January 05, 2012WAKEFIELD — Three residents and landowners on Old County Road came before Wakefield selectmen at their Dec. 28 meeting to ask them to discontinue and close the road to traffic.
Selectmen were reluctant to discontinue the road and advised the residents to do careful research before taking any steps in that direction.
Former Selectman and current planning board member Johnny Blackwood spoke in behalf of himself, Geoff Browning and Doug McCullom. He noted that Old County Road was a Class VI road and had not been maintained by the town since the 1950s, was only two rods (33 feet) wide, and had no sight distances, making it a dangerous road to drive at any speed. The problem is that some are trying to drive the road at speed, even though it is a dead end.
Blackwood said if it were a private road, you can challenge trespassers. McCullom, who owns 300 feet on both sides of the road, said he has confronted speeders and has spoken with police about the problem. Browning said he is in favor of discontinuing the road and making it private: he noted that the town does not maintenance on it.
Selectman Mark Duffy said that he does not recommend discontinuing the road. Selectman Peter Kasprzyk was more supportive, but Selectman Chair Ken Paul advised the trio that they may want to form a road association if they want to pursue this idea. He warned that they may have problems with their mortgages and insurance if the road is closed.
Blackwood pointed out that Campbell Road was gated and barred. Why not Old County Road?
Duffy said he wasn't in favor of that closure either. "It is recommended roads not be discontinued. Discontinuing roads makes for problems."
McCullom countered, "It's a dead end road and all owners of property want it closed."
Duffy pointed out that the town legislative body has to approve a change in the road's status in any case.
Blackwood said they could put the proposal in the form of a petitioned warrant article and asked what was the final date for submitting a petitioned article.
Town Administrator Teresa Williams said it was Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Duffy agreed that a petitioned article can be submitted for a vote but that there is a procedure involved in discontinuing a road that needs to be followed.
Paul added that if the change was approved the owners would need to change their deeds to specify a right-of-way. He advised the trio to research nearby private road agreements to see how they were set up and go for the 25 signatures to support the warrant article. He added that he would not oppose the petition. Kasprzyk said he would not oppose it either.
Robert Bevard met with the board to report that an information meeting had been held about forming a Wakefield Agricultural Commission. Bill Denley and son, Johnny Blackwood, himself and his mother had attended. A steering committee has been formed to set up the commission. Bevard said they have not yet talked with the Wolfeboro Agricultural Commission.
Paul asked whether it would be a town committee and keep minutes. Bevard answered yes to both questions.
Heritage Commission Chair Pam Judge said from the audience that an Agricultural Commission is set up just like a Heritage Commission.
Paul went online at his notebook computer and accessed the Wolfeboro Web site. He noted that the Wolfeboro Agriculture Commission has seven members and five alternates. He also reviewed a recent meeting agenda and noted a discussion of a budget. "Would it cost money?" he asked, noting that nothing had been provided for it in the budget.
Bevard said it would be 100 percent volunteer, at least to start.
Williams said a warrant article to establish the commission has already been submitted.
Duffy noted that there are not many farms left in town.
Kasprzyk pointed out that farming is not limited to large acreages. People are interested in small-scale farming.
Judge said the Heritage Commission is in favor of a town Agricultural Commission. While there is some overlap with her commission, she could see an Ag Commission working with the planning board to support changes that would encourage small farms.
Bevard said, "The next step is the vote."
Paul asked Williams to scan and forward the warrant article to the board for review.
Judge ended the discussion by stating that getting an Agricultural Commission established "would be easier if the Board of Selectmen supports it."
Town Administrator Williams presented the board with a list of incomplete 2011 projects whose remaining funds should be encumbered so that they can be spent in 2012.
The first was for $3,825 to analyze data for accounts payable and receivable as required by GASB 45. Jefferson Solutions will do the required work over three years at $1,275 per year. Approved 3-0.
The second was a request from the highway department for $2,000 to take down two hazardous trees, using an outside hire. The department will still end the year $10,000 under budget. Approved 3-0.
The third was a request from the Heritage Commission to encumber $1,260 as the second half of consultant's fee to complete the Historical Resources chapter of the Master Plan. The first half has been done. Approved. 3-0.
The fourth request was also from the Heritage Commission to encumber $1,875 to pay for 25 hours of a planner's time to pull all the research being done by volunteers into a coherent narrative by April 1. Williams reported that the Heritage Commission had submitted this proposal but that nothing had been received from the planning board.
Judge said the planning board told her the funds were available in its budget, that volunteers have put in 165 hours working on the survey and that only 25 hours are being requested to finish the project.
Kasprzk pointed out that taxpayers did authorize the project and work had been done: it had just run out of time.
Paul said he was concerned whether the planning board did in fact have the funds. Williams said in her analysis up to $3,000 was safe to encumber. Up to $1,875 approved 3-0.
The fifth request was for $30,000 for an operational assessment of the town by Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI).
Paul explained that MRI provides an impartial view of how the town operates that can answer questions like, "Are there enough police or too many? Does it make sense to combine Town Clerk and Tax Collector? Are there any efficiencies that can be made?" Paul said he had read the MRI reports on Gilford, N.H. and Old Town, Maine and they were very thorough. The assessment would be done in 90 days and would be objective, not political. The MRI funds were approved 3-0.
Paul said theat MRI will come to the next selectmen's meeting to explain the process. He emphasized that community involvement in the assessment is a key part of it.
Conservation Commission Chair Dave Mankus announced that he had negotiated favorable terms and a purchase price for the Union Meadows property with the owner in Florida and that the commission had received a $50,000 grant he had applied for from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to help acquire the property. That grant, together with funds already promised by N.H. Fish & Game and existing Conservation Commission funds means that no warrant article or additional funds are required to complete the purchase. However, he asked that Town Counsel draw up a purchase and sale agreement right away. Mankus was reluctant to disclose the agreed price until the agreement was signed by the owner, but stated that "this is an exceptionally good deal for the town." Selectmen approved Mankus working with Town Counsel Rick Sager on drawing up the agreement.
Mankus noted that the town only needs to blaze/mark the boundaries, just as was done on the Gage Hill property.
The board agreed to meet with a social services coordinator to consider participating in a Workplace Success placement that would give someone in need of a job workplace experience.
Williams reported that state law now allows adjacent lots in common ownership that were forcibly merged prior to 2010 to be restored as separate lots.
The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room.