article was brought forward last year, and Jarvis explained that the DRA disallowed the language so it had to be brought forward again.

Any surplus in the fund will be considered part of the general fund, and will only be expended after a vote by the legislative body to appropriate a specific amount for a specific purpose. The article was approved, and is contingent on Article 28 passing.

Article 28 establishes a revolving fund pursuant to RSA 31:95-h for the purpose of providing ambulance services. All revenues received from ambulance fees will be deposited into the fund and money will not be considered part of the town's general fund. The town treasurer will have custody of the monies in the fund and will be used for the purchase of a new ambulance, and ambulance billing services. It may also be used for capital equipment, with the total cost of a single piece of equipment more than $10,000, and is deemed appropriate by to spend by the board of selectmen. Further, to raise and appropriate $155,000 to deposit into this fund with the amount coming from the general fund balance.

The article helps the ambulance department purchase needed equipment, and was approved.

Article 29 raises and appropriates the sum of $291,000 to be placed in the following established capital reserve funds: Expansion of the Highway Garage, $20,000; Highway Equipment, $30,000; Highway Truck, $70,000 and Road Reconstruction, $171,000.

Clarke spoke in favor of this article and pointed to areas in town that needed improvement, and this article was approved.

Article 30 raises and appropriates $22,000 to be placed in the following capital reserve funds: Solid Waste Equipment, $13,000, Solid Waste Facilities Improvement, $9,0000.

An amendment was brought forward to add $10,000 to Solid Waste Equipment Fund to pay for the scale that failed earlier, but that amendment was defeated. The article was approved.

Article 31 raises and appropriates the sum of $52,500 to be placed in the following capital reserve funds: Public Safety, $10,000; Dry Hydrant, $2,5000; Fire Truck, $15,000 and Police Cruiser, $25,000. The article was approved.

Article 32 raises and appropriates $5,500 to be place in the following capital reserve funds: Library Facilities, $2,000; Library Technologies, $2,000; Smith Ball Field & Equipment, $1,000 and 1772 Meeting House Restoration, $500. This article was approved.

Article 33 raises and appropriates $28,500 to be placed in the following capital reserve funds: Milfoil, $7,500; Revaluation, $20,000 and JC Shirley Site Improvement, $1,000. The importance of the milfoil treatment was discussed, and the article was approved.

Article 34 raises and appropriates $57,500 to be placed in the following expendable trust funds: Accrued Employee Benefits, $3,500; Forest Fire Control Fund; Record Management, $500 and Town Building Improvement, $50,000.

Jarvis spoke in support of the article and making improvements to the town buildings, and the article was approved.

Article 35 raises and appropriates the costs associated with the future acquisition of the three-acre state owned land, identified on Map 251 and contained within lot 21. This is a non-lapsing article.

Bickford explained that this property is being used by the police to get down to the firing range.

Chief Bernier said that the department wouldn't have another place to go shooting at if they weren't allowed to use this right of way. The highway department also uses a pit in this area to store excess snow. The article was approved.

At the end of the meeting, Chase suggested possibly moving the town meeting to a Saturday.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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