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Planning, zoning officials protest proposed layoff

August 31, 2011
Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and Gilford Conservation Commission attended the Board of Selectmen's meeting Wednesday, Aug. 24 to voice their opinions about the imminent layoff of the technical assistant.

In a non-public session, selectmen decided to eliminate the Planning and Land Use Technical Assistant in an attempt to save taxpayers about $30,000 per year.

Members of the two boards, to which Stephanie Philibotte, the current technical assistant, provides support, voiced their disagreement with the elimination of Philibotte's position.

According to Mark Corry of the ZBA, there would be serious repercussions to the operation of the two boards, including the resignation of Doug Hill of the GCC, if selectmen went ahead with Philibotte's layoff.

"If volunteers don't get the support we need, what's the point of volunteering?" asked Corry.

According to Corry, Philibotte's amount of technical knowledge is essential to the operation of the two boards. Also, in her absence, a member of each board would be preoccupied by taking "copious notes" and operating the tape recording system for meeting minutes.

Almost every member of each board spoke at the meeting to urge selectmen to reconsider their decision, and some who could not attend wrote letters which Selectman Gus Benavides read aloud.

"Her absence would be a great loss to the town," stated Bill Knightly in a letter to selectmen.

"We will spend more in court than we will save with her meager salary," stated Ellan Mulligan of the ZBA, referring to the many occasions where Philibotte's guidance helped the ZBA avoid legal infraction.

"I'm not sure you're looking in the right place to save money," said Peter Morrisette, of the milfoil committee, to the selectmen.

Selectmen intended to lay-off Philibotte at the beginning of September, but said they would reconsider their decision in non-public.

Benavides said if there was a motion, he would vote to keep Philibotte.

According to Town Administrator Scott Dunn, selectmen voted to rescind the layoff and revisit the issue at their next meeting Wednesday, Sept. 14; the issue will, again, most likely be discussed in a non-public, as are most personnel-related issues.

During the meeting, selectmen received a Department of Public Works update from director Sheldon Morgan.

According to Morgan, DPW workers are finishing up the last major projects of the season, including the repair to a potion of Swain Road, fixing drainage issues, and repairing water damage. The rest of the season will be devoted to "nickel and dime" projects, such as resurfacing small portions of road.

Morgan plans to look into reconfiguring the intersection of Potter Hill and Route 11-A after residents voiced concern over the current setup. According to Morgan, the cost of this project would be fairly low, and could be accomplished with the 10 percent of the DPW budget remaining for the year.

Selectmen also allowed Morgan's purchase of a 2011 Bobcat skid steer loader and 60-inch hydraulic snow-blower attachment from the lowest bidder, Bobcat of NH, with funds set aside for the purchase in the budget.

According to Morgan's proposal, the total cost for the equipment came to about $34 thousand. The DPW budget allowed for $28,000, with just over $5,000 of donated funds from the graduating class of 2011. Morgan asked for an additional $787 for the 60-month extended power-train warranty.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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