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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UNH Preliminary Feasibility Study Report not A "Slam Dunk"

Dr. Bob Barcelona, the UNH Feasibility Study team leader, delivered a "preliminary" draft report to the Town team last Monday afternoon. It was apparent that the UNH team put a lot of effort into the study and were themselves conflicted as to some of the results. I think the Town team was as well. At least I was. What was presented was a preliminary report of their findings. The full report with data sets is still being vetted by the UNH team and after some more input from us, it should be in final form sometime in the first quarter of 2015.
It was interesting to hear that we were the smallest town the UNH team has yet studied, but had the largest turnout for the focus groups and town wide meeting. Clearly the public was engaged.990 total surveys were completed. 85 were paper surveys, the rest were online.
No crystal clear winner in my mind, but many more questions. I was hoping for definitive answers along the lines of " the data shows that...." We did get some of that, but as to the big question of the need for a new gym/facility not quite there yet. The team was emphatic that we should immediately undertake the top three recommendations " right now" however:
  1. Extend partnerships  between the Town and the SAU for school facility use, particularly in the after school hours and during the summer.
  2. Explore partnership opportunities for indoor recreation use with local communities and organizations.
  3. Provide sufficient financial resources for on-going operations and maintenance of existing recreation facilities, including athletic fields, beaches, boat launches and playgrounds.
How well we accomplish these recommendations should the BoS decide to undertake them will impact to a large extent the decision point that the UNH team left us with: definitively settle the issue of a new indoor recreation center and gym facility. Each of the above three recommendations came  with more details such as looking at Belmont, NH as a model for town/school partnerships  wherein the school provides the town access for a 6 week summer program.  As per the report " In turn, the Recreation department should be responsible for programming and using the space that is available to them. This will require creativity."
In regards to partnerships with other communities, there are many facilities within a 10 square mile radius and perhaps a number of communities working together can justify the need for a regional approach with shared costs for any new indoor facility. Recommendation number three explores the possibility of divesting some town owned property and cautioned on the high cost to dredge the States Landing beach and instead develop the outdoor park area and focusing on the boat launch. Selling the States Landing property was suggested, but there is some question as to whether we can legally do that. A private/public partnership was suggested as a possibility.
There was also a fourth recommendation involving renovating the Lions Club building or possibly divesting the property if a community center were to be built.
We did get a "thumbnail" sketch of the benchmarking communities that answered the UNH teams request for information  ( 9 of 15 responded) and I look forward to seeing the details of those responses. Of the nine communities that responded, five have some sort of indoor facility. They range from Ashland which has an 800 square foot " Booster Club" and accommodates their after school program and summer camps. Conway has a 5,400 square foot indoor facility  that includes "administrative space for the Parks and Recreation Department and supplemental office space. It includes a multipurpose ball field that can accommodate little league baseball, soccer, field hockey and football, a gymnasium with an indoor basketball court, an outdoor basketball court, and a playground. The site also includes an indoor gymnasium (with a basketball court), library, art room, game room, computer lab, kitchen and restrooms. There are 50 public parking spaces." A good example of a scaled down approach that still manages to meet the needs of the community.  Meredith was by far the largest with a " community center" of 18,000 square feet and per the UNH team is unusual for such a small community. Ossipee has 3,500 square foot Town Hall gymnasium and basketball court which has led to a number of interesting issues, such as noise disrupting the workings of Town Hall. Probably not a model for Moultonboro.
Speaking in basketball terms then, this was not a slam dunk answer. It does get us closer though and there is a tremendous amount of data yet to sort through and much food for thought. As I mentioned when the meeting closed, the trick for the BoS will be to find the right balance that meets the needs of the community as a whole. A ways to got yet to be sure, but we did make some progress.


Beyond basketball said...

The evidence seems to show that the older majority does not want a gym, and those with children do, but don't have a strong voice to make their case. It comes down to the town vision. If the consensus was to attract younger families, and it isn't, a rec facility must be part of the mix. Until a new vision shifts priorities, improving use of the school facilities seems to be the best option on the table.

WE DO IT ! said...

Reccomendation 3 is a done deal...we do it. They said:

Provide sufficient financial resources for on-going operations and maintenance of existing recreation facilities, including athletic fields, beaches, boat launches and playgrounds.
The ONLY town pushback against this is caused by " town hall staff " with grandiose plans...look at States Landing beach..there is wide support for $ 450,000 or so to clean lake bottom swimming area, but it has been blown up to $ 1.7 million, to do a Disneyland north, on an area which is too small for its primary use.WATER related uses are being crowded.
There will the same pushback against playground softball field repair, when that cost gets padded enough to provide night lights, estimated at $ 85,000..
We did the same thing at the soccer field.. Enough money allocated for repairs that Santa also got us a $ 75,000 or more cistern to flood the hockey rink. By the way, the report cited a detourating hockey rink.. For the past two weeks facilities and grounds have been working on it....it is back in top shape.
The pathway repair will run around $ 75,000...we have done that...for the few that use it.
The number 3 recommendation is a done deal...we just have to fight " town hall staff ' to keep it practical

Missed Te Mark said...

Audience Members, after the meeting voiced a real concern that the report was uninformed about the value of the Lions Club facility. They missed seeing the Lions Club building we know, with good easy parking,a kitchen, and a practical surroundings our residents feel comfortable in. That report needs a complete Re-do of that subject.
On going work is progressing at that building, but it has to go slow, the town owns it, and keeping plans in scale with what it is - is difficult. The last practical building done in town is the library, and that had a private citizen building committee, No town hall staff.. We have to " mind the blank checks " until we get the grandiose out of town hall.

Kudos said...

Nice to see our Blogmaster, and selectman Mr P P put a positive spin on this outsiders independent review. He has a handle on some of the background issues that makes unified public support difficult to achieve. ( unified, one way or the other.). He is only one vote in five tho. We need to unify the rest of the BOS to put on their big boy pants, and solve the background blocks.

Anonymous said...

The report states that an "organized" group is against all.
Who is this current organized group?
I'd like to join this new "organized" group.

Anonymous said...

Organized vocal anti building group. Mr Al Hoch called them on that and said it was many individuals repeating the same message....but for sure not organized. The U N H professor was amazed at that..he heard the same message so many times he thought there was a printed script. Organizing town folks is like herding cats.

Anonymous said...

Could it be the echo chamber of the Moultonborough Speaks Blog?

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

We should not be "Grubered" with these issues, nor go off the lemming cliff.

Town meeting is not far off, and required deadlines should produce fodder for debate, on a lot of issues ... not just a presentation. You won't be voting (if you vote) on a presentation.




Time to Move On said...

Dr, Barcelona says we've had enough studies....ya think? Thank you Dr, Barcelona for pointing out the obvious. Yes let's all move on and use the resources we have before enlarging Moultonborough's "foot print."

Off the Neck Road said...

The UNH study is a reality check. The ones that need to move on are those that won't or can't face reality. Recreation expansion might have been a reasonable request during Moultonborough's hay days when the town was growing and school enrollment reached it's peak but the realities the town faces today are very different.

In 1997 Moultonborough's combined student enrollment of 759, was it's highest. 2014's enrollment has seen a decline over the last 17 years of 238 students, almost a 3rd. Present enrollment is 521. The forecast not only for Moultonborough but across the State is for this downward trend to continue.

Anonymous said...

UNH recreation report just posted on the town website.

Anonymous said...

Posted at 3:12. A general overview has been posted. We have to wait till after the first of they year, to see the data that generated this report. It will be enlightening to see the data on the Loins Club, see how they drew their conclusions on that. It would also be wonderful if they reprinted Superintendent Noyes's comments to the UNH survey committee....that she represented a school system that is extremely well supported, with most of the monetary support coming from the older generation, who are very generous with their support. Nice to hear.