Ashland selectmen react to chairman's resignation


May 18, 2011
ASHLAND — At their Monday evening meeting, the Ashland selectmen announced the resignation of Chairman Dennis Potter, signed contracts and permits for the River Street bridge replacement, adopted revised rules and procedures for their board, and discussed other recent town activities.

Only two selectmen, Jeanette Stewart and Dan Golden, attended the meeting, sitting at a two-person table, with no room for a third selectman.

Vice Chair Stewart read a letter from Potter announcing his resignation "effective immediately" for "personal reasons," which he did not explain.

According to an affidavit filed by the Plymouth Police Department, Potter was arrested last month for shoplifting after being stopped by an officer while leaving a supermarket in Plymouth with a cart full of groceries that he admitted he had not paid for because he was running short on cash.

During the Public Comment session at the end of the meeting, the selectmen were asked when they had learned of the arrest, and what they had done about it.

Golden said that he had just heard of the arrest that evening.

Stewart explained that the selectmen and town officials had no authority to do anything about the situation. The Town Attorney, she said, told them that Potter was not legally obligated to resign. Stewart explained that Potter's resignation was a personal decision. When asked about the plan for replacing Potter, Stewart explained that she and Golden had not yet had time to discuss what to do, but that the usual procedure was to advertise for volunteers, and then to interview candidates for the vacant position.

The meeting began with the signing of contracts for the replacement of the River Street bridge, with both M.E. Latulippe Construction Co., the main contractor, and Laminated Concepts, the makers of the superstructure. They also signed wetlands and shoreline permits for the projects. Town Administrator Paul Branscombe will notify the state of the signing of the contracts. The state will then send the town 50 percent of the construction costs to begin the work. The road will be closed at the bridge site starting on July 5, and is expected to remain closed for six to eight weeks. Traffic will be diverted by new signs over Thompson Street, particularly the heavy and high vehicles that cannot use the covered bridge at the other end of the street. The water level in the river will be lowered from July 9 to 18 so that the concrete abutment work can be done.

Repairs to the Squam River Covered Bridge are expected to be completed by the end of June. The town administrator is working on a payment schedule with contractor Arnold Graton. The selectmen have asked the Ashland Historical Society to turn over the remaining $6460 that they have raised for the repairs. (The Society already made an initial payment of $13,540 for the purchase of materials.)

The two selectmen adopted revised rules and procedures for the Board of Selectmen. Under questioning, they explained a couple of the changes. The 7 p.m. starting date for meetings was removed so that they could hold meetings at other times if needed. The deadline for submitting agenda items for the selectmen's meetings was moved from Wednesday to Thursday.

Town Clerk/ Tax Collector Patsy Tucker said that the mid-year property tax bills should be sent out next week, with payment due on July 1. She also reminded property owners that buildings, by ordinance, must be marked with a street number. This is necessary so that emergency responders can locate a building as quickly as possible. She said that tenants whose buildings do not have numbers should contact the town office to get the situation addressed.

Branscombe reported on the May 12 ribbon cutting for the repaired roof and the brand new wheelchair ramp at the Booster Clubhouse, improvements largely funded by the USDA, whose officials attended the ceremony. The stove hood and fire suppression system has been installed in the kitchen. An electrician has taken care of most of the electrical problems. Work is underway on the plumbing problems and the other violations that must be addressed to bring the Booster Clubhouse up to code.

Branscombe also reported that the Public Works Department has begun mowing Memorial Park, at the request of the park trustees.

The Main Street Revitalization Committee, which had been authorized by the selectmen to convert from a municipal committee to a private non-profit organization, has reorganized under a new name, the Ashland Revitalization Alliance.

Branscombe has met with the Plymouth State student who will be working to revamp the town Web site.

A complaint about the condition of River Street was referred to the Highway Agent, who will fix the problems.

In response to another concern about vehicles without dump stickers at the transfer station, the attendants have been asked to pay more attention to the stickers.

Forty-eight flags have been purchased to replace the old tattered flags on the town utility poles.

Bluesky Drive, a private subdivision road off Route 175, was recently accepted by the selectmen as a public highway. The developer's attorney had drawn up a deed conveying the road to the town. The selectmen decided to send the deed to the town attorney for review.

Health Officer Beth Bartlett has resigned, leaving the town administrator, who is also deputy health officer, to deal with complaints. The selectmen planned to discuss the replacement of the health officer in a non-public session at the end of the meeting.

The Housing Standards Board has not been very active in recent years, in part because of a lack of complaints. There are now three vacancies on the board, so one audience member volunteered for the board.

Kendall L. Hughes and Jamie Lyford questioned the savings that were made by changing an employee shared by the highway department and transfer station into a full time highway department employee while giving the department the job of ball field care, formerly done through an outside contract. The town administrator and highway agent explained that the changes would save money in the 2011 budget. It was argued, however, that the new arrangement would cost more in the 2012 budget.

The selectmen approved a current use application.

The request of the Squam Valley Masonic Association to use the ballfield for a craft and yard sale on some weekend day in the summer was referred to the Parks & Recreation Director for comment.

A representative from Sen. Kelly Ayotte's office will be at the town office from 10 to 11 a.m. on May 24 to meet with citizens.

Editor's note: Record Enterprise Editor Brendan Berube also contributed to this report.

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