Saturday, April 29, 2017

Future of Taylor Property Building In Hands of Heritage Commission. Where is the Vision?

At Thursday's BoS work session, there was a long discussion about the building on the town owned Taylor property, and it's future disposition. This came about due to the damage to the roof caused by the recent snowstorm. What investment, if any, should be made to repair the property?

The actual condition of the building structurally is really an unknown. There are certainly considerable exterior defects visible as you drive by, but the town has not undertaken any major inspection of the property other than the environmental review when the asbestos inside was found and removed.

The BoS did decide to go ahead and have the property properly inspected to get an understanding of the overall condition of the building. At least I think they did. They were also adamant that a decision be reached very soon on what to do with it and will ask the Heritage Commission to work on a use plan to find an appropriate purpose that makes economic sense for the community. They want to give the Heritage Commission a fairly short window to make that determination, anywhere from three to twelve months was discussed, but left it to the Heritage Commission to come back with their thoughts when they meet this Monday evening.

A couple of things concern me about this process. I spoke numerous time about the need for a plan for the entire property and funding a conceptual design for a town common. A nice green area in the heart of the village. I was surprised that no one on the BoS mentioned that in the discussion of the building. There is also the issue of the access road to the school. Where should it go? We held off determining that last year, because we did not know how the property as a whole would be used.
Back to basics, we need a plan for the entire village so that the pieces can fit together. I was unclear in watching the BoS discussion whether the town will now reverse it's decision to not sell the property or subdivide it. If the Heritage Commission recommends that it be sold and re purposed for some commercial use, it will require parking and a lot of asphalt to the extent that the possibility of a town common may be forever lost.

Overall, I am disappointed to find that the BoS are seeking a solution without a vision. We should not be moving forward without a firm determination of what we want to do with the entire property, not just the building.

 The BoS should work collaboratively with the Heritage Commission, and other interested parties and put together a plan that has a starting point and an end result. Sidewalks, access road, traffic calming, town green, etc.  all need to fit together. There was almost a years worth of work by the Village Vision Committee and I fear the report they created and that is now part of the Master Plan, will collect dust on a shelf in the Land Use Office, instead of being used as a living, breathing, road map for the future of the village.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

NH House Education Committee OK's Funding Full Day Kindergarten

The NH House Education Committee by 15 to 4 vote, supported funding full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire. 
Currently under the state education funding system, kindergartners are counted at half the rate as other grades, school districts get one half of the state adequacy funding for kindergartners as they do for students in other grades. This vote is recommending offering full-day kindergarten at the full rate of state funding. The plan is estimated to cost about $14 million and would not require districts to offer full-day kindergarten. About 60% of NH school districts currently offer full day kindergarten and for good reason. According to the Children's Defense Fund: "Full-day kindergarten boosts children’s cognitive learning, creative problem-solving and social competence. Yet for many young children full-day kindergarten is a missing half step in the early learning continuum. Unequal access to publicly funded full-day and full-week high quality kindergarten means too many young children lose a critical opportunity to develop and strengthen foundational skills necessary for success in school and lifelong learning."

There were four Republicans on the education committee who voted against the bill – Victoria Sullivan, Josh Moore, Carolyn Halstead and our own Glen Cordelli.


The legislators that voted against this bill complain that our current public education system is failing our children, yet when they are presented with a reasonable and very cost effective solution to boost early education, they adamantly reject it.  

In response to the vote by the committee, a far right website here in the Lakes region had this to say about why this bill is a bad idea: "it’s a boost to union membership (teachers are forced to pay in the forced union state of New Hampshire); it gets kids indoctrinated early in the failed public education system run by the government."  A sad commentary on the ever increasing political divide. 

The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee where hopefully, moderates will continue to support this important legislation.




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Congratulations to Moultonborough Academy Ranked #6 High School In New Hampshire, Nationally Recognized

The US News and World Report published it's annual Best High Schools report and for the second straight year, Moultonborough Academy was ranked in the top ten in New Hampshire. For 2017 MA was ranked #6 in the state. Last year ,MA was # 5 in the state. MA was one of only 20 NH high schools to be nationally ranked.
Overall,  high schools in New Hampshire were ranked at # 16 in the country.
Congratulations to MA students, teachers and staff.

"How many families here are living in grinding poverty and feel they have nowhere to turn? Any responsible legislator would want to know that before removing 18,000 N.H. families from food assistance."

( The following letter appeared in yesterdays Conway Daily Sun. The bill in question, SB7, was copied almost verbatim from a template provided by a Florid based think tank and is making appearances in State Houses across the country. The bill thankfully died in committee. It would have moved 17,000 families with children off of food stamp assistance. The gist of the letter below is how could a responsible legislator support such legislation without knowing the impact to these 17,000 families and thousands more? That would be a good question to ask of our state Senator Jeb Bradley who voted in favor of this bill. )

Is the answer simply to ignore it?

I worked as a poverty lawyer for many years and in later life as a mediator for the courts in family cases. State Rep. Jerry Knirk’s column on April 21 about pending Senate Bill 7, “Food stamp bill,” left some unanswered questions. Knirk stated that the bill, “will remove about 18,000 New Hampshire families from eligibility for SNAP,” or food stamps. Why the Senate would want to do this is unclear. Mr. Knirk cited two reasons provided by the sponsors: welfare fraud and welfare dependence, but not a word from the sponsors about need. Not long ago, I mediated a case involving two parents and an infant child. The father had been removed from the home by a domestic violence court order, leaving the mother to raise the child on a meager income, food stamps and child support. However, the father was living in a motel, prone to alcohol and having trouble keeping up child support. They worked out an agreement; but later, I noticed her number on the caller ID, and returned the call. Her food stamps had been cut off, and she had attempted suicide. How many families here are living in grinding poverty and feel they have nowhere to turn? Any responsible legislator would want to know that before removing 18,000 N.H. families from food assistance. But all that is said is that “welfare dependence” must be reduced. Is the answer to people’s needs to simply ignore them? It would be helpful to know state Sen. Jeb Bradley’s answer to that. If SNAP benefi ts are being converted to cash and misspent, that can be fi xed. That is what the Legislature should be doing. Not promoting hunger, malnutrition and squalor.

Sam Farrington Chocorua

Monday, April 24, 2017

Carroll County Auditors Report

Awhile  back, the County Delegation agreed to pay an auditor $20K to provide answers to a dozen questions put together by the county Finance Director and County Administrator last August. They whittled down the dozen from 20 questions that the delegation posed to determine the reason for the 2015 county budget shortfall. It was essentially a focused audit that would avoid a very costly forensic audit. If anything untoward were found in the focused audit it would trigger a recommendation for a forensic audit.
The focused audit or the Agreed Upon Procedures report,  was completed.  It is over a thousand pages in length, and the long an short of it is that it appears that there was nothing criminal or anything that would warrant an extremely costly and unnecessary forensic audit.
Over 1000 pages and one can only imagine how much a full forensic audit would have cost.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Hampshire: Third Highest Average Private School Tuition in the Country at $21,426 .


It would appear that SB 193  seeking to establish education freedom savings accounts for students in NH, will be retained in the NH House Education committee, and not go to the floor of the House for an up or down vote, at least not yet. Supporters are (rightly) concerned that if the bill includes religious schools, it will not garner enough support to pass the House. The constitutionality of allowing public funds to pay for religious education is quite clear: you can't. Part I, Article 6 has this to say: “But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination.” 
Seems black and white to me. I find it so disingenuous that the NH House Republican Alliance   led by Glen Cordelli, Laurie Sanborn and James Spillane, whose stated purpose is for "...all bills passing the New Hampshire Legislature to be consistent with the New Hampshire and US Constitutions" to simply bypass the constitution with what amounts to a money laundering scheme. You probably didn't know that did you? 
Here is how they plan to get around that pesky constitution:
To avoid violating the constitution these taxpayer dollars need to be somehow changed into private funds, which parents can spend on education any way they choose. Hence the “charitable” scholarship-granting organization, and the  cleverly named “education freedom savings account.”
Parents open an education freedom savings account with the scholarship organization. NH then gives 95 percent of state adequacy aid per child to the organization. The organization keeps 5 percent and deposits the other 90 percent into the parents’ account.
Wave your magic wand and just like that, your tax dollars are laundered into private funds, which parents can spend on any educational things, including religious schools.
El Chapo couldn't do it any better. 

The current adequacy aid formula that parents could receive is about $3,600. Just how far will that money go should parents choose to use it to pay for private schools?  Not very in New Hampshire. 
In addition to the tuition cost below, factor in transportation and other incidentals, and the cost is out of reach for many. Here are some facts and the fallacy of " education freedom".

According to Private School Review
  • There are 325 private schools in New Hampshire
  • There are 28 special education private schools in New Hampshire serving 916 students.
  • The average private school tuition is $10,773 for elementary schools and $29,649 for high schools
  • The average acceptance rate is 74% ( 10th most selective in the country)
  • Minority enrollment is 12% and the student:teacher ratio is 9:1.
  • There are 86 religiously affiliated private schools in New Hampshire (26% of all private schools), serving 12,334 students.
New Hampshire private schools are among the most costly in the nation: 
  • New Hampshire has the third highest average private school tuition, $21,426  
  • The fourth highest average high school tuition, $29,649 and,
  •  The third highest elementary school tuition $10,773.
NH private schools are among the most expensive in the nation and among the most selective on admissions. What will be next, legislation to mandate how private schools admit students and charge tuition? Perhaps it will be to increase the adequacy funding to levels that will drive already high property taxes in many areas even higher. The money has to come from somewhere and this scheme is the camels nose under the tent. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Belknap County to Ask Towns to Pay for County Emergency Dispatch Services

According to an article in this weeks Meredith News, Belknap County commissioners are asking towns that use county  dispatch service to pay a fee. Towns that use the service 24/7 would be charged $20,000. Those that use it part time would be charged $6,000.
This came to light at a recent Meredith Selectmen meeting, when the Town Manager reported that he received a call from one of the commissioners with this proposal.
Meredith uses county dispatch on a part time basis, much like Moultonboro does.
On the surface, $20,000 seems like a bargain for full time dispatch service. In reality though, towns in the county are already paying for all dispatch services through their tax levy. One would assume that the delegation budgeted for 2017 dispatch cost and it would be reflected in the county apportionment.
So why the additional fee? Clearly this is an effort to increase revenue to balance the budget that the commissioners believe has significant shortfalls, to the extent that they will not be able to staff the new corrections facility. I get that, but the idea of additional charges for services would open the proverbial can of worms. If this were implemented, towns could opt in or out of this service and not pay the fee, If they opt out, should the apportionment in the budget for dispatch services be returned to the town? Using Moultonboro in Carroll County as an example, we would expect that 23% of the dispatch budget be returned to taxpayers since we would not use their service.
The biggest gotcha  is that towns that do not use some county services can probably make a reasonable argument that they should only pay for services they actually use, and not ( like Moultonboro) continue to subsidize the rest of the county with nearly one quarter of the tax levy.

Food for thought: maybe this is a model to reduce the county tax burden and expenses. List the services the county provides and towns choose what they want to utilize and pay for. Each town then pays its fair share.
Probably not quite so simple,  but you get the idea. Maybe there is a base amount every town pays to cover those services that can't be unbundled, but after that, you have the option to pick and choose.
Think it will ever happen? Me neither.

Friday, April 21, 2017

BoS Meeting Highlights April 20th 2017

Chief Wetherbee came before the BoS to request a change in the vehicle type for the already approved  funding for a replacement cruiser.  The MPD has had the need for number of years to move equipment  such as barriers and other equipment, or hitch equipment to be moved,  and had to rely on the Fire or Highway Department . This can increase the time to get equipment to where it is need in case of accidents or as in the recent storm that caused down trees and power lines. He requested that the MPD purchase a Ford police equipped  F 150. There is no increased cost  and it will give the MPD greater flexibility. In addition, it doesn't change the fleet, it will function the same as any patrol vehicle.
The board approved the request unanimously.

There were eight tax deed properties that the BoS waived the deed per NH RSA 80:76 IIa.
 ( in part"..the governing body of the municipality may refuse to accept a tax deed on behalf of the municipality,....whenever in its judgment acceptance and ownership of the real estate would subject the municipality to undesirable obligations or liability risks,..") 

Community marketing was discussed, and the two firms in the past that expressed interest  will be invited to the May BoS work session. Josh Bartlett and Joel Mudgett were concerned about cost, and it was determined that the firms presentations would be informational only and a determination would later be made if a Request for Proposal (RFP)  would be forthcoming. Russ Wakefield was of the opinion that the effort was a waste of time and money.

The Lions Club property appraisal was approved,  and the RFP will be sent out to include at the suggestion of Russ Wakefield a complete highest and best use for the property.

Orientation package for new Town committee and board members was approved. It will include specific  aspects of the particular committee, right to know information and other pertinent statutes.

There was a discussion on a BoS LRPC liaison from the organizational meeting. Josh Bartlett at that meeting was appointed in my place to the LRPC as a BoS representative. I exchanged some emails this past week with Josh and Walter Johnson explaining that the BoS never had a liaison to the LRPC. I was appointed at my request to the LRPC as a commissioner by the BoS after the passing of then commissioner Herb Farnham. My term expired last fall, and I chose not to seek reappointment. The BoS then appointed Planning Board chair Scott Bartlett and re-appointed Barbara Perry as our two commissioners.

Post storm tree clean up continues, and once determination from FEMA is made and the insurance carrier finalizes their report, disposition of the lumber for sale will be made.

The Town continues to seek applications  for assessor,  planner and  a MPD officer.
.
There was a discussion of the July 4th parade and what is "appropriate"  for participants. Joel Mudgett thought there should be a policy in view of social or political issues. Chris Shipp thought the focus should be on safety issues. The decision was to look into what other towns have in terms of policies.
( My opinion is that trying to make a policy as to what is appropriate, in good or bad taste or to try to prevent people expressing their opinions on issues is a very slippery slope, and will in all likelihood lead to more problems, not less. Would the BoS seek to deny the Moultonboro Democrats from marching with a banner? Or local legislators marching with a campaign sign?)

Playground Drive DES permits are done and the DPW will be  doing most of the work to repair the softball field.

Rodeway Inn- MPD is monitoring the property. Workers are permitted on property so long as portable toilets are used. There are a number of unregistered vehicles that were left behind.

The Dollar General will  open around May 13th.

Public Safety parking lot repaving/rebuild Phase 2 will begin May 8th, weather permitting.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

County-Wide Community Forum, “Pathways from Silence to Solutions: Carroll County Responds to Substance Use Disorders”


Sandwich, New Hampshire – The Town of Sandwich will host a county-wide community forum, “Pathways from Silence to Solutions:  Carroll County Responds to Substance Use Disorders” on May 16, 2017 in the Peaslee Building on the Sandwich Fair Grounds in Sandwich, NH.  The Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, Sandwich Police Department, and White Mountain Restorative Justice have partnered to organize the forum. This day-long event is a follow up to the forum held in Sandwich in 2015, “Pathways from Silence to Solutions: Carroll County Tackles Heroin.” The forum will bring together individuals and organizations making a positive impact on the health and well-being of our communities, while addressing the complex issues related to substance misuse.  This event is open to the public and there is no cost to attend.  Registration information is available on the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health website, www.c3ph.org.
The Carroll County Commissioners, the County delegation, Senator Jeb Bradley and town officials have been invited to attend.  Representatives from Senators Shaheen and Hassan, and Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter have also received invitations.  Governor Sununu’s Advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health, James Vara, will also address the forum attendees.
The 2017 program will include presentations by panelists from several community sectors, including law enforcement, healthcare, government, education, and community supports. Presenters will highlight the progress made in addressing gaps in available services and the barriers that have challenged our neighbors trying to get the help they need.  Following the panel presentations, participants in the forum will have an opportunity to share their ideas for moving forward to provide additional prevention initiatives, treatment resources, and recovery supports in the County. This is an opportunity for others to become involved and to work to mitigate the substance misuse challenges facing our communities. 
Major sponsors for this event include Huggins Hospital and Memorial Hospital, with additional support from the following generous and committed community partners:  Big Dave’s Bagels and Deli, The Corner House Inn, Sandwich Fair Association, Town of Sandwich, United Site Services, and Village Green CafĂ© and Market.  The Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, an initiative of Granite United Way, receives funding and support to address substance misuse from the NH Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. 

Carroll County Coalition for Public Health
The Carroll County Coalition for Public Health (C3PH) is dedicated to improving public health in Carroll County. C3PH, an initiative of Granite United Way, receives additional guidance and support from the NH Department of Health and Human Services, NH Charitable Foundation, and the regional Public Health Advisory Council. The mission of C3PH is to promote, protect, and improve the health and well-being of communities within Carroll County, NH through the proactive, coordinated, and comprehensive delivery of essential public health services. Key initiatives of C3PH include the Public Health Advisory Council, Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Substance Misuse Prevention, Continuum of Care for Substance Use Disorders, Citizen Corps, and School-Based Influenza Clinics. For more information, visit www.c3ph.org.


Granite United Way
Granite United Way is an experienced and trusted organization dedicated to leveraging the resources of investors and volunteers to create lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of our community’s most pressing needs. 
 United Way’s purpose is to convene public, private, and governmental leaders and resources to tackle the largest, most pressing issues facing our community. These issues include, but at not limited to: Providing children with the tools they need to read at grade level, putting them on the path to becoming successful, contributing members of our community. Offering free assistance from trained tax professionals to ensure that low income individuals and families file their taxes properly and timely, and utilize qualified tax credits to begin to build their own capital, Administering a statewide, comprehensive 24 hour a day/ 365 days a year help hot-line called 2-1-1 that quickly delivers help to any resident in New Hampshire

Granite United Way works with over 1,000 companies, 25,000 investors and thousands of volunteers every year to make our communities a better place. Granite United Way is highly rated by both GuideStar and Charity Navigator, two of the nation’s largest nonprofit rating sources.

Granite United Way serves the Central Region, Merrimack County, North Country, Northern Region, Southern Region (Manchester / Derry / Salem) and Upper Valley Regions of New Hampshire as well as Windsor County, Vermont.  For more information, visit 
www.graniteuw.org.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

No Property Taxes= No Vote?

Former republican NH State Senator Bob Clegg, at Tuesday's NH House Election Law Committee hearing on SB3 made an interesting and telling comment. SB3 is a controversial and complicated bill that would change the definition of domicile for purposes of voting in NH.

Clegg told the committee ( and the world) that college students shouldn't be allowed to vote in NH because they don't pay property taxes. Pretty clear evidence that the real motive behind SB3 is to supress the college student vote.
I for one am glad Clegg is no longer a State Senator. He must have missed the lesson in civics class in high school about the US Constitution.
The right to vote regardless of taxpayer status is guaranteed by the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Now if we could just get all those with the right to vote to actually vote...