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Ryan addresses controversy over movement of warrant article

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
March 15, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Suzanne Ryan used both Public Input segments of the March 7 Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen meeting to clarify her role in the change in the sequence of warrant articles following the Feb.7 Deliberative Session.

The controversy arose from a request Ryan made at the Deliberative Session to move up Article 30, a petition warrant article she sponsored asking the town to move employees out of Town Hall to leased space for an indefinite period and appropriating $70,000 to pay for the move and first-year lease payments. Ryan contends that in making the motion, she intended for the article to be placed on the ballot immediately following Article 19 – which asks voters to approve $200,000 for repairs and improvements to Town Hall – rather than stay with the other two petition articles at the end of the ballot.

Not everyone who attended the Deliberative Session– including Town Clerk Pat Waterman, who took the official minutes – understood Ryan's motion as a request to move the article but rather heard it as a request to discuss it out of numerical order.

At the next selectmen's meeting following the Deliberative Session, on Feb. 15, Selectman Chair Sarah Silk expressed concern about possible voter confusion over warrant numbering, since the board had made televised presentations on each warrant article using the numbering adopted before the Deliberative Session.

It was that expression of concern and this newspaper's report on that Feb. 15 meeting that prompted Ryan's comments on March 7.

To Ryan the change in numbers was "no different from what happened in 2009 or changing the wording of a warrant article to make it null and void. The purpose of the Deliberative Session is to amend articles. SB2 gave 30 days between the Deliberative Session and the ballot so changes can be explained."

Ryan also complained that in quoting just the last paragraph of one of her e-mails in its report on the Feb. 15 meeting, the Granite State News took what she wrote out of context.

The statement at issue in the article read: "In an e-mail sent to Town Clerk Pat Waterman and Moderator [Randy] Walker, after stating her demand [that petition Article 30 be printed immediately after Article 19 and renumbered Article 20], she wrote 'If this is not a result and the ballot is printed otherwise, I will have no choice but to inform the Attorney General's office of an elected official's misconduct and/or notify my attorney.'"

Ryan then traced the sequence of events following the Deliberative Session and provided copies of her e-mails.

Ryan said she called Waterman on Wednesday, Feb. 8, to confirm that Article 30 would now be moved up following Article 19. According to Ryan, Waterman said she thought the article was moved up only for discussion but suggested Ryan call Walker. Ryan called Walker and followed up her conversation with an e-mail that afternoon, together with a copy of an e-mail from Jean F. Samms of the Department of Revenue Administration confirming that state law only specifies that bonded articles must appear on the warrant after election of officers and zoning amendments but before any other articles and says nothing about the order of those other articles.

Ryan did not get a reply from Walker on Thursday morning, Feb. 9, so she sent another e-mail stating "I have not heard from you as to you directing Pat [Waterman] to have the ballot printed per the action of the deliberative..she will not do that until you inform her that the petition for 70,000 was NOT for discussion and was actually moved up…This is time sensitive..please do not let this fall thru the cracks."

Receiving no reply on Friday, Feb. 10, Ryan wrote another e-mail, this time addressed to both Waterman and Walker. After reviewing her account of what happened at the Deliberative Session and asserting she did not use the words "for discussion," Ryan wrote: "I am requesting a final reply by end of work day today that in fact the ballot will reflect the vote of the deliberative and that article 30 will be printed under article 19. If this is not the result and the ballot is printed other wise, I will have no choice but to inform the Attorney General's Office of an elected official's misconduct and or notify my attorney."

Ryan concluded by saying she was driven by the time-sensitive nature of the business, and when she did not hear by Feb. 10, she wrote the e-mail of which only the last paragraph was quoted, giving the impression she was demanding something unreasonable. She said she had not read the minutes of the Feb.15 meeting and did not know what had passed between the board and the newspaper. Her main concern was that she not be misrepresented.

Selectman Linda Murray acknowledged there was confusion at the end of the Deliberative Session. She said she viewed the session on the Web site and wrote down what was said, and when Walker asked the voters whether they wanted to discuss the article now or later, people misunderstood the question.

Silk ended selectmen's feedback with the statement, "the moderator made the final choice."

This reporter objected to Ryan criticizing the board for what was published in the newspaper. He pointed out that the newspaper report was written in a short time span using whatever information was available, and that her corrections would be reported as well.

2012 Recreation fees

Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple submitted his proposed spring and summer rates for board approval. Resident rates are unchanged from 2011, but non-resident rates have been standardized at 50 percent higher: this will increase rates for some activities but decrease for others.

The most significant change for 2012 is allowing parents to sign their kids up for summer day camp by the week, instead of requiring a commitment for the whole seven-week season. In the past parents have signed up for the whole period and their children have only gone for part of the time due to planned family vacations and other factors. By allowing weekly registration, Hipple hopes that more slots will become available for more kids and camp planning will have more flexibility.

In building the rate schedule, Hipple made the assumption that voters will approve his plan for funding some programs through a Revolving Fund (proposed in Article 29). However, he explained that if voters did not approve creating the fund the proposed rates would not change, only where the funds would be deposited for some programs. The board approved the rates, with the amounts proposed to be deposited in the Revolving Fund contingent on voter approval of Article 29.

Other business

The board approved posting 55 town roads for a 10-ton weight limit, effective March 5, until frost is out of the roads, with Temporary Exception Permits available through the Department of Public Works.

Selectmen also approved renewing the Wolfeboro Area Farmers' Market contract to hold a farmers' market in Clark Park from June 21 through Oct. 5.The terms are the same as those approved in 2011.

The board voted to accept the E9-1-1 Data Capture prepared by the Bureau of Emergency Communications of the N.H. Department of Safety. The report identifies 22 "duplicate and similar-sounding road names," two roads with separate segments having the same name, eight roads like Eagle Trace with no "suffixes" like Road or Street, and a number of street numbering irregularities. Town Planner Rob Houseman pointed out that most of these issues were identified in 1994 and not changed then for good reasons, which he feels are still valid. Still, all issues identified in the report will be reviewed and dealt with by Houseman, Deputy Fire Chief Tom Zotti and Dispatcher Mia Lyons. Any problems will be brought back to selectmen for discussion.

Houseman gave a demonstration of the town's newly-implemented GIS system, which can be accessed through the town's Web site (www.wolfeboronh.us) by clicking on the "Online Services" link (on the left side of the Home page under Online Resources and then on "Town Maps – GIS." The new GIS system comes from Cartographic Associates of Littleton, the company that also does the town's tax maps and will cost a third less than the previous system. Any town lot can now be seen as a map, a topographic map, a relief image and an aerial photo (based on 2010 photos), and finding lots and getting lists of abutters is much easier. Maps of a given property can also be created online, and shortly the map will show what zoning district a given property is located within.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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