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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Answers to Some More Questions

I doubt any project this town has ever undertaken has had more studies, more committees and commissions or more public input than the issue of a community center. It has been going on since at least 2006. Study after study, report after report, survey after survey. Meeting after meeting. Selectmen, committee and board members  have come and gone. In today's Laconia Daily Sun,  there is another letter regarding the Community Center with "unanswered questions." 

I will try to answer the most pertinent as best I can. Again, the end game is a fair up or down vote on Saturday.
Town meeting will start shortly after the annual School District meeting this Saturday March 12th at 09:30 am in the Moultonboro Academy Community Auditorium. Of interest is that this auditorium was funded with by far, the largest capital project this town has ever undertaken, (save for the actual construction of the Academy itself).  A $10 million plus project with a bond that comes off the books in 2018. 
I need first though to address the persistent rumor that the Meredith Community Center is underutilized and not successful. The follow is taken from the Meredith 2015 Town Report:
"Demand for the Community Center continued to be strong in 2015. Along with many activities being offered by the Meredith Parks and Recreation Department, the Community Center hosted several different public service organizations on a regular and frequent basis for meetings, training sessions, public hearings, and presentations. These groups included municipal, school district, state, and federal agencies. The Community Center serves as a valuable location for numerous Non-Profit organizations as well as private bookings such as birthday parties, reunions, weddings and so on. The Meredith Parks and Recreation Department has registered 3,273 families and 7,394 members for programs it has offered since opening the Community Center. In 2015 the Community Center received 9,393 registrations for the Parks and Recreation Department’s high school and middle school after school “drop in” program, where students have the opportunity to choose their own activities in both the activity center and game room .

The Community Center has provided a wonderful gathering place for our community and for people of all ages to play, socialize, learn, make decisions, and plan for our future needs. We look forward to working together with the community to help meet the demand and make the Community Center available to as many different user groups as reasonably possible."

Has this project been reviewed by the town planner, land use boards and commissions, and does it meet requirements of voter approved ordinances?— The BoS are committed to follow all current land use requirements. Few major projects are built without the need for variances, special exceptions or waivers. The Town has the same legal right to seek a variance and/or special exception as a private developer. Please review our Zoning Ordinances and Site Plan Regulations for further details. We have stated unequivocally that we will not invoke our right as a municipality to ignore them. 
Has there been a village traffic impact study and input from the state Department of Transportation on the anticipated periodic bursts of cars and buses turning in/out from Route 25?-   A Traffic Impact Assessment and Analysis, whether “standard” or “ advanced” will be performed as required by the Planning Board or Town Planner after a site plan has been developed. Keep in mind that as I stated in an earlier post, the access road is not critical to the project. If an access road is to be built, formal application and approval from NH DOT will be required. 
Has this project been reviewed by the Village Vision Committee or Master Plan Steering Committee.- The Village Vision Committee has been disbanded and this proposal is not in the scope of the Master Plan Steering Committee. The project is very much in keeping however with the Village Vision report and the final design will be in keeping and improving our village look and character.In addition, it will allow the remaining green space to be developed into a park in the heart of the village. According to the Village Vision Report " A village concept that states that a village is more than the sum of its physical parts. It should be a community gathering place that also has the ability to draw visitors from outside the community. "
Has consideration been paid to recent voter survey results?- Please refer to this post with UNH survey results.
 Has this project been reviewed by the Capital Improvements Committee and vetted against other critical projects for our town?- The CIPC reviewed a $50,000 funding request for an engineering study for such a facility in 2015and did not recommend it. The CIPC 2016-2021 report states that is does not recommend this request due to" consideration of the new facility for the Recreation Department pending approval by the voters and exploration of the potential lease of a facility." In other words, let's see what happens at Town meeting.
Have less expensive options to this $6.5 million facility (plus nearly $2 million in interest) been considered and presented to taxpayers?- The Legislative body told us in 2013 to pursue development of gym recreation facility on or adjacent to school property and then funded a site study with $17,500 to bring us to this decision point. The UNH study had five recommendations all fully vetted by the Town team ( here is the final report)  over 5 months. 
Has funding from private sources been solicited, received, or mandated?- We cannot mandate private fundraising to offset the bond per the Municipal Budget Act. We did set an expectation of a minimum of 10%. Effort is underway and the responses through  private citizens have been very positive.