Monday, July 27, 2015

Moultonboro CIPC Progressing

In what is becoming almost a routine process,  the Moultonboro CIPC  is heading for it’s annual public hearing for the next proposed 6 year capital improvement plan , 2016  through 2021.  I do not know the date of the public hearing, but it will probably be in the next month or so.  As per the CIPC  charge “A need has been identified to plan for the orderly implementation and financing of a Capital Improvement Program in a manner which meets the needs of the Town and minimizes fluctuations of the tax rate and the impact thereof upon its taxpayers.”
The 2016-2021 spreadsheet ( still in draft form) can be found here on the Town website.  There is still more work to be done specifically as the committee undertakes ranking ,rating and classification of the projects being proposed for 2016. Currently, the total proposed of $1,818,341 represents an increase of just about 9% over the 2015 approved amount.  Keep in mind that that is not the actual tax levy amount  as some of it will be offset by  monies kept in capital reserve funds as well as grants.
Whatever the CIPC recommends is of course not final, but will be topics of some discussion during the 2016 budget cycle, which is just a few months away.
The CIPC public hearings have been sparsely attended in the past and yet I read many comments from readers about this very topic, capital spending. 
We have a fair amount of work to do this year and next in particular, as there is a very significant potential spike in capital requests.
In my own opinion,  we are in very good shape financially as a Town.  At the end of 2014, our fund balance was 18.4%, nearly 6% higher than our target ceiling. The Town has no long term debt, $0, and a relatively small amount of lease payments ,  about $180,000. 

I truly believe that if we put our heads together and work collaboratively to seek solutions to some long standing issues and  invest  in our future as a community, we can do it in a manner that still protects our tax rate. Ultimately, the governing body will recommend and propose, but the legislative body will make the final call. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Preliminary Property Values for 2015

As per the TA's weekly report of July 13th 2015 " The initial indication is that the overall valuation is up roughly 1% over 2014. Initial indication is that about 25% of property values went up, 45% stayed the same and 30% went down. However, this is a preliminary indication only and subject to change based on my review of the values, continuing analysis and the results of informal hearings. The hearings are scheduled for August 4-10. After the Tuesday review, any further changes will be made and then letters listing preliminary values will be mailed to taxpayers. Property owners will be able to schedule an informal hearing either by calling Vision or scheduling an appointment on-line through Vision. Vision will hold the hearings at Town Hall along with holding phone hearings for those who cannot attend in person, and also review of correspondence sent to me with pertinent information before the hearing dates. "
My property was one of the ones that went up and  by 7%. Somewhat surprising considering that sales around the village area have been fairly stagnant and two neighboring homes on the market have not sold in the past year or so.
As a follow up to a previous post, the old State Police/School House on the little pond in the village was purchased by the Moultonboro United Methodist Church. That is good news. The building is currently being used by another church and I'm sure that  the MUMC will find a good use for the property. Wouldn't it be great to see people ice skating on the pond in the winter?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"As chairman of the Planning Board, I don't surrender my rights as a citizen" Warren Hutchins, Chairman, Laconia Planning Board

That statement may be true, but he may have to give up his rights as a Planning Board member and Chair should the matter get to the Planning Board for a site plan approval.  The full story is here in the Laconia Daily Sun. At issue is the former Catholic St. Helens mission church building in Weirs. The church was dechristened some time ago and sold. The new owner, Peter Morrissette ( also the owner of Joyce Janitorial Services, Moultonboro's contracted cleaning service) took exception to comments made at the Zoning Board of Adjustment a few weeks ago when he sought a variance to use the property located in a Shorefront Residential Zone as a storage facility. The ZBA has referred the matter to counsel and is scheduled to be revisited in August.
Into the fray are the comments by Laconia Planning Board chair Warren Hutchins who is also the Chair of the Lakes Region Planning Commission which were perceived by Mr. Morrissette as derogatory. Hutchins is a resident in the nearby Pendelton Beach Association and both he and his wife spoke against granting the variance.  The former church sits on the corner of the only street that accesses Pendelton Beach Association where some of the most valuable properties in Laconia are located. Hutchins waterfront property is assessed at $1,106,000. Morrissettte is bitter, and if the variance is denied, promised to appeal it to Superior Court and place on the property "the ugliest bright orange snow fence I can find and hang big 'No Trespassing' signs on it." 
In a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun on July 23rd, Morrissette claims that Hutchins wants Morrissette to build residential units on the property so that the Planning Board can have control over the property.
Hutchins absolutely has the right to represent himself as a property owner to the ZBA, but he also has forfeited his right ,in my opinion, to fairly hear and adjudicate any matters from Mr. Morrissette that may come before his Planning Board. He would need to step down.

 It's a fine line sometimes as a public official, but it is indeed true that you don't give up your personal rights when you are an elected official. On the other side of the line is the perception of using your office for personal reasons. There is a bully pulpit effect when a person in that position comes before another board and while it maybe perfectly legal, it can sway opinions. That may be the case in Laconia.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Budget for New Hampshire’s Priorities

(The following was sent to me by a reader who wrote to Sen. Bradley regarding the recent articles on the blog. He requested that his letter be published)

A Budget for New Hampshire’s Priorities
By Jeb Bradley:  July 20, 2015

Two years ago, all 24 Senators voted for a budget hailed as a bipartisan accomplishment. Two years later Governor Hassan has vetoed a budget that spends $600 million more than the previous budget to meet New Hampshire’s needs. Given that backdrop and the needs of our citizens, her veto is astonishing.

The Governor’s rhetorical flourish when she wielded the veto pen included calling the budget “dishonest and irresponsible” and that legislative leadership “refused to compromise on any of the major issues.” 

Human service advocates disagree. Gina Balkus, a well-respected home health care advocate said this budget is “the best budget we have seen in years,” due to the 5% increase in funding for home health care workers.  Another well-respected home health care advocate Clyde Terry said “don’t veto this budget; there is a lot of good in it.”

It is not just home health care that received significant increases in funding. So too did programs to address substance abuse, mental health, families with a disabled child, higher education, transportation and services for the elderly. In terms of funding the needs of people in New Hampshire, the Legislature met the Governor more than half-way and funded priority after priority.  Yet surprisingly the Governor didn’t consider this to be compromise.

Perhaps most disheartening is the Governor’s claim this budget is dishonest, because the Legislature carried forward surplus revenue from the current budget into the budget she vetoed.  However, the Governor herself proposed to carry forward $13 million when she presented her version of the budget!

What the Governor is not talking about is that she has likely overspent the current budget – the one that she continually hails as a bipartisan success. The Department of Health and Human Services has acknowledged it expects to have overspent its budget ---- though it does not know by how much and won’t reveal that figure until the end of September.

Rather than hurling partisan attacks, perhaps the Governor would be better advised to focus on determining the extent of the overspending which could negatively impact the funding of future critical priorities.

The Governor also criticized the Legislature for not including in the budget, reauthorization of the NH Health Protection Plan (Medicaid Expansion), which I co-sponsored in 2014. When we passed this law with an 18-5 bipartisan vote, we included a sunset provision to review the program in a year. We did this not as a way to end the program, but instead to make sure that the program was working as intended. At this point, the program has not been fully implemented but early results are encouraging. Emergency room use is declining and the hidden tax of uncompensated care (which anyone with private insurance in NH pays via higher insurance costs) is also declining.

Nevertheless, there are still unanswered questions. For instance: Will the transition to private health insurance for beneficiaries in New Hampshire be seamless? To what extent will uncompensated care be reduced?

These are important questions that can be better answered in January when we have a full year of data to look at. Not including reauthorization in the budget should not be interpreted as a lack of support for the program, certainly not on my part. Questions need answers and a bipartisan bridge must again be built for a successful reauthorization vote to occur.

In the Governor’s veto message, she criticized not including the State Employee pay raise. What she doesn’t mention, is that the Legislature offered to partially fund the raises which the Governor rejected. We will re-examine this pay raise during the next round of budget discussions.

Perhaps the largest obstacle in the budget debate is business tax reductions. They are modest reductions, phased in over time.  The Governor adamantly opposes any tax breaks to business saying they will benefit mostly out of state corporations.

I believe that’s the wrong answer given how many NH men and women are employed by corporations who in NH pay among the highest business taxes of any state in the nation.

Jim Roche, President of the Business and Industry Association, NH’s statewide chamber of commerce, said in a recent letter to the Governor, “New Hampshire’s high business tax rates are not competitive with other states.  That fact, combined with excessively high electrical energy costs, high health insurance and workers’ compensation rates, and other business costs put New Hampshire employers at a significant disadvantage relative to businesses located in other states and countries.”  Mr. Roche’s statement is typical of what business leaders are telling the Legislature.

Instead of modest business tax reductions to help spur business and job growth, the Governor took an opposite approach in her proposed budget – raising taxes on business including hiring more auditors at the Department of Revenue to go after small businesses.

We hope the Governor will set aside the partisan rhetoric and finger pointing and instead work with the Legislature to craft a bipartisan budget that will fund important services for our friends and neighbors in need, while also creating an environment in the state where businesses want to locate and grow their workforce. We owe the citizens of our state nothing less.

For Sale

I don't know if the number of vacant properties for sale in our village is a good thing or not, but there they are. The building that recently housed the Zelek business, is up for sale as is the property just to the east of it next to the country store that has been long vacant. We've been here 13 years and it has always been vacant in that time frame.
Of course the Berry Pond Motel has been up for sale for awhile and there was rumored to be some interested party in the property, but fell through. Right next to it  is the former Gilligans/ Maurices/ Country Fare building built around 1820, sitting vacant and visibly deteriorating. Definitely needs a lot of work.
The old school house/police barracks ( encompasses the little pond)  next to the Methodist Church is also for sale as is the little house between the two properties. That is a fair amount of property right in the center of the Village on just about all sides of the Town offices and Library complex.
What is sold and what will become of the properties is any one's guess. We do have a road map of sorts with the Village Vision report which should provide some guidance for any development, but these properties are in the end, privately owned, and we need to balance the evolution of the village with the rights of property owners  Not always an easy balance, but I lean toward not doing anything that diminishes property value or unduly inhibits their ability to sell.
Case in point: we have had two different "dollar" type stores that had a serious interest in locating in our town, one in the village and one a few miles west and neither were welcomed with open arms and now seem to be dead issues. Viable businesses that would fill a niche and bring a few jobs.
My hope is that all these properties will find new owners soon, and go from vacant to productive, and provide value to the village and the town for many years to come. We will never be Meredith or Center Harbor, but what we may become is just an enhanced version of what we have always been:  a small rural town in New Hampshire. Nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day Saturday August 1st 2015

Date: Saturday, August 1, 2015
Time: 8:30 AM - 12:00 Noon
Locations: 
NH DOT Garage, Bristol
Laconia Public Works Department
Moultonborough Highway Garage
Ossipee Highway Garage


Click here for more information.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

TA hiring process may be concluded this week

As we discussed at last Thursday's BoS meeting, interview panels will meet the six or so finalists early this week and then the final three will be interviewed by the BoS on Thursday.  We had 38 candidates all told and MRI has been very busy behind the scenes working through the list.
So, if all goes well, we may settle on a choice this Thursday or as we also discussed, regroup on Monday morning to make a final decision if we need more time to consider the candidates.



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Carroll County Commissioners Demand Apology From Rep. Cordelli

At the same July 8th Carroll County Commissioner's meeting that the new, and first, Carroll County Administrator was announced, Commissioner Babson read an email that all the Commissioners received from Rep. Cordelli.  The meeting can be viewed on GovernmentOversite.com and this discussion begins at 43:30.  His email claims that he and Rep Schmidt were the delegation representatives to the hiring committee and have been left out of the process.The email also asked for the resumes of the candidates, and who did the reference checks on a candidate who he said received an offer from the county but turned it down.
Commissioner Babson then read his response which the Commissioner's eventually approved unanimously. In it, Babson states that the Commissioners gave the Delegation two names they were willing to work with. One was Rep. Schmidt, who was not able to attend the meetings and was quite clear that Rep. Cordelli was not the other and that he will not be receiving any of the requested information. He commented that maybe Rep. Cordelli wants to be Commissioner Cordelli. Commisioner Miller chimed in that the Commissioners specifically did not invite him and that he self appointed himself. He said that the email was uncalled for and unprofessional and asked for an apology and that has no right to ask for these types of documents. " It incenses me when we receive documents like these from our dleegation, absolutely incenses me, their job is the budget, that's it"  said Commissioner Miller.
According to the Delegation minutes of  May 4th 2015 "County Administrator Rep. Schmidt was appointed delegation representative to the county administrator hiring panel. Rep. Cordelli was appointed as alternate. Comm. Sorensen reported the hiring panel consists of three commissioners, two accountants, two county administrators, the human resource director, and one representative. Rep. Umberger said that Conway Town Manager Earl Sires offered written suggestions and his assistance to the County during the hiring process."
The Commissioners met on May 6th 2015 and had the following in their minutes: "Eleven resumes have been received in response to the county administrator job posting. Ms. Degroot was asked to send a letter of appreciation to Conway Town Manager Earl Sires to thank him for his suggestions and his offer to serve on the hiring panel. Ms. DeGroot was asked to send a letter of appreciation to Rep. Stephen Schmidt and to welcome him to the hiring panel. May 27 at 9 .m. is the tentative meeting time for the first meeting of the hiring panel. The goal is to begin interviews the first week of June. The commissioners reiterated that the hiring panel will consist of the three commissioners, Rep. Schmidt, two private sector finance people. Ms. DeGroot, and two county administrators. "
It would appear then that the Delegation did appoint Rep. Cordelli, but the Commissioners chose not to accept him.
In a perfect world,  I would have to agree that it is the Commissioner's call , but considering how poorly things have been run by them, they should accept all the help they can get. It was in fact Rep. Cordelli that has been instrumental in uncovering and trying to rectify the various and serious financial problems facing the County.

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's All Related

I am somewhat surprised at the reaction from some this week that some of the recent posts are not "local" news. No need to quote Tip O'Neill, but it all trickles ( sometimes its a deluge) down to the local level.
Do these issue have an impact on NH and even little Moultonboro? Of course they do. 
Some local groups and organizations also routinely request a posting about a special event or other function. Always glad to do it. Somethings I just find interesting and personal and will write about it such as the nonsense about " death panels" and " death chats." 
A selectmen violating the sanctity of the non-public session is for sure a local issue. It is a learning experience for all elected officials especially if you read the parting comment from the departing selectman that he really was not aware of the law. How is that even possible? I am still surprised to see and hear elected officials that are completely unprepared for meetings and ignorant of the RSA's. 

Despite the naysayers, the town is in really good shape. We are fortunate to have so many good volunteers and committed and responsive employees.

In the end, I choose to write about things I choose to write about. Period.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pay as You Throw

This recent article was in New Hampshire Town and City , a publication of the NH Municipal Association about "pay as you throw." This is somewhat timely as a committee in Moultonboro is looking at single stream recycling, which will hopefully increase recyclables.
The article talks of nearly $200 billion in avoidable cost for recyclable waste in the United States annually. The idea is to get people to recycle more and charging for what you dispose of is way to incentivize that behavior. 
According to the article, the most effective way to reduce solid waste is a bag-based Pay as You Throw, which is used by the majority of pay-as-you-throw communities in New Hampshire. You pay a dollar or two per special bag which would replace the traditional cost of collection and disposal. In that way you only pay for what you actually use.
The bottom line according to the article  is that it is a proven way to reduce trash volumes ( on average about 44%) and reduce taxes. Of particular interest is that this is something each individual taxpayer can do to reduce cost. 
We have not had this conversation here in Moultonboro as we first look at the viability of single stream recycling, but perhaps it is an idea whose time may yet come to our transfer station.