Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Be thankful ...that we are not Gilmanton

The front page story in today's Laconia Daily Sun was about a very contentious Gilmanton Selectboard meeting last evening about the cause for a $3.01 increase in the tax rate to $25.94 and a successful vote to replace the board chair.
The first thing to be thankful for is to not have a tax rate anywhere near $25.94.  We have work to do on our budget beginning next week to keep our tax rate low. I'm sure it won't turn into a free for all as it appears to have happened in Gilmanton. The $3.01  increase will cost $301 per $100,000 of property value. That is a real hit on the family budget for many of us. As someone squarely in the middle of middle class, that increase in my mortgage payment would hurt.
It does seem as though Gilmanton's transition from one Town Administrator to another did not go very seamlessly. There does not appear to have been a clean handoff when the new TA came on board.  It is curious why the previous years budget process was not clear to either the BoS or the town staff. Or even the town budget committee. I do have to agree that such a large jump in the tax rate should have raised some questions from the new TA. This is not a case of no news is good news because the NH DRA didn't call. This is our second piece of good news. Our transition went very smoothly.
In any event, it doesn't seem fair to blame a new TA on the job for only four months , for what may have happened under the old TA's watch as the budget was constructed last year. For sure, it shouldn't be so confusing.
Another thing to be thankful for is having a five member BoS. We have our moments, but we are five independent voices and rash decisions tend not to happen as we often cancel each other out. We do argue and disagree and occasionally voices are raised, but in the end, we move on and try to do what is in the best interest of Moultonboro.
Our budget meetings are open of course to the public, but few attend.  Come February, when we have the budget and warrant hearing, it will be 2-3 months after the context of the decisions were discussed. It is hard at that point to change course. As the saying goes: " be there or be square."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

School Budget Beginning to Take Shape

 A long way to go yet, but the School District Version 1 of the 2016-17 fiscal year budget will be presented  tomorrow morning. I believe it scheduled for 9am at the SAU. It is not listed on the District calendar.
The ABC is scheduled to meet Tuesday evening at 5:30 in Town Hall,where I would presume some discussion of the budget will occur.
An item of interest is an expected 9% max rate increase in health insurance for the district. The current year budget is for approximately $781K for health benefits, which was about $57K less than the prior year.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two Very Different Views

Among the many letters in the Laconia Daily Sun, I found two today that were diametrically opposite regarding our country's position on Syrian refugees. Since the LDS is a "paper" the "discussion" by opposing letter writers won't begin until the next issue is published on Tuesday. This is an opportunity to bring the conversation to the forefront in close to real time.
On  one side is a letter from Marc Abear of Meredith , who is clearly opposed to the USA accepting Syrian refugees on the premise that many of them would likely be jihadists and pose threat to the homeland.
The second letter is from Sandra Ringelstein of Moultonboro, who takes the position against the hysteria and finding a middle ground and to treat the refugees with compassion.
Personally, I strongly agree with the second letter writer. I marvel at how this tragic humanitarian crisis has devolved into a political football with all sorts of extreme,  and in my opinion, un-American responses. I have to wonder if this were not a Presidential election cycle, would the rhetoric be so loud?  There is a middle ground here and it shouldn't involve violating constitutional rights or shunning the very things that make this country great. It will require common sense and avoidance of hyperbole and extremism from all sides. It will take leaders that remember that their job is not to get re-elected, but rather to govern.
This post has real people, using real names who put their position and views out there for public consumption. I will not publish any comments on this post that are anonymous.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One more item about Carroll County: Rep. McConkey asks for Commissioner Sorensen's resignation

Just when I thought we were done with the county for the time being. In this story in the Carroll County Independent by Mellisa Seamans, the drama is not yet over.

Keep in mind the power of the voting booth. We have the power to  " resign" any of the elected officials running for re election next November, House and Commissioners both.

Carroll County Attorney's Office Not Up to Task?

The Conway Daily Sun reported in Tuesday's edition that felony charges had to be dropped in a sex assault case, because the Carroll County Attorney's Office handled the case so poorly.  Two charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault, simple assault and two counts of violation of a protective order were filed against the defendant, but a plea deal resulted in a one year suspended sentence for one count of violating a protective order . All the other charges were dropped.The victim appealed to the NH Attorney General who reviewed the case. 
 Geoff Ward, a prosecutor with the Attorney Generals Office was quoted as saying "What I learned in reviewing this case was that personnel at the county attorney's office, at the time, mishandled the matter." 
County Attorney Thomas Dewhurst was elected in 2014 and his office has been hampered by high turnover to the extent that the NH Attorney General had to lend support to the county with temporary manpower int form of two prosecutors this past summer. At the time, the office was rumoured to be close to crisis mode. The office should have three full-time assistant county attorneys, but five had left or resigned by early last June. 
Whether these latest issues are related to the county's ongoing financial issues and whether taxpayers will once again be on the hook for legal fees and potential litigation is not clear. 

Dollar General Site Plan Approved: A Lesson Learned

I was not there and unfortunately the video stream ended at 10:30pm before the final vote, but from the chatter in cyberspace, it appears that the Planning Board approved the sub division application for Tevis Kraft and then the site plan for Zaremba's proposed Dollar General store.
A petition was presented to the board to stop the Dollar Store, but as I expected, it was not accepted as part of the testimony during the hearing.
There is a lesson to be learned here, one I have written and spoken about many, many times: get involved. All those that fought against this project fought a losing battle because they did not know how to win. I'm not being critical of the individual's because I have done the same thing in the past. And then I learned how to play the game and got myself involved.
 PB Chair Scott Bartlett was spot on in his statement that the PB must rule on submissions on the basis of current rules and ordinances. Remember, Zaremba got to the Planning Board after one successful lawsuit already. PB member and long time selectmen Ed Charest made the point that property owners have the right to use their property as they see fit within the rules and regulations. Excellent points.
This is prime time in our town for making changes to zoning. The Master Plan is well under way. Meetings are happening about the future and how we should grow Moultonboro and what it should look  like when it does. Where were the petitioners over the past two years during the speak out sessions and public meetings?
Anyone can place an article to amend a zoning ordinance on the ballot if they get 25 signatures of registered voters.  There will also be many opportunities to have your voice heard on these matters in these next few months. Get you butts in the seats and raise your hands to speak. Its as simple as that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Upcoming Meetings

Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday and the annual NH Municipal Conference this Thursday and Friday, the next BoS meeting will not occur until December 3rd. An update on the community center warrant article proposal progress will be on the agenda. 
There is a change to the budget schedule, which has been revised a follows"

12/4                               8:30a +/-       Kick-Off and Overview
                                    10:00               Human Services
                                    10:30               Administration & Assessing
11:00               Executive Officers
12:00p             Lunch
                                    12:30 +/-         Tax Collector
                                      1:15+/-          Town Clerk & Elections
                                      1:45               Public Works

12/11                           Cancelled  

12/18                             8:30a             Fire Department
                                                                        Apparatus Report
                                      10:00 +/-       Police
                                      12:00 p          Lunch
                                      12:30 +/-       Development Services
                                       1:15              Recreation

1/8/16  8:30 a.m.         Finalization of Department Budgets, Review of non-budget Warrant
Articles, policies & the like

1/22/16 8:30 a.m.        Finalization of non-budget Warrant Articles, policies & the like 

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Perhaps we have already lost this generation of angry, idle men who mask their own shortcomings by rationalizing that the West is responsible for their failures. But we haven’t lost the next generation. "

(The ARAB News is an English language newspaper published in Saudi Arabia. It was meant for the thousands of expats that lived and worked there. Printed on green newspaper, we called it“ the green truth.” Click here for some history on this paper. I chose to publish it here for perspective only.  Of additional interest is the use of the term "Daesh" to refer to ISIS and that the article was authored by a woman.)

Paris attacks: A wake-up call to the world


Published — Monday 16 November 2015

The disgusting terrorist act that killed over 129 people in Paris late Friday should serve as a wake-up call to Muslims and non-Muslims. It is clear without a shred of doubt that this wholly un-Islamic band of murderers is gaining a foothold not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe. There is no western nation that can claim immunity from Daesh.
If I am stating the obvious, well then I am not so sure that western countries are fully aware of their vulnerability to an ideology that has led to the recruitment of thousands of men and women to form states in Syria and Iraq. We are not talking about stateless actors committing solo acts of terror, but what is essentially a new country determined to wage war against innocents for what they perceive as the crimes of their governments.
Every Muslim and non-Muslim country appears to be at a loss on how to deal with Daesh other than airstrikes. No country is willing to commit ground troops and no country is willing to sacrifice military lives to stop Daesh. If recent history is any indication, allied nations will continue to back away from military commitment to fighting Daesh. Instead nations will fall back on plans that have obviously failed in the past and will fail in the future.
Nations vulnerable to terrorist attacks will increase security at their own borders, double down on airport security, increase the militarization of local and state police departments and spy, arrest and detain individuals without probable cause. They will make a mockery of their constitutions because specific protections of citizens will prove inconvenient in the fight against terrorism.
If that is the road Muslim and non-Muslim take, then we will hand yet another victory to Daesh. These terrorists consistently prove that they, and they alone, can bend nations to their will.
There is little doubt after the Paris attacks that Muslims need to clean their own house, but it can’t be done alone. Muslims and non-Muslims need each other in this escalating war. Muslim communities in western countries and every country in the Middle East and North Africa need to take an active role in educating its youth. Ignoring the problem — and the Ummah and the West must plead guilty to this — will only serve Daesh’s interest and help create a new generation of militants.
The West must rethink its usual heavy-handed approach. Tighter border controls, heavy airport security and police armed with military-grade weapons in commercial and residential neighborhoods will create a police state and the illusion that we are safe. It will not stop homegrown terrorists, especially in the United States where firearms are easily accessible.
Without a strategy that involves the leading Arab countries — with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, England and France at the forefront — there is little chance that we can stop Daesh. Unfortunately, that strategy must include military force and the potential for loss of life, but it also must be combined with education for children beginning at a very young age. Perhaps we have already lost this generation of angry, idle men who mask their own shortcomings by rationalizing that the West is responsible for their failures. But we haven’t lost the next generation. We will, though, if governments continue to attempt to beat terrorism with the same unworkable plans as it has in the past.

Comments Box Fixed

The recent issue with comment problems has been resolved.

Selectmen Highlights November 13th 2015

  • The Laconia Area Community Land Trust (LACLT), represented by Francis Strayer ( Board Member) and Linda Harvey, the Executive Director. The LACLT started in Laconia with very small projects and single units and today , 20 years later, they have developed many properties, both large and small in the greater Lakes Region. (The history of their projects can be found here. ) In most cases, the LACLT owns and manages the properties and the rental units rent is permanently controlled.A large chunk of the workforce cannot afford to pay market rent and the rents are based upon a formula that assures permanent affordability. While they are a tax exempt organization, they pay their full share of property taxes.  Over the years they have helped 311 home buyers, and developed 272 units ( 247 owned and managed.) Their projects range from new construction to adaptive reuse and they remain open to just about any concept to create affordable housing or just assist in helping towns do the same.
  • Town Planner Bruce Woodruff and Planning Board Chair Scott Bartlett, presented an update entitled “Planning for Appropriate Housing and Commercial Growth  To sustain our Community while maintaining unique character.” The presentation included a review of the planning done to date as well as the various focus groups and surveys. The character of our Town is viewed differently by different types of residents, but the common ground is to maintain the rural & unique character of Moultonboro: Managed growth, attractive to developers with a similar mindset, attractive to appropriate businesses in appropriate places, low taxes and attract services for seniors to age in place within the community. To accomplish these things will require, among other things, a Master Plan, incentivize specific types of development, business and appropriate sized housing for seniors and those that want to live close to where they work. Zoning will play a key role in this process and the concept of “ nodal” zoning was discussed as well as allowing higher density housing in some areas and form based code in other specific areas. The timing of all this is to have a Master Plan ready for vote at 2016 Town Meeting and then propose zoning changes in 2016 and vote on them in 2017. 
  • Energy upgrades were approved for the Recreation Building. The windows are in need of replacement as many are single pane and as evidenced by a 2009 report by Infrared Analyzers, Inc, the windows and front door had the greatest heat loss. The front door will be replaced by the DPW. The window replacement contract was  awarded to Granite State Glass for $6,999. These funds were approved at Town Meeting and are in the operating budget for 2015. 
  • The School Board would prefer not to use the MA GYM for voting in the general election next November, as it will require closing school that day. Voting will continue in the Life Safety Building.
  • The BoS /ABC budget work session for 12/11 will be moved to the next week, December 18th as an add on to that days schedule. It is anticipated that the meeting on12/18 will extend into the afternoon.