Van de Poll Addresses Tuftonboro Association Meeting

rick-van-de-pollDr. Rick Van der Poll of Ecosystem Management Consultants addressed the annual meeting of the Tuftonboro Association Monday evening and gave a talk entitled Conservation of the Great Meadow. Van der Poll has been studying the Great Meadow off and on for the past 16 years, as well as consulting with the Conservation Committee on purchasing various property lots that cover the meadow in order to place them into conservation.

There were approximately 30 Tuftonboro residents in attendance.

Carolyn Sundquist Excuse for Meeting Times Proven Baseless

Carolyn Sundquist
Carolyn Sundquist

The Tuftonboro selectmen are refusing to hold their meetings in the evening when more members of the public could attend if they wanted. Instead, the selectmen prefer holding their meetings at 9AM and 4PM, when it is extremely inconvenient for anyone who works normal hours to attend.

Last month Chairman Carolyn Sundquist dismissed the idea of holding selectmen’s meetings at 6:30 or 7PM by saying that evening meetings would be unfair to Karen Koch, the administrative secretary, who would have to attend to take minutes.

The official job description for the Administrative Secretary position states, as a requirement for employment: “Must be able to attend meetings outside of normal hours.”

The job description was last updated by the selectmen on June 10, 2013. Carolyn Sundquist was a selectman at the time. In fact, she was chairman that year. The minutes from the June 10, 2013, meeting show that the selectmen voted unanimously to adopt the Administrative Secretary job description, including the requirement that the employee holding the position must be able to attend meetings outside of normal hours.

The June 10, 2013, selectman’s meeting was held at 7PM.

I am collecting signatures for a petition to place a warrant article in consideration at Town Meeting 2017 to require the selectmen to hold their meetings at 6:30 PM so that more town residents could attend if they want to attend. If you are interested in adding your signature, please let me know by adding a comment to this post and I will bring the petition to you.

I work from home and am able to attend the selectmen’s meetings at 9AM and 4PM. However, I recognize that most people who work normal hours are not able to attend. I wish the selectmen would keep the average working person’s schedule in mind. The selectmen work for us, the residents of the town. They should not hold meetings when it is inconvenient for most people to attend.

 

Public Hearing: Self-Storage Units Next to Fire Station on 109A

The Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a public hearing on September 20, 2016, at 7PM at the old Town House on 109A.

Paul Zimmerman is seeking a zoning variance special exception to the zoning ordinance to construct four self-storage buildings on three acres of land next to the fire station on 109A, according to a letter sent to nearby property owners alerting them to the public hearing, and notices were displayed at the Melvin Village and Center Tuftonboro post offices, and published in the Granite State News. The property is currently zoned residential and requires a special exception for use for storage buildings.

This is the plan for the proposed storage buildings next to the Fire station:
proposed-self-storage-109a-tuftonboro
The building outlined in red sits closest to the road and is proposed 160 feet long, with up to 20 storage doors. There would be another building directly behind it, and then two buildings up behind on the hill.

Chris Sawyer, the chairman of the planning board, stated in a post on Facebook that if the ZBA grants the variance to the zoning, the Planning Board will still have to sign off on the project.

Correction: this post originally stated Zimmerman needed a variance instead of a special exception. See this post for the difference between the two: Zoning Board Grants Continuance to Zimmerman

Lang’s Pond Road Closure

Lang’s Pond Road will be closed to through-traffic beginning on September 26th, 2016, for road reconstruction by LA Drew. The project should take about a month.

The selectmen awarded the project to LA Drew even though their bid was not the lowest. At first the selectmen said that they had rejected the low bid, by Integrity Earthworks, because it had been improperly submitted without a performance bond. Integrity Earthworks had followed the instructions provided by the selectmen, which did not require a bond. However, that turned out to be incorrect because state law requires projects over $35,000 to include a bond.

The selectmen acknowledged their error, but stuck with LA Drew anyway. As Chairman Carolyn Sundquist told Integrity Earthworks on July 29th, “We erred. We don’t know all the RSAs [state laws].”

LA Drew’s winning bid was $140,772 and Integrity Earthworks’ lower bid was $112,906. The Integrity Earthworks bid would have been higher if it included a bond, but would still have offered a considerable savings to the taxpayer of Tuftonboro had the selectmen not sent out wrong instructions.

Bill Marcussen Floats Possibility of Mandatory Recycling

Selectman Bill Marcussen on Tuesday suggested that Tuftonboro could implement an ordinance forcing residents to recycle. Such an ordinance would have to be enforced with fines, and would place the transfer station employees in the unsavory position of policing what’s inside trash bags brought in by residents. Transfer station supervisor Clay Gallagher has previously stated he would prefer not to be in the position of rummaging through people’s trash.

Marcussen’s comment was made in the context of discussing a proposal put forward by Gallagher to divide the revenue generated by recycling among all town employees. According to Gallagher, this would create an incentive for town employees to promote recycling. During Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, Gallagher indicated that he had seen a town employee throwing recyclables into the trash compacter. There are approximately 50 town employees who work full-time, part-time, and per diem. However, not all town employees are residents of Tuftonboro. There are approximately 2,500 residents in town.

Marcussen seemed to be setting up a choice between giving raises to town employees and enforcing mandatory recycling.

Wakefield, NH, has a mandatory recycling ordinance, but as reported by the Granite State News in both 2014 and 2015 that town’s recycling rate was just 30%. Wakefield also had to repeal a controversial clear-bag requirement in 2015.

Cordelli, Chehames Win Their Primaries

Tuftonboro residents Gary Chehames (D) and Glenn Cordelli (R) won their contests in Tuesday’s primary elections for the New Hampshire House of Representatives. They are both vying to represent Carrol County District 4 (Tuftonboro, Moultonborough, and Sandwich) in Concord. Cordelli is the incumbent. In today’s primary, the Democrats and the Republicans chose two candidates to advance to the November election to compete for two seats representing the district.

The only other Democrat running alongside Chehames was Moultonborough selectman Paul Punturieri, who runs the Moultonborough Speaks blog. Since only two Democrats ran for two slots, they were both guaranteed to advance to November. However, that didn’t keep them both from campaigning. Chehames and Punterieri were both at the Tuftonboro Town House on Tuesday morning to greet voters.

Cordelli started the day in Moultonborough, where they begin voting at 7AM. Then he returned to Tuftonboro for the opening of the polls at 8AM. Cordelli was facing off against his fellow incumbent Karel Crawford, of Moultonborough, and newcomer Brent Anderson, also of Moultonborough.

With all three towns reporting, Cordelli is the top vote getter.

[edit: post corrected to make clear that Chehames and Punterieri were not competing against each other in the primary, but rather running for two open slots.]

Sundquist Won’t Say If She’s Running for Reelection

carolyn-sundquistCarolyn Sundquist said today that she doesn’t know yet if she’s running for another term as selectman. Sundquist first ran for selectman in 2008 promising to be a “leader who listens.” More recently Sundquist has unilaterally shut down questions from reporters during meetings, refused to hold meetings at times when more residents could attend, and declared her incredulity at the idea that the public could offer any input of use.

Selectmen Refuse to Hold Meetings in Evening

The selectmen hold their meetings at 9AM and 4PM, usually on Mondays although sometimes on other days. Anyone who has a regular 9 to 5 job, therefore, is unable to attend the selectmen’s meetings if they want to. At their last meeting, I asked the selectmen to consider having one meeting per month at 6:30 or 7PM. Today the selectmen categorically refused to have their meetings in the evening. The reason they gave is that they didn’t think anyone would show up, anyway.

I believe there is a difference between not going to a meeting because you can’t and not going to a meeting because you don’t want to. And I have no illusions that if the selectmen’s meetings were at 6:30 then suddenly 25 people would show up to every meeting. However, if the meetings were at a more convenient time for most of the residents of Tuftonboro, some residents would be able to come to meetings that covered issues of interest to them. For instance, a resident of Eaglemere Road might want to come to a meeting for which the agenda included discussion of the paving of Eaglemere Road (which is a dirt a road). But if they work, and the meeting is at the selectmen’s preferred 9AM? Too bad.

The selectmen prefer not to have meetings in the evening, because it’s more convenient for them. Both more convenient in terms of their schedules (they are all retired), and because fewer residents are able to come if they want to come.

While Lloyd Wood and Bill Marcussen seem more open to public input, Chairman Carolyn Sundquist has proven time and again to be unwilling to listen to any input from the public. “What would come from the public that would change our minds on a vote?” She asked on May 24 of this year. “I don’t know what kind of input they could give us.”

I am collecting signatures for a petition warrant article to be voted on at Town Meeting 2017 to require the selectmen to have all of their meetings, both regular and work session, at 6:30PM so that more people could attend if they wanted to attend. Please let me know if you would like to add your signature. The wording of the warrant article would be as follows:

Article by Petition: To see if the Town will vote to require the board of selectmen to hold all meetings of the board of selectmen, both regular and work session, at 6:30PM to allow as many residents of the town to attend meetings as possible. The selectmen currently hold most meetings at either 9AM or 4PM, when the vast majority of residents are unable to attend. Holding meetings after normal work hours would be in keeping with the spirit of the Right to Know law (RSA 91:A), which states: “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society.”

Carolyn Sundquist has shown little interest in conducting public business openly. In 2015, Carroll County Superior Judge Charles Temple found that the board of selectmen, including Sundquist, had violated the Right to Know law by illegally conducting public business during a non-public session and by holding a public meeting without adequate public notice such that no one attended. For the past six months, Sundquist has been practicing viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional, by allowing Elissa Paquette of the Granite State News to ask questions during selectmen’s meetings but requiring everyone else to wait until the end of the meeting, often after relevant votes had already been conducted, to ask questions.

The selectmen put in countless hours on behalf of our town, and they deserve thanks for their efforts. If they do not wish to hold meetings after normal business hours when more people could come (if they wanted to), then the selectmen can resign. The selectmen work for us, the people. They answer to us. They are not our rulers. They should hold their meetings when it is convenient for the vast majority of residents to attend, not when it is convenient for the selectmen.

Sundquist Squelches Speech

Chairman Carolyn Sundquist today announced that the selectmen will no longer allow questions from reporters during their meetings. This is a reversal of their previous policy. Elissa Paquette, the reporter for the Granite State News, has been allowed by the selectmen to ask questions during meetings. On June 20, 2016, Sundquist stated that Paquette was allowed to ask questions because she was “the reporter.” The change in policy is a direct result of a letter I wrote to the selectmen last week informing them that I am a reporter and that I would be asking questions during the meetings just as Paquette did.

Sundquist made the announcement toward the end of today’s meeting, after Paquette had already left. Paquette, however, made no attempt to ask questions while she was in attendance. It appears she might have been told of the new policy in advance.

Sundquist said that the decision was hers alone, and the three member board had not voted on the subject. When I asked her (during public comment at the end of the meeting) when she had made the decision, she reluctantly said that it was after receiving “feedback.” I asked who the feedback had come from, and she admitted that she had received legal advice from the selectmen’s counsel Rick Sager.

The logical conclusion is that Sager told Sundquist that if the selectmen allowed Paquette to ask questions during their meetings then they had to allow others to ask questions as well. In other words, the policy the selectmen have been following since March, which was to allow Paquette to ask questions but insist that everyone else wait until a period of public comment at the end of the meeting was, in fact, illegal. Had the selectmen continued to engage in viewpoint discrimination — allowing questions only from a friendly reporter — the town would have opened itself up to liability issues.

This is the second time this year that the selectmen have had to correct a policy after receiving legal advice from Rick Sager. Earlier this year the selectmen illegally paid Cory Hunter for groundwork in the town cemetery. Only the cemetery trustees, by law, can authorize such a payment. The selectmen knew this at the time, because Sue Weeks, the chairman of the trustees of the cemetery trust funds, had informed them before they voted to pay Hunter. The selectmen had been illegally managing the cemeteries, by their own admission, for years. After consulting with Sager, the selectmen publicly revised their relationship with the cemetery trustees.

Sundquist’s decision to shut down questions during meetings reflects her broader antipathy toward public involvement in town government. On May 24th, 2016, she stated, “What would the public say that would change our minds on a vote? I can’t imagine what they would say.