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Town told to put barriers between employees and public

Ossipee selectmen to go back to weekly meetings next week

ROBERT FREEMAN spent the day campaigning outside Ossipee Town Hall March 13 and won his bid for election to the Ossipee selectmen’s board. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
March 29, 2012
OSSIPEE — Every other year N.H. Department of Labor safety inspectors arrive to inspect municipal buildings here to make sure state safety requirements are being met to protect the health and safety of its employees.

Inspectors arrived in Ossipee March 8 and inspected the highway garage, Town Hall, water and sewer building, transfer station, police station, and library. They found minimal items of non-compliance, making suggestions for changes that need to be made.

Topping the list, safety inspectors are recommending selectmen install a barrier between the town employees and the customers in the selectmen's office and Town Clerk's office. The report states, "The town must investigate options to protect the employees from potential dangers associated with government employees serving the general public. Windows must be mounted over the counter.to help reduce their exposure to aggressive behavior from the public." The safety report also requires the swinging half-doors at either end of the town clerk's counter need to be replaced with real doors to "increase security in the area."

Both offices have been remodeled in the past five years, with employees and town leaders favoring an open concept rather than putting a barrier between the employees and the customer. Selectman Harry Merrow said selectmen have until May 15 to respond to Department of Labor as to how they plan to address the mandates. With Town Meeting already wrapped up and given the report was not received until after Town Meeting, no money was appropriated in this year's budget for any of the suggested improvements. Selectmen made no decision at their meeting Monday night as to whether they will delay other projects to comply with the inspection recommendations or if they will get permission to wait until next year's budget cycle to put the improvements in the budget.

Many of the recommendations can be addressed by simply updating certain sections of the town's safety manual while others do require some expense, including:

• Emergency exit signs in the library basement

• Securing ladders when they are not being used and replacing a broken ladder at the library

• Stop and Slow paddles and highly visible garments to be made available to any employee conducting traffic control in work zones

The report also suggests that simple housekeeping can go a long way towards the protection of employees and suggests that the planning and zoning office as well as the library basement need to be cleaned up. "All places of employment, passageways, storage rooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and in a sanitary condition. Poor housekeeping is often times the cause of accidents or property damage," the report states.

Voters approved renovating the town-owned building at One Moultonville Road and that work is set to go out to bid soon. The plan is to move the planning and zoning office and records to that building, out of the one room upstairs where decades of land use records are stored.

Weekly meetings

Given there is a new selectman (Bob Freeman), business in the spring and summer picks up, and perhaps the fact that selectmen were mildly criticized at this Year's Town Meeting for holding their public meetings every other week, selectmen announced Monday night that effective April 2 they will return to holding public meetings every Monday afternoon at 4:15 p.m.

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