Monday, August 31, 2015

Carroll County Administrator to Attend 9/3 BoS Meeting

According to our agenda, Ken Robichaud will attend the 9/3 BoS meeting at 7pm. The Carroll County Commissioners were sent a letter last week from the BoS asking them to attend this meeting. Mr. Robichaud is the newly appointed first ever, Carroll County administrator and did not arrive on the scene until well after the financial mess began.  In other words, don't shoot the messenger.

Just have to have my say...

Maybe it's just being overloaded with Presidential candidates all vying to be heard and move up in the polls, but there are some strange comments out there. Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border that is about 1,900 miles. Scott Walker wants to build a wall on the Canadian border more than 5,000 miles and Chris Christie wants to bar code immigrants with visas so we can track them like FedEx packages.
The political silly season is upon us.
Anyone have any idea how much it will cost to build and maintain these thousands of miles of walls? Or how much to monitor the human FedEx? Funny how the folks that rally against any new government programs, don't seem to notice that the new " Federal Wall Department" will be one of the largest we have ever created. Not to mention costliest. And a giant boondoggle.
One candidate, Jeb Bush, gets it: What Donald Trump is proposing is a wall that can’t be built. And if it was to be built it would be hundreds of billions of dollars. He wants everybody to be deported which will tear family life asunder, would cost an arm and a leg, hundred of billions of dollars again and it will probably be unconstitutional.It’s not realistic and its not conservative,” 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

" These could be the first baby steps Moultonborough needs to start building community and helping to determine what the townspeople want to see in their village.As members of the historic buildings panel said such projects require leaders to take the initiative. " Meredith News Editorial

That is from the last two paragraphs in this weeks Meredith News editorial ( below) regarding the recent panel discussion last Monday evening at the Moultonboro Library. While I can appreciate the gist and intent of the editorial, the line quoted above concerns me. One would think after reading this editorial that we have been sitting back doing nothing.
A committee appointed  jointly by the BoS and Planning Board and facilitated by Town Planner Bruce Woodruff, comprised of citizens, board members, selectmen and business owners, met in 2014 over nearly 11 months and produced a report that contained “… a vision for the future of the Village and recommendations for attaining the vision…” The Selectmen felt so strongly about this topic that it was brought to Town Meeting last March for endorsement by the Legislative body. It will be included in the new Master Plan.
"The Village Vision Committee (hereafter VVC) is charged with study and the preparation of a report, to include a boundary description of and vision for the future of the Village, as well as recommendations for attaining or achieving that vision, and to present the report to the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen."
We have provided leadership and direction on both the Selectboard and Planning Board. We have a plan the community endorsed and a way forward. Some may have their own agenda and complain that " nothing is being done" , but the realty is far from nothing.
It is very difficult to build consensus on any major issue, and there is no such thing as 100% agreement, but this time I think we got it right.

C'mon Meredith News. Give us a break!

Bringing life to historic buildings 
Preserving and finding uses for historical structures has been a theme in many communities. In the pages of this paper are stories about an effort in Center Harbor to repurpose the townhouse, discussions in Moultonborough about possible ways to attract developers to reuse its vacant historic buildings, or even the ongoing efforts by an area company to restore covered bridges. 
All of these are structures that reflect the area’s history. All of them were built during a much different period of time and have had many different owners and uses. Now many of these historic structures are sitting vacant and underused, which leaves a hefty toll in the structures themselves.
We applaud all these efforts to try to preserve find new life for these historical buildings and structures. These structures reflect the character and history of the community and it would be best if uses can be found for them. Of course, this is never an easy task. Historic buildings come with the issues of aging and it costs a lot of money to repair and renovate a building. There are also the considerations of bringing a building up to current code and compliance. There are grants and programs available through the state and numerous nonprofit organizations, many of which require matching funds. Of course different structures need different attention. The Center Harbor Townhouse is structurally sound and while the Moultonborough Grange is not as stable. It also means that the clock is ticking on many of these structures. 
There is also the major consideration of what they could be used for. This issue was discussed in detail at a recent presentation in Moultonborough. Many communities across the state have had their older structures repurposed for businesses, residencies, municipal use, or many other purposes. The question is how can a developer find these buildings attractive enough to renovate instead of building new. 
This use of Moultonborough’s structures also ties in with the ongoing and much-debated topic of what the village center should be like. There have been numerous studies and surveys on what people want to see for the village, though there have been only a few initiatives to do something. 
 One possible option that came up was the formation of a community or economic development group in Moultonborough. One such group was formed in Center Harbor to attract businesses and visitors to town. This is something people in Moultonborough should consider forming. 
The Center Harbor Community Development Group has done activities such as organizing community events, creating a map of local businesses, offering technology workshops, and many other simple and meaningful activities. These could be the first baby steps Moultonborough needs to start building community and helping to determine what the townspeople want to see in their village. 

As members of the historic buildings panel said such projects require leaders to take the initiative. Such action could lead to more community vibrancy and more ideas and possible ways to bring that life back into its historic buildings.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Board of Selectmen Worksession Highlights August 27th 2015

  • Police Chief Wetherbee spoke at some length about the drug epidemic, specifically the prevalence of heroin and prescription pain killers. He spoke of many aspects of the problem and the role of law enforcement. It was made clear that here in Moultonboro our drug problems are not as bad as in many other towns and cities, but we are not immune. In his time here, there have been at least three drug overdose deaths that he is aware of. He is in the process of getting approval for his officers to be able to carry and administer Narcan Intranasal for overdose response. He also spoke of PAARI ( Police Assisted Addiction and Drug Recovery Initiative.) Rather than treating addiction by arrest, attempts are made to offer treatment options and recovery. It was an interesting 40 minutes or so at the very beginning of the work session and well worth the time to watch and listen.
  • We discussed how to proceed with a possible warrant article for a gym/recreation facility with a focus on the financial aspects. We first need to define a scope and then work on the cost to build so that if we decide to take it to the voters, we can offer a true financial picture. As part of the package, we can't overlook the impact to the village and the Taylor property, The Selectmen and the Recreation Department Director Donna Kuethe, will meet in  work session next Thursday prior to the regular evening meeting to define a possible project scope. 
  • We had a brief discussion on a Fairpoint proposal provided by Bill Gassman to the BoS for broadband expansion. Five options were presented and the BoS will probably address these options and recommendations at our next business meeting. A thank you to Bill Gassman was offered by the BoS for continuing to work on this issue  to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas of Moultonboro. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CIPC Public Hearing Set for September 15th

The hearing will held at Town Hall at 7pm. Hopefully videostreamed, better though to be in attendance for this to ask questions. Materials will be available on the Town website once the final 2016-2021 report is completed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Comments and a few rants

I have written on this topic numerous times. I apologize for the spam checker that Google uses for the blog, but if I turn it off, the spam comments will number in the thousands per week. Some are very dangerous and may contain viruses. It is unfortunately the cyber world we live in. Off topic, but it is distressing to me that we spend an inordinate amount of time as a society on ideology ( "I'm always right and you are always wrong!")  and not enough time on actually fixing real problems. For example, cyber security costs us billions of dollars and not many seem to care or notice. It is an enormous drain on our economy and our national security. Just part of the cost of doing business? Shouldn't be. What do the dozens of candidates running for the Presidency have to say about that? Who knows, because no one asks them. Lets just focus on building a modern version of the Great Wall of China and that will solve all our problems.

Back on topic. If you comment about a person or business and choose to be derogatory, you need to comment under a real name or it won't get published.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Answers to some County Questions

( Not legal advice, just my opinion.... with the help of Google. Food for thought as we wind through this county budget mess. )

What happens if a Town doesn't pay it's County tax bill on time? We would pay 10% interest on the amount due. If my math is correct, that would be about $900 per day late.
Per RSA 29-11, "...interest at 10 percent a year from December 17 upon all taxes not then paid, and the county tax assessed against any town shall not be deemed paid until the whole amount of the warrant together with said interest from December 17 to the date of payment has been received by said treasurer."

What recourse does the Town have if the County does not set the tax rate in a timely manner? We can appeal to the County Convention, who have the authority to abate the interest due. 
Per RSA 29-12, "Any town from which interest is due to the county on its county taxes, whenever assessed, may through its selectmen file with the chairman of the county convention a petition for an abatement of all or any part of such interest, and the county convention is hereby granted the power to abate all or any part thereof, if it finds that such town was unable to pay its county taxes on the date when due because of extraordinary economic conditions, difficulty in collecting taxes due such town, or other good cause shown. Whenever a special meeting of the county convention is called to hear such a petition, the compensation of the members thereof provided by statute shall be paid by the petitioner. 

Can county officials be held personally liable for mismanagement/incompetence? It doesn't appear so, provided they didn't act in a " wanton or reckless manner."
Per RSA  29-A:1  "It is the intent of this chapter to protect county officers, trustees, officials and employees who are subject to claims and civil actions arising from acts committed within the scope of their official duty while in the course of their employment for the county."

Are County Financial Audits required? No, but if they are done, the Commissioner's require the approval of the executive committee of the county convention an interestingly must be completed with 90 days of the close of the county fiscal year.
Per RSA 28:3-a " In the event that an audit is required, the commissioners, with the approval of the executive committee of the county convention, shall engage the services of a certified public accountant qualified in municipal and county finances for the purpose of conducting an audit of the county books of account. The performance and scope of the audit shall be in accordance with generally-accepted auditing practice. The audit shall include an examination for conformance with state and federal laws and regulations relating to county finances, including rules adopted by the commissioner of revenue administration pursuant to RSA 541-A, and shall also include an examination of any subject of county finances that may be requested either by the commissioners, by the county convention, or by the treasurer. The audit shall be completed within 90 days following the close of the county fiscal year. The commissioners shall cause the report of the auditor, together with the customary management letter and auditee responses, to be published with or supplementary to the annual reports of the county officers."

What is the procedure for supplemental budgets?.
Per RSA 21:4-a "The commissioners may apply to the county convention for an appropriation to be made subsequent to the adoption of the annual county budget, or the convention, on its own initiative, may consider and act upon a proposed supplemental appropriation. The clerk of the convention shall deliver or mail to each member of the county convention (who will be in office on the date of the convention vote on the proposed supplemental appropriation) and to the chairperson of the board of selectmen in each town and the mayor of each city within the county and to the secretary of state a statement including the amount of the proposed supplemental appropriation and the objects for which the money is required. The convention shall schedule a public hearing on such appropriation to be held within 30 days of the mailing or delivery of said statement. Notice of the date of said hearing and the date of the convention vote on the proposed appropriation shall accompany said statement. A supplemental county appropriation shall require a vote of the county convention as provided in RSA 24:13."

What is the process for recall of County Commissioners?- NH does not have a recall process in the statutes. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What role can historic buildings play in village revitalization, in Moultonorough and other communities?

You can find out at this panel discussion on Monday August 24th at 7pm at the Moultonboro Public Library. Panelists will be Mark Borrin (Preferred Vacation Rentals), Peter Michaud (NH Division of Historical Resources) and Maggie Stier (NH Preservation Alliance) who will discuss potential rehabilitation and redevelopment of historic buildings, including tax incentives such as RSA 79-E, grant opportunities, and code flexibility for such properties. 
The discussion is sponsored by the Moultonboro Heritage Commission which was established in March 2009, " promote the proper recognition, use, and protection of significant historical and cultural resources in the Town of Moultonborough.  Seeking to integrate preservation into the planning process, the Commission may advise and assist town boards regarding matters that affect historic buildings and sites.  The Heritage Commission will also collaborate with local organizations, businesses, and individuals on community preservation projects." 
It is apparent that a very high percentage of respondents (84%) to the Village Vision survey felt that when planning for the future,  it was important to preserve and encourage the use of historic buildings in the "village" area.
Only 21% of respondents agreed that property owners in the Village area should be able to do whatever they wanted with their property, regardless of the visual impact their actions may have.
The  Laconia Daily Sun had a story last week about a revised Demolition Delay Ordinance in light of the failed efforts to save the Hathaway House. The amended ordinance triggered by a demolition permit, would apply to " significant" structures" at least 50 years old and demolition of more than 700 square feet of floor area. The Code Enforcement Officer decides if the property is " significant." The ordinance can delay demolition for a month or so and possibly two more months if a petition to the City Council is successful.
A draft demolition ordinance was discussed by the BoS here in Moultonboro in 2012 (minutes can be found here) and the consensus was not to proceed at that time. Is the time now? Maybe, so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of property owners.
It is a tough situation in the village.You have an estate trying to unload two properties, one I would say has high historic value ( the old Gilligans/Maurices/Country Fare) and the other a good business opportunity to get the Berry Pond Motel back on line. Next to the Old Country Store are two vacant properties both for sale that would be good candidates for small business and/or mixed use. Lots of potential for sure.  What can we do as a town to attract new business?
The Village Vision report provides a road map of sorts and a singular vision for the village. One of the economic strategies of that report is to " Encourage re-use and re-development of existing historic buildings (rather than demolition) with compatible additions, in order to maintain existing village character, scale, and streetscape." A preservation strategy is to "Consider a demolition review process to allow for potential reconsideration when a significant property may be lost.
I'm more concerned about what might be built in the village as opposed to what already exists. If we are serious about preserving the look and character of the village, we have some work to do in defining some standards that maintain that look and character.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ossipee Selectmen Rebuke County Delegation: " It's bizarre!"

This article in the Carroll County Independent discusses a different point of view about the county financial mess with strong criticism of the County Delegation as well as the Commissioner's and County employees for lack of oversight. Ossipee BoS Chair Rick Morgan was quoted as saying:
"You folks have known this for a year. You can point all the fingers you want but the fact of the matter is that members of the delegation have allowed $150 million of tax payer's money in 5 years to go over the books with no checks and balances. $150 million! Talk about no confidence. It goes well past the board of commissioners – it ought to go to every single member of the delegation who made decisions about budgets without seeing an audit to make those decisions. It's bizarre!"

At our BoS meeting last Thursday, Selectmen Bartlett made an excellent point: do we really need counties? What is their purpose anymore? Massachusetts did it, New Jersey was considering it. Good food for thought and worth exploring.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Andru Volinsky AKA Claremont Decision: He's Back!!

It seems Mr. Volinsky, the very same attorney that represented the plaintiffs in the  Claremont decision back in 1993, is now representing the City of Dover to force the state to override the 8% annual year to year cap for state aid for education. According to NHPR he is quoted as saying that "Districts may receive no more than 8 percent additional funds from one year to the next, even if they grow by 10 or 20 percent.That's an arbitrary cap that violates the constitution and that is the specific and expressed challenge in this case."
IN 1993, the  NH Supreme Court ordered NH to fund a constitutionally adequate education and that resulted in the so called donor town tax. The adequate education funding under the Claremont decision began in 1998 and increased Moultonboro’s property tax by about 42% the first year after it was in effect and dropped by 36% the year after it was put on hold at the end of 2005. In that last year alone, Moultonboro was by far the largest donor town contributing $4,033,580, nearly 20% of the statewide total.
In the op-ed piece by Dover Mayor Karen Weston, she explains: “The City Council and I voted to act quickly to hire experienced attorneys to challenge this arbitrary cap on educational funding, not only because it’s the right and fiscally prudent thing to do for Dover and our residents, but because complex constitutional considerations make it difficult to win back payments from the state that should have been made in the past.

The Concord Monitor also reported on this story and the concept seems to be gaining traction in other towns and cities as well.  According to the article "Windham school board  Chairman Ken Eyring  estimates his district has lost $11.7 million since 2012 through underfunding, and his town is struggling to make up the difference. The total tax rate in the town is $24, and the majority of that money, $16.60, goes to supporting the school district. Eyring said he’s heard from Windham residents who say they are considering moving out of town because of high taxes."  And this from Bill Kassler, chairman of the Bedford School Board: “At every board meeting, at every public hearing, at the deliberative session, that’s clearly on voters’ minds,” he said. “We have quite a number of individuals living on fixed incomes who are seeing the budget go up . . . we’re very sensitive to that.”
Not sensitive to other towns that could be forced to pay for their children's education. The concerns of the supposed " have not" municipalities around the state for their own residents doesn't translate to any concern that many taxpayers in our property rich community could see their tax rate drastically increase and drive them out of town because they can't afford to pay on their  their fixed incomes. 
And one more reminder for those of you who voted for Jeb Bradley: he voted in favor of the donor town tax back in 1998 along with our own Betsey Patten when they were in the NH House.