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Wolfeboro selectmen complete review of warrant articles

Budget Committee rejects Asset Management Plan proposal

December 29, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Selectmen held a final review of proposed warrant articles at their Dec. 21 meeting and decided not to recommend one of them.

The rejected article would have adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale and possession of "Certain Intoxicating and Illegal Smoking Substances" in Wolfeboro. Lt. Dean Rondeau of the Wolfeboro Police Department spoke in favor of controlling the synthetic drugs created to mimic chemically the effects of marijuana while being sold as incense and other harmless products. He said the chemical affect people more like crystal meth than marijuana and cited two incidents in Wolfeboro involved teens intoxicated with the drugs. In one case a girl wound up in the hospital and in the other a young man had a psychotic episode after taking K2, one of the drugs.

Town Counsel Mark Puffer gave his opinion that selectmen do not have the power to enact such an ordinance and as a result it would be unenforceable. Rondeau disagreed, citing a similar Franklin ordinance that has not been challenged, and state law language allowing selectmen to manage "prudential affairs" of the town.

While all five of the selectmen expressed a desire to protect town youth from this hazard they were reluctant to go against the advice of Town Counsel. Selectman Dave Senecal made a motion not to recommend the article and it passed 5-0.

It was pointed out that citizens could submit the proposal as a petition article if 25 of more voters favored it.

Budget Committee review

The board also went over the results of the Budget Committee's review of the warrant articles at its Dec. 19 meeting. At that meeting the Budget Committee voted 9-0 in favor of nine of the articles, including $200,000 for limited repairs to Brewster Hall. The committee was less certain about the proposed $180,000 in upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility and spray fields (voting 6-3 in favor) and adding to the Public Works Capital Reserve (voting 8 in favor with one abstention). The committee soundly rejected spending $50,000 for a long-term Asset Management Plan on 1-8 vote. Votes on five articles were postponed pending receipt to additional information.

Public Works Director Dave Ford asked selectmen if they would still recommend the Asset Management plan article even after the Budget Committee's rejection. Ford has been a strong advocate of developing a formal system for keeping track of town assets to make sure they receive regular maintenance and their condition kept track of.

Selectman Linda Murray argued that the board should stand behind it. She cited the fact that the planning board has urged that such a plan be developed and the Board of Selectmen has committed to doing it. Selectman Chuck Storm, the board's representative to the planning board, said that board was "100 percent in favor" of an Asset Management Plan and gave his opinion that the Budget Committee was being short-sighted in rejecting it. Selectman Chair Sarah Silk said she feels the committee is just concerned about going ahead with this expense at this time and said she was in favor of putting it forward and letting the voters decide. Selectmen Dave Bowers and Seneca were also in favor.

Ford said he would proceed with preparing a presentation of the plan for the Deliberative Session.

Selectmen then voted to hold a special meeting with a public hearing on bonded warrant articles worth more than $100,000 on Wednesday, Jan. 11. Bids on several major projects will be opened on Jan. 9 and Ford promised to have his recommendations ready for the Jan. 11 meeting.

Public Hearings

Selectmen held a second of two required public hearings on the proposed acceptance by the town of the Pine Hill Cemetery from the Pine Hill Cemetery Association. Randy Tetreault of Norway Plains and Trustees Ida Glidden and John Magee were present to answer any questions. There were none. Selectmen will vote on whether or not to accept the cemetery and its maintenance funds at their next meeting on Jan. 4, 2012.

The board also held a hearing on accepting $47,037 from the State of New Hampshire Department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management to reimburse the Municipal Electric Department for the costs of responding to Tropical Storm Irene last August and $54,829.17 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a one-time reimbursement for the increased cost of health care expenses resulting from employees taking early retirement.

Ken Marschner of the Wolfeboro Milfoil Committee came before the board to urge acceptance of a grant agreement with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to provide $8,415 for diver work in Wolfeboro's 2012 milfoil eradication program. Marschner also reported that 11,000 gallons of milfoil was harvested in 2011 at a cost of $1.95 a gallon vs. a cost of $3.45 a gallon incurred in 2010. This 44 percent reduction in cost he attributed to the acquisition of two Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting Units in a joint venture with the towns of Moultonborough and Tuftonboro as well as seven years of experience controlling milfoil. "We are very efficient," he said.

Default budget for 2012

Selectmen approved a default operating budget of $25,190,539, as prepared by Finance Director Pete Chamberlin. The default budget, which is defined by state rules, goes into effect it the proposed operating budget is rejected by voters. At press time the Budget Committee was still reviewing the operating budget; however, the operating budget approved by selectmen and sent to the committee was $25,682,211, an increase of $164,646 or 0.65 percent over 2011.

Complaints and rumors

Town Manager Dave Owen reported he had received complaints about local contractors not getting work from the town. He cited the snow removal contract bidding which attracted the same three bidders every year, all of them local. He also cited a complaint about not being considered from a local fuel oil contractor who had the bid documents hand-delivered to him but did not bid. He said the town does encourage local contractors to bid but does have a bid policy that needs to be followed and which contractors should be aware of.

Owen also cited an e-mail circulated in the last 10 about the Rapid Infiltration Basins that was "full of factual errors and outright distortions." One misstatement was the the Department of Environmental Services will not pay its share of the RIB cost because the RINS have failed: "the truth is the funds were cut by the state," Owen said. Another claim he address was that town auditors had warned that water and sewer rates were "unsustainable:" he said that sewer rates would be unsustainable if the town did not subsidize capital costs, which it does. He noted that all of the reports on the RIBs are up on the town Web site, with hard copies at the library, for those interested in the facts

Other business

Finance Director Chamberlin presented the monthly revenue and expenditures report through November. With 91.2 percent of the year completed the total of expenses and outstanding purchase orders was 87.27 percent of budget. Chamberlin also reported that revenues with "spot on" with budget projections.

Upon the recommendation of Chamberlin and town auditors Vachon Clukay the board adopted a Fund Balance Policy for town fund, as required by Government Accounting Standards Board Policy 54 for 2012.

The board approved continuing to use its current assessor for 2012 at 2011 rate, as allowed in the contract. The original contract expire3s on Dec. 31.

The next regular meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2012 in the public meeting room at the Wolfeboro Public Library.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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