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Selectmen warned again on winter plowing

Town ended 2010 solidly in the black, audit confirms

WOLFEBORO TOWN EMPLOYEES were given last Friday afternoon off and invited to Albee Beach on Lake Wentworth for an Employee Appreciation Day. The event featured hot dogs, hamburgers, pot luck salads and desserts, and a range of games and drawings of donated prizes. Three current selectmen plus former selectmen Marge Webster joined the outing. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
September 15, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Public Works Director Dave Ford provided additional information on the state's snow plowing plans at the Wolfeboro selectmen's Sept. 7 meeting and again warned that residents should be prepared for really bad roads this winter.

Ford reported that from what he has heard off the record the NH Department of Transportation (DOT) has prepared a policy statement and a plan to deal with the overall 20 percent cut in its maintenance budget this year. Trouble is, he said, the outgoing DOT Commissioner, George Campbell, will not sign the policy and Governor John Lynch's nominee, Chris Clement, is under attack by the Republican legislative leadership and may not be confirmed – so the policy is still under wraps.

Ford did say the Ossipee shed is one of the five that will be closed as a result of the budget cuts. A total of 42 positions are also being cut in all five DOT districts.

"It the budget cut were five percent, it might be possible to minimize the impact, but with a 20 percent cut there will definitely be less plowing." The general plan is to avoid plowing reductions on heavily-used roads, Ford said, and cut back of the frequency of plowing on lesser-used roads. The problem is that once tourists and other travelers get off of Route 16 or 28 – which most are bound to do – they will encounter roads that are likely not to be clear. "If you don't get ahead of snow, it is very difficult to keep clear," he said.

Ford expressed his frustration that the legislature did not replace the revenue lost when the "temporary" two-year registration surcharge was allowed to lapse. Even with the surcharge DOT was underfunded in terms of the maintenance it needs to do. Wolfeboro's Route 28 reconstruction project was dropped two years ago from the DOT 10-year plan because, in terms of revenues it had available, the projects then on the 10-year plan would have taken 35 years to complete – and that was before the July 1 budget cut. People are driving less and, thanks to more efficient cars, they are using less gasoline; as a result the revenue from the 20-year-old 18 cent per gallon gas tax just keeps going down.

Selectman Chair Sarah Silk asked what the impact is likely to be on the school district. Ford replied he couldn't answer that until the details of state policy are released, but that it will be significant.

Audit report

The town's auditors, Vachon, Clukay & Company PC, presented the board with results of their audit of 2010. It was the second year that the town had received an "unqualified opinion" – meaning that no significant problems were found during the audit.

The overall financial condition of the town is strong, according to the audit report. It finished the year 2010 $835,407 in the black against budget, the result of $338,124 in lower expenses from under-spending the budget and $497,283 in higher-than-anticipated revenues.

The higher revenue came from higher tax receipts ($270,637), licenses and permits ($54,364), intergovernmental revenues ($4,962), charges for services ($139,878) and miscellaneous income ($31,220). The only disappointing revenue area was in investment income, which came in $3,778 under budget.

Firm Principal Robert Vachon warned that a new reporting requirement went into effect in 2011: Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 54. There will be a training session on the requirements of GASB 54 on Nov. 15. Finance Director Peter Chamberlin will attend.

Libby 100th plans

Former Libby Museum Director Pat Smith, now Co-Chair of the Friends of the Libby Museum, reported to selectmen on the status of plans for the museum's 100th Anniversary in 2012. The Board of Selectmen is also the Board of Directors of the museum.

For 2011 the Friends entered a float in the July 4th parade with Dr. and Mrs. Henry Libby portrayed by Fred Fernald and Mo Marsh. Peter Pijoan of WCTV helped Smith produce a 4-1/2 minute DVD presentation with highlights of the first 100 years. Copies of the video, which included a free pass to the museum, were handed out during the parade.

For next year artist Peter Ferber will be doing a poster for the museum. A letter will be sent out asking what people want the museum to do for the next 100 years.

A very large float will be entered in the 2012 July 4th parade. On July 15 a Family Day is planned, sponsored by the Friends (with a rain date of July 22). On Aug. 12 there will be a gala at the Wolfeboro Inn with music provided by the Moose Mountain Jazz Band. There will also be a quilt exhibit during August that Selectman Chair Silk is helping with and a raffle of a unique wall hanging designed and quilted by Rae Lynn Warren. Hampshire Pewter has designed a centennial Libby ornament and chain that is now available for sale.

Flagpole project

Jeff Adjutant reported on the status of the new flagpole that he and his wife are donating to the town to replace the pole currently in front of Town Hall.

He said he had been touch with Public Works Director Ford and construction will take place between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1. The town will store the new flagpole when it arrive and provide the equipment needed to install it, but the labor will be donated. The pole will be bedded and sand and concrete, but it will be done in a way that allows it to be moved if necessary.

The total cost of the pole including shipping will be $1,700, Adjutant said. "It is pretty important to a lot of us in town to have a new flagpole."

The board thanked Adjutant and his wife again for their generous gift, which they voted to accept. Because the value of the gift is under $5,000 no public hearings were necessary in order to accept the donation.

Adjutant invited board members to memorial service in honor of the civilians, fire, police and military personnel lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The ceremony was held at noon on Sept. 11 at the Wright Museum (see separate story).

Other business

The board agreed to amend the town's agreement with Friends of Abenaki to allow for a larger eight-foot wetwell tile at the Pop Whalen Ice Arena in order to hold two water pumps (one for the sprinkler system and the other for Abenaki snowmaking). The Friends will pay up to $3,531 for the additional cost of the larger well.

Selectmen reviewed a report on the pesticide disposal collection held in Wolfeboro at the Lake Region Household Hazardous Waste Product Facility on June 12, 2010 – the first such collection in more than 20 years. Selectman Chair Silk, who is also coordinator at the facility, came in for much praise in organizing and managing the event, which collected more than 6,764 pound and 430 gallons of unwanted pesticides.

Ford reported he has sent a memo to Tuftonboro selectmen and that town's Conservation Commission on the status of Wolfeboro's Rapid Infiltration Basin site. There continue to be hydrogeologic problems at the site, including erosion during heavy rain, sinkholes and seepage. The town has installed sand traps to prevent sediment from getting into 19 Mile Brook as well as additional testing wells. Because of these issues the volume of effluent being disposed in the basins has been reduced and limited spraying has started in an area well away from the Mirror Lake watershed. The combination of spraying and reduced basin use should handle the amount of effluent being produced, since the volume is down due to reduced infiltration of ground water into the system.

Selectman Chuck Storm reported the planning board is exploring establishing one speed limit on Route 28/Center Street from South Main to North Line Road/Route 109. Ford said the town would have to petition the state to change the speed limits, since Route 28 is a state road.

Town Manager Dave Owen reported that the town fared well during Tropical Storm Irene, with the police, fire, highway and electric department performing "at the top of their game." Ford reported that with four inches of rain all of the culverts were full but they held and none washed out.

Owen also reported that all town departments had submitted their budget proposals for 2012, and that internal reviews would start next week.

Nonprofit agencies requesting funds from the town for 2012 will make presentations at the next selectmen's meeting on Sept. 21.

Selectman Dave Bowers reported from the library trustees meeting that e-book circulation is up and the print book budget is down. The trustees are also considering limiting the use of the library meeting room to nonprofits due to increased demand for that meeting space.

Selectman Linda Murray reported that milfoil harvesting started on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and will continue through Thursday next week. There are still patches of milfoil in Back Bay. So far two dump truckloads of harvested milfoil have been hauled to Spider Web Gardens in Tuftonboro for composting.

Varney Smith
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