"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Monday, March 19, 2018

What's Next for the Village and the Taylor Property?

Can't exactly say we came full circle on the question of the Taylor Property or the Village in general, but we are pretty much back at square one.
We had a Village Charette (2012), the Village Vision Report (2015 ) adopted as part of the Master Plan, the Village Overlay District adopted by voters as an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, the Village Sidewalk Study (2013), approval by Town Meeting in 2015 of $85,000 for "for engineering, acquisition of rights of way or easements, legal costs, preparation of plans and specifications, and bidding for the purpose of sidewalk construction in Moultonborough Village". We also have a Master Plan update in progress with a new Vision, Housing, Land Use, Transportation, and Economic Development chapters.There have been two very thorough studies on the Taylor building in the past year and one earlier report on the former Grange building right across the street. We have ideas to " calm traffic" through the village, but not one has been implemented.
Where exactly are we today in making progress on any level in the Village? Nowhere.

Where and when will we start to do something in the Village that is concrete and tangible? What are the specific steps we need to take to at least develop an actionable plan? What is the starting point?
None has yet been defined and yet I heard arguments on Saturday at Town Meeting that we can't build sidewalks without knowing where to put the secondary access road to the school and we can't move forward until we decide the fate of the Taylor building and the Lions Club.
Two steps forward, two steps backward and we are still at the starting line. Zero progress.

What we desperately need is consensus. That is the concept that the BoS tried to bring to Town Meeting and it is still a valid one. It doesn't need $250K to get there.
 A consensus-building exercise inclusive of all who want to participate should be conducted. We already have the road map and the pieces of the puzzle as a very good foundation. Then:

  • Hire an independent impartial facilitator to run a series of meetings to build a clear consensus on what to do with the Taylor property, and how the various pieces of the Village should all fit together
  • If there is an opportunity for a charrette, we should jump on it and use it to fine-tune what the town wants for the Taylor property, the Grange and the village as a whole.
  • Define the actionable steps as a  project plan with a clear starting point and vision for completion, short-term to  mid-term and finally long-term. 

And then finally,  make some decisions. It is clear that the voters want a say and they should. As Russ Wakefield said at Town Meeting when did the town ever buy or build a facility without voter approval? 

What to do with the Taylor building? Where to build the access road? How to define the village and calm traffic through it? Is a secondary bypass road feasible? What comes first, second, third....etc. 
We will never move forward if we don't take the first step.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Moultonboro School District 2018 Annual Meeting Highlights

While not quite as lively as Town Meeting which followed, the School District meeting did have its moments.
A number of retirements were acknowledged, including Superintendent Susan Noyes, Business Administrator Kay Perenelli and Treasurer John Fullerton.

Articles I,II,III and V all passed without discussion.

Article IV, the budget ( $13,327,926) passed but did have a fair amount of discussion. A question was asked about declining enrollment. Looking at the graph of enrollment on the school district website, there has been a drop of 104 students since 2012, but in the last 4 years, the loss has been less precipitous and is now at 500. This is just about where the projected enrollment was expected to be.
This led to a question on why the district has increased staff by 8. This was refuted by administration. The net increase as explained by Kay Peranelli was an increase of 2.7 FTE's and that number includes a 40% share of a Human Resources professional shared with the Town and some part-time positions becoming full time due to student staffing needs.

In terms of the budget, some had mentioned ( actually later during Town Meeting), that the $900,000 or so that was the annual payment for the auditorium bond that was paid off in 2017, was not reflected in the budget and was being spent elsewhere. Looking at the budget proposed, that does not seem to be accurate. The district did reduce budget appropriations by $858,756. The amount to be raised by taxes was reduced by $471,008. The district, however, saw a significant decrease in revenue, $297,305, mostly due to loss of state building aid, $302, 849.
Looking at it from another angle, the total budget appropriations were reduced by $791,000 from $14,196,685 to $13,402,926.
A question was asked about the Adele Taylor Trust Fund which was set up as a source of scholarship funding for MA students, by some of the proceeds from the sale of the property to the Town in 2014 through the generosity of the family. There is currently ( at the end of 2017) $129, 925. No funds have been expended on scholarships and the question was what is the plan for dispersing the money? It would appear that this has fallen through the cracks somewhat as the School Board was not aware of any plan and thought it was up to the Taylor family to set this up. The money is just sitting there gaining interest but not being used for its intended purpose. I would hope that the School Board looks at this soon and figures out how to use this money so that the family wishes, and what was promised to the town, will be fulfilled.
Lastly, and this came up at the end of Town Meeting but pertains to the schools, was a request by a citizen to add a second resource officer to the schools so that each building would be protected. He was asked to bring this to the BoS in the near future and then perhaps the joint BoS and School subcommittee could explore it further.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Moultonboro 2018 Town Meeting Highlights

Well attended this year, 410 signed in. Ending at around 2pm it was fairly long, but there was a lot of very useful discussion. I'll just hit the highlights here, more details to follow.
A few comments first.
Good and unbiased job by our departing Moderator Harry Blood. He allowed a great deal of leeway and comments so that all that wanted to have their say could have it.

There was a great deal of discussion about the undesignated fund balance and using those monies for to reduce the amount to be raised by taxation. The BoS proposed budget, not including amendments made today, contained approximately $2.9 million dollars from either the fund balance or various capital reserve funds. The entire expenditures in Article 4 for capital projects and the roads program, will not use any new dollars appropriated from taxation. Not too shabby. More to say on fund balance in a later post.
It remains disheartening to me that there is still widespread dissemination of bad information out there. I appreciated the well thought out comments from Fred Van Magness ,Tom Howard and Joe Cormier to name a few, that were factual, took the time to research ( and granted as Fred mentioned, some information was hard or even impossible to come by) and asked the right questions. My distress is that some voters get all riled up about something they were told that is not factual. My advice to anyone regardless of where you fall on issues is to question assumptions and question the motives and source of the information you have been given.

Article 3- Passed after some discussion and amendments. The discussion was around the $125K for the Krainewood Meadows bathroom/pavilion and how to fund it. In the end, it was passed with two pieces of being funded by the fund balance as opposed to taxation.

Article 4- Roads and Capital projects- Passed

Article 5- Funding various capital reserve accounts- Passed

Article 6- Fund two expendable trust funds- Passed

Article 7- Sidewalks- A lot of discussion, defeated by a secret ballot vote of  275 NO to 122 YES.

Article 8- Passed over ( Sidewalk plow)

Article 9- Operating budget- Passed

Article 10- Library budget- passed. A moment of silence for four individuals who had been Library Trustees at one time and passed away since last Town meeting.

Article 11- Pathway reserve fund to complete Phase III to connect the pathway from around Krainewood Meadows all the way to the beach. -Passed

Article 12- Taylor property- Failed by secret ballot vote 250 NO to 105 YES

Article 13- Purchase of 37 acres known as the Moultonboro Falls Conservation area- Passed after an amendment that decreased the amount to be taken from the fund balance due to a significant increase in private donations.

Article 14- Police CBA amendment- Passed

Article 15- Rec Department 25 passenger bus lease purchase- Passed ( note, no new budget money was appropriated. Funding is from the Rec Revolving Fund which is from user fees.

Article 16- Tax credit for solar- Passed

Article 17- Paving a portion of Blacks Landing Road- four times on the warrant was the charm- Passed

Article 18- $3,000 for West Wynde to defray cost of a generator- Passed

Article 19- $2,300 for Community Caregivers, Inc.- Passed

Article 20- $2,270 for Starting Point- Passed

Article 21- Citizen petition regarding selling town-owned property ( clarified to mean real property)- great deal of discussion and an amendment- but Failed

Under " Any other business"- three issues were discussed, two were voted on:
1. Asking that the BoS develop a policy by 7/1/18 requiring all public meetings be live streamed. After a recount of a hand card vote, it was defeated 138 NO to 131 YES.
2. Explore moving Town Meeting to April due to weather concerns- defeated
3. Add a second resource officer to the schools- discussion and the petitioner asked to bring it to the BoS who will work with the School Board.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tri Town Democrats (Moultonboro-Sandwich-Tuftonboro) Sponsoring Three MA Students for D.C. March For Our Lives

The tri-town Democrats raised $1,000 to send three Moultonboro Academy students, Connor Shipp, Zoe Dawson and Rachel Smith to the "March for our Lives" event in Washington, D.C on March 24th.  Each was presented a check last evening during a tri-town meeting in the Moultonboro Library program room.
I wish them safe travels and thank them for their willingness and eagerness to participate in this very important event.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Say Yes to the Bus

In just a few days, many of us will gather at the Community Auditorium for 2018 Town Meeting and with the ballot elections over, it's time to look at some of the warrant articles in more detail.

First up, Article 15:

ARTICLE 15 To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into a five-year lease/purchase agreement for the purpose of leasing, with the total value of the agreement not to exceed Sixty Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($60,500), a new Recreation Department 25 passenger coach bus and to raise and appropriate the sum of Twelve Thousand Six Hundred and Forty Eight Dollars ($12,648,) for the first year’s payment for that purpose with said agreement to include a so-called “escape clause”. Said amount to come from the established Recreation Revolving Fund. 

(Recommended by Selectmen 5 Yes – 0 No)
(Recommended by Advisory Budget Committee 5 Yes – 0 No)

This one should be a no-brainer once you look at the facts and the numbers. This is not a want, but a true need and is something tangible that will improve a service to residents that will see an increasing need, and it will actually save taxpayers some money.

 The hard reality is that a town leased bus at $12,648 will result in cost savings for planned 2018 trips and for every year going forward. The savings will be even more dramatic after the 5-year lease purchase is completed.
The cost to operate a leased bus for what is planned for 2018 is approximately $7,000. The Town is proposing a $19,000 budget for these same trips using the current one off bus rentals. Factoring in the lease cost will result in an annual cost reduction.

Beyond the money is the flexibility this bus would offer the Recreation Department to offer trips and outings at lower costs to participants.  As our town continues to grow older, it is expected that the demand for trips and outings will increase, especially if the cost is more affordable. That should be a priority as many of us are/will be on fixed incomes and with increased convenience, more trips and less cost, it is sure to be a success.

The knee-jerk on this article is that this is a luxury and not needed, but that would be wrong and very short-sighted. The lease-purchase makes good economic sense, has an escape clause if expectations are not met and will greatly improve a town service that is increasing in demand. How can you say no to that?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Moultonboro Local Election Results. Thank You for Electing Me as Town and School District Moderator

Thank you to all who wrote my name in for Town and School District Moderator. I look forward to learning all I can to help keep our elections and Annual meetings running as smoothly as we have been accustomed.

Thank you also to all candidates who ran and congratulations to those elected.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Voting Day Tuesday. Repeat of Last Years Blizzard?

I'm not a meteorologist, but watching the various forecasts, the coming nor'easter this Tuesday may be the little brother of last years election day blizzard, which knocked out power and downed countless trees. Hopefully not.

Ballot day is Tuesday March 13th and the polls at the Life Safety Building will be open as usual from 7am to 7pm.  Even though most offices on the ballot are not contested, there are some write-in candidates seeking office.
And there is also the Keno question to consider. Does the town want to allow eligible establishments to offer Keno?
If at all possible, please try and get to the polls early before the worst of the storm hits. There is still time also to get an absentee ballot from the Town Clerk until 5pm Monday evening.

One last reminder: Please do not vote for me for Selectman, but do write me in for Town and School District moderator. All you need do is copy my name from the Selectman race and write it in under write in candidate for Town and School district moderator per below sample ballots and fill in the little oval to the right.
Thank you.

Friday, March 9, 2018

“We have some problems,” Chairman Gordon Hunt told his fellow library trustees this morning. “The selectmen did not hold a special public hearing for the warrant article.”

Interesting situation over in Tuftonboro. There is a warrant article on Tuftonboro's 2018 Town Warrant for a bond to build an addition to the town library. This has been a contentious issue for a number of years in Tuftonboro.
According to the Municipal Finance Act, specifically RSA  33:8-a I: "There shall be at least one public hearing concerning any proposed municipal bond or note issue in excess of $100,000 held before the governing board of any municipality. Said hearing shall be held at least 15 days, but not more than 60 days prior to the meeting."
The problem is that the Tuftonboro Selectmen neglected to both post or conduct a bond hearing as required.
So now what? Per Tuftonboro.Net, the warrant article is "null and void." The Tuftonboro BoS think they see a way out of this mess per this plan: "If the library-addition article receives a vote of more than 2/3 of those present at Town Meeting, the Selectmen intend to call a second, so-called “special” Town Meeting in April to “ratify” the vote taken at the first Town Meeting. At the second Town Meeting,  the voters could vote to “ratify,” or they could vote “no” and decline to ratify.
In the interim, the selectmen will hold a public hearing on the the issue of the roughly $1 million loan  — this is the hearing that, by law, they should have held at least 15 days before the March 14th Town Meeting"
 I need to point out that Tuftonboro is one of the few towns in NH of any size that does not have a Town Administrator. Managing a town these days is very complex and a lot can fall through the cracks without a professional to guide the operation. Including strict adherence to the Municipal Finance Act. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thank a Plow Truck Driver

Unfortunately, I missed the latest snowstorm, being forced against my will to spend a week in sunny, warm Florida watching the Yankees in spring training and some time at the beach. The sacrifices we must endure to make marriages work!

Anyway, all our Moultonboro Public Works employees from the Director on down and all the contracted plow drivers who cover our private roads, deserve a thank you for a continued job well done. It has been an unusual winter with tricky road conditions, but they worked long hours to keep our roads public and private, as clear as possible.

The winter is not over yet though, but one can always hope. Remember last March 14th and the Nor'easter blizzard on voting day? Let us hope we don't have a repeat this year. 

Take a moment and send a note of thanks to DPW@moultonboroughnh.gov and let them know that you appreciate their long hours and dedication to keep our roads safe and passable. Or just give your plow driver a big hug.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Update On Right to Know Bills and A Few Others

Two of the three Right to Know bills were voted on by the full NH house today.

HB 1323 which would make the employment evaluations of "Chief executive officers" public- was defeated. The vote was on the motion of "ought to pass as amended" and failed on a vote of Yea 132 to Nay 185. ( A Nay vote would kill the bill)
Our Moultonboro NH House Reps. voted as follows:

Crawford:  Nay
Marsh:       Nay 
Cordelli:    Yea

HB 1344  which would require that union negotiations occur in public.The vote was on the motion of "ought to pass " and failed on a vote of Yea 125 to Nay 189.  ( A Nay vote would kill the bill)
Our Moultonboro NH House Reps. voted as follows:

Crawford:  Nay
Marsh:       Nay 
Cordelli:    Yea

In other House business:

HB1319prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. It passed on a motion of "ought to pass" by a vote of Yea 195 to Nay 129.
Our Moultonboro NH House Reps. voted as follows:

Crawford:   Yea
Marsh:        Yea 
Cordelli:     Nay

HB1756- which would allow an additional allowance and a cost of living adjustment for retirees from the state retirement system. It passed on a motion of " inexpedient to legislate" by a vote of Yea 157 to Nay 163.  ( A Nay vote is in favor of the bill).

Our Moultonboro NH House Reps. voted as follows:

Crawford:  Nay
Marsh:       Yea 
Cordelli:    Yea