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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Selectmen to Discuss French-Taylor Building Thursday

The BoS are set to discuss the future of the town-owned French- Taylor building at their work session this Thursday. In what may be a case of "if we knew then what we know now" the decision as to the disposition of the building would have been very close to a no brainer.
Fact is, we did have a good inkling of what would be needed to stabilize and repurpose the building from the  2018 Building Assessment completed by Sheerr McCrystal Palson Architecture and partially funded by the NH Preservation Alliance.
The report listed 16 priorities and a projected budget to complete them with a low end of $156,400 and the high end of $341, 300. Nothing in that budget included remediation of any hazardous materials. Some big potentially budget-busting caveats by the authors: not knowing what the building would ultimately be used for and the many unknowns as work commenced. As we now know, thanks to the former buyer's due diligence, it was the worst case scenario.
I would estimate that with the purchase price and various expenses over the years we are in about $300K total. If the decision is made to demolish it, add $50-75K.
Without the building, would the 5 acres have been worth $375K? Probably not.

Kudos to those that spent a great deal of time and made a sincere effort to save the building for the benefit of the town, but it seems that we have reached the end of the road. In contrast to a previous post on this issue, I now do not see a way forward involving any investment of tax dollars.

Assuming the BoS do not decide to sell the land, it is 5 acres of green space in the heart of the village. A park with swings and playsets. A few bocce courts. A walking path as part of the proposed village loop. A gazebo with summer concerts. The possibilities are endless. What are we waiting for?

Friday, May 17, 2019

School District to Consider Use of Academy Gym for Some 2020 Elections

At Thursdays joint BoS/School Board/ABC meeting, Selectman Wakefield brought up the challenges we will face in 2020 with four separate elections. The selectmen are responsible for setting up the polling place per RSA 658:9.
The NH Presidential primary is scheduled for February 11th, 2020. That will be followed by our local elections on March 10th. September 10th is the primary day for federal, state and county offices and of course, November 3rd is general election day.
The February primary and the November election are the biggest concerns due to the very heavy expected turnouts.
Voting has occurred in the Mel Borrin Training room at the Life Safety Building for many years and we have outgrown the space for the high turnout elections. State law requires a certain number of voting booths for each election based upon the number of registered voters as well as providing accommodations for those with disabilities. The town must also provide adequate parking.
In November of 2016, parking and insufficient space to process voters efficiently were clearly evident as we had record voter turnout. As Russ Wakefield mentioned,  people having to park across route 25 and walk across the road is not safe particularly for the elderly.
The School Board and Superintendent seemed open to adjusting the 2019-20 and 2020-2021 school calendars to allow the use of the Academy gym and parking lot for the February primary and November general election.
This is welcome news and hopefully, it will come to fruition.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Taylor-French Building Sale Withdrawn?

According to a brief blurb in the Town Administrators report to the BoS on the agenda for Thursday night, the buyers have withdrawn their intent to purchase and renovate the building as the cost is much higher then they anticipated. 
The sale was endorsed formally by voters at 2019 town meeting although voter approval was not required.
The BoS on April 18th voted to approve the request from the Heritage Commission to list the building on the NH State Register of Historic Places. The New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places is an honorary listing that encourages the protection of significant buildings, districts, sites, landscapes, structures or objects that are meaningful in the history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or traditions of New Hampshire residents and communities.
The end result is being back at square one as the final disposition of the building. 
The community support to rehab and repurpose this property was very evident at town meeting.  The big unknown as Selectman Wakefield has said numerous times is the cost and whether the considerable investment would be worth it.
 Now that we know with some certainty that repurposing this property in one shot is very costly, maybe a new fresh approach is needed. If there truly is a will by taxpayers in keeping this building, maybe some of the big-ticket items can be funded by the town so that potential buyers will see less of a sticker shock. 
It should make for some interesting conversations going forward.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Gym: A Large Room Used for Indoor Sports ( Merriam -Webster)

We just yesterday went to the Moultonboro Central School Mothers Day Plant sale held in the Central School " multi-purpose room."
I have heard as recently as last Town Meeting that the schools have three gyms. The Academy has a full-size gym with a regulation-size high school basketball court. The Central school has a smaller gym with a 3/4 size basketball court.
The so-called " third" gym is non- existent. The multi-purpose room is not a gym.
The best analogy I can think of is from the movie "A Christmas Story." When Ralphie's father gets one of his many flat tires, Ralphie recalls that his father's spare tires were only tires in the sense that they were round and made of rubber.  I haven't been in there in a while, but the only similarity the multi-purpose room has to a school gym is that the floor is wood and there are two basketball hoops. You can bounce a basketball and shoot at a hoop, but that doesn't make it a gym.
It has a lot of other uses but as " a large room for indoor sports", not by any stretch of the imagination.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Moultonboro Does Not Have A "Slush Fund"

According to Wikipedia "a  slush fund, also called a black fund, is a fund or account that is not properly accounted, such as money used for corrupt or illegal purposes, especially in the political sphere." 
Last Thursday at the BoS meeting, Selectman Quinlan during the discussion about the new passenger bus use policy asked how revenue would be accounted for. He wanted assurance that the revenue would not be placed in a slush fund and used for some other purpose. As Town Administrator Walter Johnson stated, Moultonboro has no slush funds.  
I get what Selectman Quinlan was getting at. He wanted to be sure that the revenue coming in was accounted for and documented and not lost somewhere. The TA explained that a gross appropriation of estimated revenue was budgeted and that the bus revenue would be tracked. Even though the revenue goes into the general fund, it is not going into some black hole. Every dollar in and out is scrupulously accounted for. 
Words from the BoS carry weight. There is more than enough mistrust in government. Throwing terms around like " slush fund" so loosely does little to mitigate that mistrust.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Selectmen Implement New Agenda Policies

At last weeks work session, the BoS discussed a number of changes to their rules of procedure. Among them was to publish an agenda with additional documentation for items that appear on the agenda. This weeks agenda packet can be found here on the town website.
This is a good way for the public who are in attendance or watching the video stream to follow along and better understand what is being discussed.
Also discussed last week was about selectman placing items on the agenda. In the past, a selectman could bring up an item for discussion under "Other Business"  even if it wasn't on the agenda. As I understand the discussion,  new items will no longer be allowed if not already placed on the agenda by the agreed upon deadline.
While I understand the rationale and support transparency, this policy change is too strict.
It is important to remember that the BoS do not meet in between public meetings. The public meeting is the only place where the Right to Know law allows the discussion of the public's business. Sometimes things come up that should be brought to the full board's attention, even to just introduce a topic for later discussion.
As a former selectman, I have found that in these open discussions some of the best ideas and most meaningful discussions have occurred. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

States Landing Project Moving Forward.

 Town Engineer Roy Korber of KV Partners will present a proposed plan for the next and future steps of the States Landing restoration project at the BoS next work session on May 23rd. 
The biggest issue when the project was first discussed was around dredging the muck and mire from the water that accumulated over decades at the beach area. The town-owned property was in a state of neglect for many years. Back in 2013 the Recreation Department and Town Administrator took the lead to begin the process of bringing back this important asset for public use.
A Capital Reserve Fund was set up a few years back and to date, approximately $722,000 has been placed in this fund after numerous Town Meeting approvals. 
A Request for Proposal was issued last fall for the dredging and related site work. Per the BoS meeting on January 17th of this year: "The approved dredging will be done in the fall of 2019 and additional permits will be acquired this spring and summer to add the reconstruction of the boat ramp and loading dock to the RFP for the dredging. Construction of the parking area and addressing the stormwater management from States Landing Road along with the improvements to all of States Landing Road will be completed in 2020. The Town Engineer will be finalizing the proposed route, seeking easement MOUs where needed, updating the original cost estimate and may prepare an updated grant application for transportation funding during 2019."

KV Partners in a presentation to the Planning Board in 2016 proposed a sequence of work as follows:
1. Stormwater management to protect the lake
2. Complete dredging for the beach and boat launch areas
3. Restore and extend the beach
4. Parking lot construction with overflow parking and a boat trailer maneuvering lane
5. Construction of a  boat launch and finger dock
6. Complete park features
7. Comfort station

 Selectman McGee was way off base when he stated that the project began in 2013 and yet "we don't know what the project is?" Quite the contrary. It has been a long and well thought out process that will cost a great deal of taxpayer money. 
As Selectman Wakefield correctly retorted, if he (McGee) had been following this, he would be aware that the BoS do know what the project is and that there has been considerable planning and thoughtful discussions that occurred over the years. Selectman McGee couldn't have been more wrong in his assessment. 

This is not an easy project and in the early stages, there was considerable concern about the cost and long term effectiveness of the dredging. Cost estimates for the entire project were estimated to be in excess of $1M-$1.5M. That is the main reason that the Capital Reserve Fund was established so that the big chunks of money for dredging and site work could be spread out over years. A very sensible approach. This was all presented and vetted through the CIPC and more recently to the Planning Board.
Seeing this all come to fruition is very satisfying and I look forward to seeing what the final recommendations for sequencing will be as well as the final results.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

UNH Main Street First Impressions Coming to Moultonboro

At the April 16th Community Development Advisory Committee, (CDAC)  the committee decided to pursue the "First Impressions" program operated by the UNH /Cooperative Extension Services. As described in the draft minutes, " there are two communities in this year’s program, Town of Derry and The Town of Moultonborough. Each community is responsible for doing an “assessment” of the other community in terms of its “downtown” area. Then Cooperative Extension staff drafts a report of the assessment findings. This report is then presented to the respective town at a public meeting. Following this, action groups are created for implementing recommended projects." There is no explanation in the minutes as to how or why Moultonboro was included in this years program.
The cost to the town would be $2,500.
The Selectmen at the April 18th meeting approved the memorandum of understanding for the First Impressions Program with the Town of Derry and UNH Cooperative Extension and payment of $2,500.00. They also assigned all responsibility & sole discretions of managing the program & soliciting team members to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
The First Impressions Program  "is an assessment program that examines your downtown through the eyes of potential residents, visitors, and businesses, helping communities learn about their opportunities and empowering them to take steps to improve their downtown."

While the BoS meeting video stream was not up to par this past week with many pauses and no sound, the gist of the presentation was that the CDAC will be looking for 10 citizens with fresh perspectives without any pre-conceived notions, from across the spectrum. The CDAC will not consider anybody currently on any board or committee. It was partially described as a continuation or next step of the Village Charrette. 

There was not much discussion at the BoS about this, but it would seem that this is exactly the type of project that the CDAC was formed to deliver.

I look forward to seeing how this program progresses.