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Wolfeboro selectmen oppose allowing gunfire in public parks


April 26, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Director Ethan Hipple came before the Board of Selectmen at their April 18 meeting to ask the board members to sign a letter he had drafted to Sen. Jeb Bradley asking him to vote against HB 1341.

HB 1341 repeals in its entirety RSA 644:13, "Unauthorized Use of Firearms and Firecrackers," which states "A person is guilty of a violation if, within the compact part of a town or city, such person fires or discharges any cannon, gun, pistol, or other firearm, except by written permission of the chief of police or governing body."

Hipple read the letter aloud at the meeting. The text reads:

"We write to you as the Chief Elected Officials and community leaders in the Town of Wolfeboro to voice our concerns about House Bill 1341. This bill would effectively legalize the discharging of firearms in town parks, playgrounds, and other public areas in the densely populated town core by repealing the existing RSA 644:13 that prohibits that activity.

"Just imagine the following scenarios: a concert at Cate Park during our busy summer season that is punctuated by the sound of live gunfire; or assault-rifle target practice on a sunny day next to the playground at Foss Field; or the annual Granite Kid Triathlon at Brewster Beach marred by a stray bullet wounding one of our young athletes, or worse. The potential consequences of B.B. 1341, if passed into law, are chilling even to contemplate.

"Under existing law, our residents and visitors enjoy the freedom to visit our many public spaces and parks in Wolfeboro without fear of bodily harm from firearms being discharged. Let us not take that freedom away and give it to those who may irresponsibly discharge weapons in our parks, beaches, and downtown core with no consequence. The passage of H.B. 1341 will legalize anti-social and very dangerous behavior in our most cherished public spaces.

"This bill is opposed by the New Hampshire Police Association, the New Hampshire Municipal Association, and the New Hampshire Recreation and Parks Association. We hope you will join ranks with the responsible public officials comprising these organizations in opposing this bill."

HB 1341 was passed by the N.H. House on March 8 by a vote of 196-123. Of the 14 Carroll County Representatives, only one, Betsey Patten of Moultonborough, voted against, and three reps were excused, including Steve Schmidt of Wolfeboro. Chris Ahlgren and Dave Knox of Wolfeboro voted in favor.

All of the selectmen except Dave Senecal commented on the letter.

Selectman Chuck Storm asked if the current law banned groups like the American Legion from firing blanks in a ceremony in a public place. Hipple replied that the law does require that the Legion get permission from the police chief and there has never been a problem with that.

The board then voted to sign the letter and send it to Senator Bradley.

Health insurance review

Town Manager Dave Owen pointed out that it has been five years since the town reviewed its options for employee health insurance and recommended that Beth Smith of Benefit Strategies LLC be hired for $2,500 to review current plans and make recommendations for possible changes in 2013. The board accepted the recommendation.

A Wolfeboro resident and vice president of Benefit Strategies, Smith will meet with a health insurance committee appointed by selectmen, create a questionnaire for employees, and develop an Employee Benefit Plan to present to selectmen in October.

Owen said the town should establish a health insurance review committee made up of employees, union reps, selectmen, Budget Committee members, the Finance Director, Human Resources Coordinator and Town Manager.

The board approved hiring Smith and Selectmen Senecal and Linda Murray volunteered to serve on the review committee.

Other business

Selectmen made appointments to four board and commissions: Mike Hodder was reappointed an alternate to the Zoning Board of Adjustment; David Strauch was appointed full member of the Agricultural Commission; Vaune Dugan and James Nupp were appointed members of the Pathways Committee; and Roger Murray was reappointed as the town's representative to the Lakes Region Planning Commission.

The board signed a proclamation declaring May 4th Arbor Day in Wolfeboro. On that day the Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Department, Tree Warden Kirk Titus and the fifth grade class at Crescent Lake School will hold a tree planting event at Foss Field at 10 a.m.

Diane Levin and Denise Roy-Palmer of the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce and town Economic Development Committees presented the board with a copy of the PowerPoint slides shown at the presentation of business focus group results on April 5. Roy-Palmer said the EDCs should revisit the subject tin the fall to determine what has been done and what still needs to be done.

Finance Director Pete Chamberlin presented his monthly analysis of expenses and revenues through March. In general expenses are running at or below budget, but fuel costs have been running higher in affected departments and Welfare expenses are running higher, especially in assistance for utilities.

Chamberlin also said the auditors from Vachon Clukay were doing the annual audit, which was going, in his words, "so far so good.:

Public Works Director Dave Ford presented his quarterly update on outstanding capital projects approved by voters and announced the selection of a new engineering firm, Underwood Engineers, as the town's Wastewater Treatment Facility consulting engineers: see separate report in this edition of the newspaper.

Town Manager Owen reported that he asked Fire Chief Butch Morrill for the number of volunteer call firefighters. Morrilll said there were six currently and a seventh will be signed up shortly. The question arose from a charge by former call firefighter Tom Bickford that the number of call firefighters was inadequate. Morrill said he was also planning a recruitment drive later the spring.

Owen also reported that the contract to build the Albee Beach bathhouse had gone to local contractor Paul Kimball, that the contract for work on the Public Safety Building has been let and the closing of the McBride property between the library and Public Safety Building will be held May 1. A training session on preventing sexual harassment was to be held on April 24.

The board reviewed the goals assigned to it by the Master Plan and made a number of status adjustments. At their next meeting selectmen plan to set their goals for the year as well as guidelines for the Capital Improvements Program.

Temporary Event permits were approved for 10 events, including the 13th New England Lyman Boat Show on Saturday, June 2; the Antique and Classic Boat Society Boat & Car Show on Saturday, Sept. 29; the first Regional Model Yacht Regatta on Back Bay on Sunday, Sept. 2; Bike & Walk to School and Work Day on Friday, May 11; Movies in the Park on alternating Fridays from June 15 to Aug. 24 at Foss Field; the 4th of July fireworks at the Brewster Athletic Fields; the 21st Annual Granite Kid Triathlon on Saturday, July 21; four performances of the Walker Brothers Family Circus at The Nick on July 21 and 22; the 31st Annual Granite Man Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 18; and the 21st Annual Turkey Trot 5K Race on Saturday, Nov, 17.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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