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Winter snowmobile access to lake approved on trial basis

PROPOSED ACCESS SITE for snowmobiles this winter, between the last of the Town Docks on the right and the Bowers dock on the left, under a Chamber of Commerce proposal approved by selectmen on Nov. 16. A rigid plastic skirt on the town dock will keep bubblers from undermining the ice in the access area. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
November 23, 2011
WOLFEBORO — At their Nov. 16 meeting Wolfeboro selectmen approved a proposal from the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce to allow winter access to Lake Winnipesaukee for snowmobiles through Cate Park.

Last winter the Chamber had approached the town to discuss the feasibility of snowmobile access to the lake in downtown Wolfeboro through the Town Docks. The Chamber wanted to encourage snowmobilers to visit downtown Wolfeboro in the winter to boost tourist traffic and increase business for downtown merchants during the slow winter season. At that time the stumbling block for the town was the need to protect the town docks from ice damage; this is achieved by agitating the water around the docks with air bubblers to keep ice from forming. As water freezes it expands and that expansion can cause major damage to shoreline structures like the docks.

While the bubblers keep the docks free of ice they also thin the ice on the shore and make it dangerous for snowmobiles to access the lake.

This year the Chamber met with the Wolfeboro Snowmobile Club and discussed possible solutions to the problem. What they came up with and presented first to Public Works Director Dave Ford and then to the Board of Selectmen was to gain access to the lake through Cate Park, moving onto the ice between the last dock on the left and property owned by Dave Bowers. To keep the bubblers from thinning the ice in that section a heavy plastic skirt would be installed on the last dock that would keep that dock free of ice while allowing the ice beyond the skirt to freeze enough to safely support snowmobile traffic.

Tod O'Dowd, Chamber President, presented the proposal and answered questions. O'Dowd said that in addition to speaking with the snowmobile club and Ford, Chamber members also met with Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple about travel through Cate Park. With the ground frozen and a snow cover, there should not be any damage.

Selectman Linda Murray asked if the Chamber will monitor the access. O'Dowd answered that the Chamber will watch closely the first year "to see how it goes and address any issues as they come up."

Selectman Chair Sarah Silk noted that the end bubbler normally works so well it keeps the Bowers dock clear as well. She asked Ford if the proposal as presented is OK with him.

Ford responded that as long as the focus is on public safety and the protection of town assets, it is worth doing. He said in general "snowmobile clubs are great and do a great job."

Selectman Chuck Storm asked who will be putting up the skirting. O'Dowd said the Chamber was working with the snowmobile club to supply the skirting and to install and remove it. Right now they are working on how to attach it to the dock.

Resident Judy Breuninger expressed concern about damage to the park. There was no other public comment.

The board unanimously approved the proposal for the coming winter.

Road sign program

William Oldenburg from the N.H. Department of Transportation (NH DOT) Bureau of Highway Design met with the board to discuss a federal program administered by his agency that assessed the safety of roads and made improvements to road signage to reduce accidents. He said that, based on accident records, many roads in Wolfeboro were eligible and he provided a colored map identifying them.

He said there were two types of crashes that improvements in signage would reduce: lane departure crashes and intersection crashes. Signs would include what he called horizontal alignment signs, advisory speed plaques, and directional arrows and chevrons on curves.

He explained that engineering field work is done by consultants, who come up with "pre-plans" for suggested improvements for review by the town. Once the pre-plans are approved by the town the signs are installed at no cost to the town, but the town then is responsible for sign maintenance thereafter.

Sometimes there are appropriate signs in place but they need replacement; the new signs are all highly reflective and stand out better in the dark.

Oldenburg said that studies show that the town should expect a 30 percent reduction in crashes on the eligible roads once the project is completed.

The current project covers four other towns in addition to Wolfeboro. One is Wakefield.

Selectmen were asked to sign a municipal agreement giving NH DOT permission to proceed with the project and a work zone agreement that allows the contractor to provide its own traffic control during both survey and sign placement.

The next step was to review the proposed roads and eliminate those that the town feels are inappropriate, such as scenic roads.

Ford said he fully supports the NH DOT program and will review the marked roads for any that should be excluded.

Selectmen approved proceeding with the program.

Other business

The board did a preliminary review of potential warrant articles for March voting. Please see separate articles on these discussions, one for Brewster Hall and the other for the remaining articles.

Selectmen authorized signing a bond agreement covering the sprinkler work done in the Pop Whalen Ice Arena and the voltage upgrade project on Pleasant Valley Road. Both bonds will be paid by user fees and not property taxes.

Finance Director Pete Chamberlin reviewed expenditures and revenues for the month of October. With 83.3 percent of the year completed, town expenditures, including open purchase orders, amounted to 81.5 percent of budget. General Fund revenues stood at 90.8 percent of budget. Because cash flow is strong Chamberln said that Tax Anticipation Notes (borrowing used to cover a short-term revenue shortfall) would not be needed.

Town Manager Dave Owen announced that 2011 paving has been completed. Thelast projects were Pleasant Valley Road and the parking lots for Clark Park and the Public Safety Building.

Selectmen said they were interested in participating with a review of county dispatch funding proposed by Moultonborough selectmen, who are concerned about paying twice for dispatch services. Moultonborough, Wolfeboro and Conway pay half the costs of county dispatch yet do not use it, and Moultonborough selectmen want to meet with county officials to discuss alternate methods of assessing the costs of dispatching.

Owen also reported that the NH DOT maintenance shed is Ossipee is now closed due to budget cuts and the loss of 42 employees but the the Melvin Village shed is still open. Owen said the notice also said that emergency calls will no longer be answered locally but centrally.

Storm reported that the planning board has finally come up with a group homes ordinance. "Plenty of lawyers chipped in," he noted.

Selectman Dave Senecal said that the Carroll County Transit fixed-route buses should be operational by the first of the year, "if not sooner."

There was no public comment either at the beginning of the meeting or at the end.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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