Tuftonboro public safety infrastructure poses dilemma
May 05, 2011TUFTONBORO — The Tuftonboro selectmen decided at their Friday, April 29, work session to ask Gary Goudreau, architect of the design for a combined police and fire department facility, to go back to the drawing board. This year's proposal fell just 26 votes short of the 66 percent majority needed to pass, before going down to defeat upon reconsideration.
The majority vote to reconsider stirred the ire of many, who saw it as a devious move to thwart the first vote rather than a legal option that has been part of the town meeting process for years.
The board decided to have Goudreau modify the proposal for a fire station only and also examine the current library building to assess how it could be modified to meet the needs of the police department and at what cost. The space needs have already been assessed, so that part of the equation is clear.
Tyler Phillips, a budget committee member who voted against the original proposal, offered an opinion at the May 2 Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen meeting that "there's a lot of mending to repair" from the town meeting events and suggested that an overview is needed, a plan that shows how the infrastructure needs are interrelated. "You would do well to have community people on the committee," he added, " to have a voice and avoid a feeling of disenfranchisement."
Neal Hansen urged the selectmen to consider getting the cost figures for expanding the police station in its present location. He said that the question keeps on coming up and the only way to end speculation is to explore the option.
Ted Wright, a budget committee member and recent selectman candidate who also is on record as being opposed to the original proposal, expressed the view that the board needs to get more people involved in the process. Phillips and Hansen agreed that more involvement is important and cast about for ways to make that happen.
Both credited the Granite State News for thorough coverage, but Phillips said, "You have to ask people directly to get involved…They don't respond of their own free will."
Selectman Carolyn Sundquist, who served on the most recent committee, recounted the transparency of the process throughout the fall and winter leading up to the vote. Updates on the decision making process were presented at the regularly scheduled meetings (three times per month), which she pointed out are posted and open to the public. The information was not only in the newspaper but also in the Tuftonboro Times, and a forum was held in the Town House with the architect and committee members on hand. " I always asked, 'What do people think?'…I have put it out there."
"I'm not being critical of you at all," said Hansen, " I just think it was too late in the process."
Selectman Chair Bill Stockman gave an animated response to the queries and suggestions about how to get more people involved. "This is the fourth time around with a variety of people," he declared.
Bob McWhirter asked Phillips for clarification: "Do you believe the process was closed or was that perception?"
"It was perception," answered Phillips.
"Perception is reality," said McWhirter.
Wright responded, "There was misperception on the reconsideration."
Sundquist noted wryly that 622 people voted at that meeting.
Only 264 residents turned out to vote at the first meeting, despite the extensive coverage, including budget committee deliberations and financing plans.
Selectmen await further information from the architect after he talks with Police Chief Andy Shagoury about the library building possibilities.