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Bristol moves forward on new initiatives

This past week, the Town of Bristol welcomed two new officers to the police force and celebrated the promotion of Sgt. Joseph Guerriero. Pictured: Newly appointed officers Elizabeth Kratz and Kristin Swass, newly promoted Sgt. Joseph Guerriero, and Bristol Police Chief Michael Lewis. Congratulations! (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
April 20, 2011
BRISTOL—At its regular meeting this past Thursday evening, the Bristol Select Board heard progress updates on a number of ongoing initiatives and welcomed several newly appointed officers to the police department.

The Town is moving forward on selecting an engineering contractor for the Central Square downtown improvement project. The board is reviewing the proposals submitted in response to a request for qualifications for the Central Square design work as part of the state Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant that was secured to reconfigure the square. Further discussion and a decision on the engineering firm is expected in the coming weeks.

Voters at the 2010 Town Meeting approved the project, which will improve the layout of streets in the busy downtown business district, add parking, and create a "green space" to enhance the look and feel of the area. Along with other developments which will improve sidewalks and the appearance of the surrounding businesses, the pedestrian friendly project is expected to greatly enhance the visual streetscape, safety and viability of the downtown area.

In conjunction with these developments, town officials are also moving forward with establishing a community forum to explore other economic revitalization initiatives for the square. The effort, in cooperation with the Grafton County Economic Development Council and local business and service providers, is intended to help create a climate for sustainability of a variety of local businesses as these improvements go forward.

The Select Board also heard an update from Town Administrator Michael Capone on a project to address erosion and drainage control issues at Cummings Beach off West Shore Road. The Newfound Lake Region Association has secured the grant funding for the demonstration project, which will re-grade the shoreline at the beach, create a vegetative swale with additional plantings, and undertake other improvements to deal with runoff coming across the road into the beach area. The intent is to protect water quality and stabilize the beach. In addition, permits have been secured to dredge and sift the immediate off shore area, which has, in recent years, been yielding debris, including glass and metal, from years long gone by, when the beach was occupied by a local business, now long defunct. This should improve safety and enhance the experience for beach-goers in the area.

Capone also briefed the board members about extensive research he has done on Town-owned properties that might be offered for sale as a way to raise revenues and offload tax deeded parcels of land. Among the five parcels he has studied that might be auctioned or sold in a sealed bid process are two lots in the residential Chestnut Street neighborhood that was formerly proposed as a site for Maxton Technologies Cell Tower.

Neighborhood residents attended the meeting on Thursday night to express their concern that a sale of these properties might eventually result in Maxton or a third party purchasing the land for construction of the cell towers. The board was urged to consider putting restrictions on the sale of the property so that it could be used for residential purposes only.

Voters at Town Meeting in March emphatically registered their opposition to the Cell Tower proposal at this residential Chestnut Street site. Maxton was granted a continuance of their site plan proposal for the Chestnut Street site this past week, pending further negotiations with the Town.

But Bristol Select Board members assured Chestnut Street residents that the Town is actively working with Maxton to resolve the issues stemming from the detoured cell tower proposal. The Town and Maxton are currently investigating alternative sites for the cell tower plan. In the meantime, board members said that no decisions have been made on the sale of town-owned properties.

Finally, Capone updated the board on budget developments for the first quarter of the fiscal year. This is part of a new plan to keep the board and members of the public updated about the budget on a regular basis in order to ensure that everyone is well informed.

Capone says he expects to publish budget numbers on a regular basis in some "user friendly" format so that members of the public can be fully informed on current expenditures and revenues.

At Thursday night's meeting, he reported that the budget is about where is should be at this juncture in the fiscal year, with two possible exceptions that he brought to the board's attention.

"We have, of course, had a rather interesting winter," said Capone.

He indicated that the Highway Department budget has taken a bit of a "hit" in overtime and fuel as a consequence, but he assured the board that the department is making adjustments and has the situation under control. He also wanted to note "a lot of activity" in the public assistance budget line, another impact of the difficult winter, but he said he expects demands to lighten up a bit during the spring to summer season. Meanwhile, revenues are "looking pretty good" for the moment. He encourages citizens with question to contact Town offices for more information.

For the Budget Committee, Jeff Shackett reported that that members are planning to hear from Department heads over the course of the next few months before the season ratchets up in the fall. This will give the committee the opportunity to hear about grant funding possibilities, staffing issues and other general issues before zeroing in on the details during the regular budget process.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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