Friday, May 6, 2016

Selectmen Meeting Highlights

  • A discussion about the Recreation Advisory Board was postponed pending a full board. There were some comments by audience and committee members, but the BoS did not yet discuss this as a board. There was a brief discussion of the Mission and Purpose of the RAB and both can be found on their web page on the Town website.
  • Road crack sealing contract as awarded to Connecticut Sealing for an amount not to exceed $15,000. Some of the roads mentioned in the response letter from the contractor were actually gravel roads and the motion to approve was made on the assumption that the correct roads woul be identified.
  • A letter will be sent to NH DOT at the request of Josh Bartlett thanking them for the very quick and efficient recently completed repairs to the Red Hill River bridge. 
  • I reported the the Master Plan Steering Committee will request that the Planning Board approve contracting for a Master Plan consultant to complete the already drafted Vision and Land Use chapters and draft a Transportation chapter. It is hoped that the 2016 chapters will be completed and approved by the Planning Board this summer. As per the statutes: 

RSA 674:2 Master Plan: Purpose and Description.
I. The purpose of the master plan is to set down as clearly and practically as possible the best and most appropriate future development of the area under the jurisdiction of the planning board, to aid the board in designing ordinances that result in preserving and enhancing the unique quality of life and culture of New Hampshire, and to guide the board in the performance of its other duties in a manner that achieves the principles of smart growth, sound planning, and wise resource protection.
II. The master plan shall be a set of statements and land use and development principles for the municipality with such accompanying maps, diagrams, charts, and descriptions as to give legal standing to the implementation ordinances and other measures of the planning board. Each section of the master plan shall be consistent with the others in its implementation of the vision section. The master plan shall be a public record subject to the provisions of RSA 91-A.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

ACLU-NH Settles Alton Free Speech Case for $42,500

Concord, NH – On May 2, 2016, the ACLU of New Hampshire succeeded in defending the rights of its client, Jeffrey Clay, with the settlement of his federal civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Alton.  Mr. Clay was arrested on February 3, 2015 during an Alton Board of Selectmen meeting simply for engaging in political, non-disruptive speech on matters of public concern.  As part of the settlement, the Town of Alton has agreed to pay $42,500, inclusive of damages and attorneys’ fees.  In the federal lawsuit, Mr. Clay was represented by Gilles Bissonnette, the Legal Director of the ACLU-NH, and cooperating attorney Jared Bedrick of Bedrick Law Offices.  More on the case can be found here:
“I am so happy that my case is finally over,” stated Mr. Clay.  “It was embarrassing to be arrested and prosecuted for four months simply for engaging political speech.  As a result of my February 2015 arrest, I have not attended local board meetings out of fear that I would be arrested and prosecuted again.  I feel like I can now attend and exercise my free speech rights without harassment and prosecution.”
During the February 3 Board meeting, Mr. Clay was given the opportunity to speak on any issue for 5 minutes as part of the Board’s policy of “provid[ing] the Board with an opportunity to receive directly from citizens concerns, desires, or hopes they may have for the community.”  During his remarks, Mr. Clay asked all Board members to resign for their “poor actions as selectmen,” “poor decisions,” and “continued violations of the citizens’ rights here in Alton.”  His remarks referenced, in part, his belief that the Board has violated New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law by holding “workshop” sessions at odd hours of the day and making decisions during them that were not transparent.  He did not raise his voice or use any profanities.  His speech was not disruptive.
Approximately 40 seconds into Mr. Clay’s speech, one Board member interrupted Mr. Clay, called the remarks “character assassination,” and requested a “point of order.”  The Board Chairman recognized the request and ultimately proposed a “point of order” to “clos[e] down public input” because of the “libelous” and “defamatory statements made by Mr. Clay.”  The 5-member Board then, with no dissenters, immediately approved the “point of order” closing down public input.  All of this occurred within the first 2 minutes of Mr. Clay’s allotted time.  Because Mr. Clay was speaking peacefully on matters of public concern within his 5 minutes of allotted time, he continued speaking.  As a result, 4 minutes into his remarks, he was arrested by the Alton Chief of Police.  A video of this incident can be found at
On February 23, 2015, the Town of Alton filed two complaints against Mr. Clay alleging disorderly conduct.  Each was charged as a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,200.  On March 10, 2015, the ACLU-NH  wrote the Town of Alton on Mr. Clay’s behalf explaining that the Town, in suppressing Mr. Clay’s peaceful political speech, engaged in impermissible censorship in violation of the First Amendment.   Despite the ACLU-NH’s letter, the Town of Alton continued to prosecute Mr. Clay for one count of disorderly conduct.
On June 9, 2015, the Laconia Circuit Court dismissed the criminal charge, calling Alton’s actions “pure censorship” in violation of the First Amendment.  On July 14, 2015, Mr. Clay filed a federal civil rights lawsuitagainst the Town of Alton.  As part of the settlement in this case, Alton denies liability.
“In a free society, governmental officials are required to tolerate harsh criticism and even a demeaning attitude towards them—including viewpoints that can feel like ‘character assassination’—and cannot discriminate based on these critical viewpoints,” stated Mr. Bissonnette.  “Speech directed to and about the government is singled out for protection because speech lies at the very heart of the First Amendment,” added Mr. Bedrick.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

It's hard not to take offense at letter writers in local papers that make statements that "Moultonborough is not renowned for being above shenanigans." I personally find that statement to be profoundly disturbing. There is not a shred of evidence that would lead anyone to that conclusion about any volunteer member of any of our boards, commissions or committees. Great way to attract new families and businesses. Not.
I also take offense at the statement about the recent  warrant article  for a Community Center as " failed attempts at building Taj Mahals of Recreation, to the MoBo recreation gods and goddesses."

The building is still called the Lions Club by the way, because it is used and managed by the Lions Club. There is no doubt that both the Lions Club and the Taylor property need some plans for the future. Perhaps the BoS will discuss reconvening a building or study committee. We have not yet had that conversation, but we will.

And nothing is stopping any group of citizens from forming their own committee to come up with a plan of their choosing and then write a petitioned warrant article for our annual Town meeting in March. Bypassing the BoS and all, (every single one of our fine volunteers), is not an exercise in democracy. It is an exercise that seeks to ignore all the history and knowledge gathered over the years as well as a legally crafted master plan.

Not to mention that taxpayers would save some money and volunteers would not have to spend time in the summer doing the work necessary to hold a Special meeting.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Public Does Have A Right to Know

A quick note on a few recent comments about possible petitions for Special Town meetings. I don't support what I have been told may be coming, but just as citizens have the right to petition for a Special Town meeting, the public also has the right to know who signs these petitions.

If there is a proper petition, it will be posted here on the blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Selectmen Meeting HIghlights April 28th 2016

  • Thanks to a NH Highway Safety Grant with funding from the US Dept.of Transportation and the Naitonal Highway Safety Administration, all on duty Moultonboro police officers will be equipped with body cameras. The grant ($9,500) will provide a video camera for one of the new cruisers and five body cameras. 
  • The single stream conversion at the Transfer Station is just about complete and should be up and running in the next few weeks. More information will be forthcoming on how the new system will work.
  • The Lions Club lease renewal will be discussed between the Lions Club finance committee and our TA, Selectmen Beadle and myself will also participate. The Selectmen will discuss the future of the property at the next work session. 
  • The DPW Director position search has begun and at large members of the public will be selected at the May 12th BoS meeting.
  • Long time Town Counsel Peter Minkow announced that he will retire as Moultonboro Town Counsel effective May 28th, 2016.
  • The BoS received a very nice thank you note from the Moultonboro After Prom Committee, thanking the Town for it's generous donation.
  • During citizen input, a question was asked about the Rec Advisory Board and appointing a new member who recently applied. The BoS advised that the RAB will be evaluated at a future meeting when the full board is present.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Still no clear answers on the County budget

As Ken Kasarjian aptly put it, " where is the accountability?" In the end, as the county budget took center stage at this weeks BoS meeting with NH House Rep's Karel Crawford and Glenn Cordelli, that was the real question. Once again, who is responsible for straight answers to taxpayers? Rep Cordelli told us that there is a $2.7 million dollar surplus as per the Commissioners and administration. If that is so, then why did we need a supplemental budget last year of $2.5 million?
A problem has also occurred with the 2014 audit that should have been completed by the last quarter of 2015. The auditing firm hired to do the previous years of audits from 2010 onward, reported that it was concerned that with the impending forensic audit (which has also not been done) it needed more money to complete the task. That audit firm was replaced and a new company was engaged to complete the 2014 and 2015 financial audits.
If it turns out that there is indeed a $2.7 million surplus, do the towns get a rebate? The answer was no, that unfortunately is not how NH DRA works. In a perfect world, a healthy fund balance would still need to be maintained and any additional surplus above whatever target the county sets would then be placed in the general fund to offset the tax rate. In theory then, we could see a reduction in the tax rate when the NH DRA sets the tax rate this fall. In theory. None of this will come to fruition if the audits prove to tell a different story or if the surplus is used for some other purpose.

We have a county budget that is based upon unaudited numbers from the prior now two years, we may or may not have a $2.7 million surplus and we could have $1.3 million in the rainy day fund. Still no clarity as to where our tax dollars are going and who is accountable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rep. Cordelli and Rep. Crawford on the BoS Agenda

Item one under new business tomorrow night will be Rep's Cordelli and Crawford, who are attending the BoS meeting at the request of the Selectmen. Nothing specific is on the agenda, just an opportunity to get a legislative update on what is happening in Concord and Ossipee.

Who Runs the County?

In yet another example of not playing well together, the Carroll County Delegation and the Carroll County Commissioners are on divergent paths in trying to find a way forward for the county farm.
It may be a moot point since the delegation cut $90K out of the budget and the farm will probably not have the funds to continue past this coming August.
Does the farm make money of lose money? There doesn't seem to be a clear answer

A Delegation subcommittee, chaired by one the most vocal opponents to funding the county farm, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, seeks to turn the farm over to the University of NH Cooperative Extension to create an agricultural learning center.  The first meeting was held this past Saturday.
The Commissioners are holding their own meeting this morning with the H.P. Kendall Foundation out of Boston to look at options for the farm.
The goal of the Kendall Foundation is "to create a resilient and healthy food system in New England that increases the production and consumption of local, sustainably produced food."
The Kendall Foundation does not review unsolicited grant applications, only invited ones, so the presence of Andy Kendall, the executive director at today's meeting, may mean that some grant funding may be a possibility.

Two paths are underway, but the Commissioners are the decision makers in this process, not the Delegation. As Yogi Berra once said, " When you come to a fork in the road, take it."  Seems like the Commissioners and Delegation have each done just that.

Summer meeting? $$$

An email floating around notwithstanding, a petition for a special town meeting, cannot require the BoS to warn the meeting at any particular time. The petition asks that the meeting be held in the summer , but the only requirement in the RSA is that if it is a valid petition, the BoS must warn the meeting unless the annual Town meeting is less than 60 days away at which point the petitioned articles would be added to the Town meeting warrant. That doesn't mean that we wouldn't hold the meeting in the summer should this ill  advised petition ever come to fruition. The pertinent RSA does not say when the meeting must be called. 

Once again, this petition seek to overturn and ignore the years of planning and hard work of many town volunteers and employees and has the potential to cost taxpayers millions of dollars in construction cost and potential lost revenue. 
Just say no. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Recreation Complex at the Lion’s Club?

In today’s Laconia Daily Sun is an article about a proposed citizen’s petition in Moultonboro  to call a special town meeting for two warrant articles. One is to build a scaled down community center at the Lion’s Club. Per the article, the lead petitioner, the very same person who decided that there was no need to debate the community center warrant article this past March and called the question, was quoted as saying “ I grabbed the money and ran with it.”  Also included per the article is a second warrant article to make the grounds around the Town owned Taylor property a park. While the petition   calls for a specific time period to call the meeting, (between July and August this year), I do not believe that the BoS are required to call the meeting during any specific period, only that it is greater than 60 days before the next Town meeting.
The petition also seeks to eliminate the participation of any elected or appointed members of any committee of the Town or School District, effectively eliminating the participation of more than 120 volunteers, many of whom you elected, from participating in the process.
With all the citizen input over the years with the Master Plan and Village Vision among them, this petition completely usurps the work of these volunteers and meeting attendees. It also usurps the will of the voters who elected us to govern. In addition, it is insulting to those of us who do take the time to volunteer and spend many often thankless hours on behalf of all citizens. Not to mention the cost and time of some of these very same volunteers that the petitioner wants to see excluded, to actually conduct a special town meeting.  
To my knowledge, no petition with 50 signatures has yet been presented to the Town and I hope that those that are thinking of signing it, will not support it. I am confident that the vast majority of citizens in Moultonboro will not support this, even if it got to the point of actually having a special meeting.

Please say no thanks when asked to sign.