December 22, 2011WOLFEBORO — Selectmen held a special meeting on Dec. 14 to complete their review of proposed warrant articles for the March 2012 ballot.
The board had reviewed and approved 13 warrant articles at the regular meeting on Dec. 7 but deferred final decisions on another seven due to incomplete information.
Work on two of those articles had been put out to bid, with bid openings scheduled for Jan. 9, 2012: the construction of a new parking lot and improvement of the existing lot at the end of Glendon Street, estimated at $300,000, and Phase 3 of the Downtown Street Project, estimated at $750,000. It is anticipated that the bids will come in lower than the engineering estimates, and once firm bids are in hand, selectmen expect to lower the amounts on the articles, both which would be bonded to minimize their impact on the property tax rate.
That left five articles for review.
Public Safety Building. The first was the article for structural repairs of the fire apparatus bays at the Public Safety Building, including replacing the roof, in order to defer replacement of that facility for another 10 years. Public Works Director Dave Ford reported that bids had been received and the estimate of $350,000 was a firm figure
. Of that total, only $132,892 needs to be approved in March, and that amount will be bonded. The balance of $217,108 would come from two existing funds, including $93,994 from the Public Safety Building Capital Reserve and $123,114 from unexpended bond proceeds.
Land purchase. The second article was for $160,000 to acquire the former Bunn McBride property at 255 South Main St., located between the library and the Public Safety Building, and remove the existing house on the lot. Of that total $148,000 is the negotiated price for the property and $12,000 is the estimated cost of demolishing the house: if someone agrees to remove the house from the lot, the final cost will be lower.
The question on this article was not about cost but whether or not to bond it. Town Manager Dave Owen said the purchase price of the land next to the Pop Whalen Ice Arena purchased in 2008 was bonded and the article passed easily, despite the bond requirement that it be approved by 60 percent of voters. The downside of bonding, Owen pointed out, was if 60 percent do not approve, then estate executor Don McBride will have held the property off the market in vain.
Selectman Chair Sarah Silk said she is proposing to bond this article and another with a total value of $300,000 to minimize the tax impact. If the McBride purchase were bonded it would save 7.5 cents on the tax rate, according to Finance Director Pete Chamberlin. Silk said fire trucks already pass over part of the property and she felt voters would approve the purchase, so the lesser impact on the tax rate was worth it.
Selectman Dave Senecal gave his view that the purchase should be paid for in one year and not bonded, especially since the house will be removed. Selectman Linda Murray, who favored bonding, responded that the town was buying the land, not the house, and "it will be there forever."
Selectman Dave Bowers suggested a sign be placed in front of the house to identify it for voters. Silk said a photo of the house will be included in the PowerPoint presentation shown on cable TV and at the Deliberative Session.
Bowers made a motion not to bond the McBride purchase and Senecal seconded it. The motion failed 3-2 with Selectman Chuck Storm joining Murray and Silk in voting against. A subsequent motion to bond passed on a 3-2 vote. Both Bowers and Senecal said that they were in favor of the purchase even though they opposed bodning it.
Albee Beach Bathhouse. The third article, which Silk also favored bonding, was for $125,000 to build a bathhouse at Albee Beach. The foundation and septic system for the building were installed this year using funds in the operating budget. The warrant article would cover the cost of erecting the building and landscaping the lot.
Silk pointed out that the septic system had to be installed in 2011 because the septic installation permit was expiring.
The actual construction of the building would be done by Region 9 Vocational Technical students, so the main cost of the project was for materials. Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple had been asked to see if Region 9 students could also do the landscaping. Hipple reported that he met with Region 9 Forestry head Bruce Farr who is interested in doing the landscaping, but could not do it until the fall.
Senecal recommended that trusses be used for the roof rather than building it in place because they are stronger and cheaper.
Once again the discussion centered around whether or not to bond the project. This time the vote was 4-1 not to bond.
Pop Whalen Improvements. The fourth article was for $275,000 to convert the arena to a year-round facility and improve the structure by installing insulation and a dehumidification system. The project would be bonded but would be paid for over time through user fees and thus not affect the property tax rate at all. The open question was whether the $275,000 estimate could be reduced. Hipple reported he has not been able to get firm quotes in time for this meeting, but stressed that the cost cannot exceed $275,000 without pushing arena rates up to an unacceptable level.
The board agreed that if the bids came in lower, the figure could be reduced later at the public hearing.
Town Hall Repairs. The final warrant article concerned making limited health and safety improvements to Brewster Memorial Hall. Selectmen had explored a number of ways to do a major renovation of the building at a cost lower than the $4 million rejected by voters in March, but in the end decided to defer a major project until the economy improves.
Owen said he was having the same problem as Hipple getting timely quotes on the project. A quote had been received that morning from Conneston Construction Inc, (CCI) for $321,000 based on a list of priority improvements that included replacing carpet and windows, installing a commercial-grade dehumidification and air exchange system for the basement and insulation.
Owen said the quote was much too high.
Town Planner Rob Houseman expressed frustration at the lump sum quote. He pointed out that when voters approved $110,000 for basic repairs two years ago the town did not use a construction manager but bid the jobs with individual contractors, and he said he preferred that approach, working with a fixed maximum cost.
Murray said she preferred to do only what was needed to address the health and safety of not only employees but those doing business with the town. She agreed the carpet does need replacement.
Senecal agreed, saying the cost should be no more than $200,000.
Houseman said "If I have a target number, I can talk to contractors who have done work for the town to see what's possible."
In the end the board approved Houseman putting together a firm proposal on needed repairs and improvements with a maximum cost of $200,000.
UPDATE: At the Monday, Dec. 19, meeting of the Budget Committee, warrant articles were reviewed. The only article to be disapproved was one for $50,000 to create an Asset Management Plan: selectmen will have to decide on Dec. 21 if they will keep it on the warrant.
Pop Whalen contract
Selectmen approved a revised contract with the Back Bay Youth Hockey Association that would allow that group to offer a skate sharpening service at a new pro shop at the arena and use the proceeds to support its skating programs. The same shop would also offer skate rentals for the first time. The skates would be supplied by the town from donated skates and the proceeds from rentals would help pay for Pop Whalen operating costs.
The Association already operates a snack bar concession at the arena to support its programs.
Victor Drouin signed the agreement on behalf of the Association.
Selectmen also approved the Parks and Recreation Department accepting the cumulative donation of 69 pairs of skates with a total value of $690. Hipple said the skates came from the Ham Arena in Conway, Back Bay Youth Hockey members and town residents. He proposed a rental fee of $3 a pair, including sharpening. This is lower than the $5 charged elsewhere but reflects the fact that the skates are not new, though they are clean and sanitized.
During public input at the beginning of the meeting Marshall Hewitt of Lang Pond Road asked for the status of residents' request that the Wolfeboro section of the road be paved. Wolfeboro had agreed to a request for the Mirror Lake Protective Association to rebuild its section of the gravel road to eliminate runoff into the lake. When the plan was announced by Public Works Director Ford, some residents of the Wolfeboro section of the road asked that the road also be paved to eliminate dust raised by passing traffic, which was a health issue.
Town Manager Owen responded that the 2012 plan for road improvements had been revised to include funds for paving that road.
Owen proposed to respond to an e-mail circulating around town with factual errors concerning the Rapid Infiltration Basin effluent disposal system. The board asked him to bring a draft to the next meeting.
Owen also reported that town has received a notice of state highway block grants estimated for 2012 totaling $157,162.72, which he said was down from 2011. The grants come from gasoline taxes and motor vehicle registration fees, both of which have been decreasing, as well as the registration surcharge, which the legislature allowed to lapse on July 1 and was not replaced with another revenue source.
The next regular meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen – the board's last meeting of the year – was scheduled for Dec. 21. A full report on that meeting will follow next week.