“We have some problems,” Chairman Gordon Hunt told his fellow library trustees this morning. “The selectmen did not hold a special public hearing for the warrant article.”
The library-addition warrant article is invalid and will not be legally binding if voted on at Town Meeting because the selectmen have failed to hold a public bond hearing as required by statute.
The selectmen are meeting with Town Moderator Dan Barnard this afternoon at 2PM at the town offices, presumably to discuss this issue. Gordon said he will be in attendance.
RSA 33:8-a:I requires that for any warrant article for the issuance of a bond or note (i.e., a loan) in excess of $100,000 there shall be at least one public hearing to be held by the board of selectmen at least 15 days but not more than 60 days before Town Meeting. In addition, the statute requires that a notice of the public hearing be “published in a newspaper of general circulation” at least one week before it is held.
A review of the Granite State News from December 7, 2017, to February 22, 2018, shows no public notice of a public hearing on the bond/note for the library-addition warrant article. A review of the selectmen’s agendas and minutes for January and February does not show any public hearing occurred.
The information sessions that have been held at the library do not count as public hearings, because they were not “held before the governing board” (the board of selectmen) and, in any case, do not appear to have been announced in the paper.
RSA 33:8-a:I reads in full:
There shall be at least one public hearing concerning any proposed municipal bond or note issue in excess of $100,000 held before the governing board of any municipality. Said hearing shall be held at least 15 days, but not more than 60 days prior to the meeting, or adjourned session thereof, at which the bond or note issued is to be voted upon. Notice of the time, place and subject of such hearing shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality at least 7 days before it is held. Whenever possible the governing board shall determine the form of the warrant article after the public hearing.
Wolfeboro held a public bond hearing on January 4, as reported on in the January 11 edition of the Granite State News. The public notice of the public hearing was published in the December 14, 2017, edition of the Granite State News.
The Tuftonboro selectmen — Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, and Chip Albee — appear to have been derelict in their duty.
In 2015, when a new library building was being proposed for $2.3 million, the selectmen held a public bond hearing on February 9, 2015.
As noted yesterday, the selectmen have already acknowledged that they did not follow the strictures of RSA 33:8-a:II. It seems they also failed to follow RSA 33:8-a:I.
In October 2016, the board of selectmen had to cancel an auction of town-owned properties because they did not have authority from Town Meeting to sell the properties. The board had not checked the law before scheduling the auction.
Note that Lloyd Wood is now and was in 2015 chairman of the board of selectmen. He is also running for re-election next week. You’d think that, having gone through the process already, he would have remembered to hold a public hearing as required by law.
If I were a supporter of the library addition I would be very upset right now. Surely an error of this magnitude requires resignations from the board of selectmen and library trustees.
Post updated to correct RSA reference. It’s 33:8-a:I not 33:a-8:I.