NOTES OF AUGUST 14, 2017 RYE BOARD OF SELECTMEN MEETING
Final Revision C – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present (clockwise around table): Town Administrator Michael Magnant, Selectmen Craig Musselman, Priscilla Jenness and Phil Winslow, Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie.
Also present and sitting in the audience or the lobby outside: Police Chief Kevin Walsh, Interim Fire Chief Tom Lambert, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy, Recreation Director Lee Arthur, Building Inspector Peter Rowell, Town Clerk Donna Decotis, new Assistant Town Clerk Lavon Reynolds.
Persons present from the public included: Victor Azzi, Steven Borne, Peter Crawford, Joe Cummins, Louis Georgopoulos, Gregg Mikolaities (Chairman, Recreation Commission), Peter Randazza.
Editor’s note: For ease in finding particular sections using the archived video and audio on the Town website, the elapsed time is indicated. Use the slider and the elapsed time indicated at the bottom of the video window to fast forward to the desired section. Videos on the Town website may currently be accessed at www.town.rye.nh.us by clicking on “Town Hall Streaming” at the bottom left of the screen. Follow the link for “Town Hall Live Streaming,” then find the meeting by date under “Previous.”
The video starts at 6:36:50 p.m. (0:00 elapsed).
1. An abutter of the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Country Club expressed multiple complaints, and said that the Chairman of the Planning Board should be replaced because of his behavior at a recent Planning Board meeting.
4. The Selectmen voted to accept and expend approximately $116,000 in Highway Block Grant funds from the State. They assert that the funds may only be used for projects that are in addition to current spending plans.
5. The Recreation Department is complaining that, two weeks prior to the start of school, there is no commitment to suitable space at Rye Elementary School for them to conduct their After School Program.
Louis Georgopolous explained that he is 85 years old, and has owned four pieces of property in Rye since 1974. He spoke about the vote on the net being 3-3, and that he could not attend the meeting, but saw the recording. Editor’s note: This was the July 11, 2017 meeting of the Rye Planning Board. This was recorded by the RCL and is available at https://vimeo.com/225298104/. He spoke about a former member of the Planning Board having been cut off. Editor’s note: See the video at 116:30 elapsed, where Victor Azzi was all but cut off. The Chairman was unbelievable. Mr. Georgopolous said. He should be replaced. You would have thought that we were in Russia, he said.
Selectman Musselman asked Mr. Georgopolous to bring his comments to a close, as he had been speaking for about 20 minutes. Mr. Georgopolous complained about taxpayers paying the Town Attorney to speak in favor of a project.
Steven Borne asked about the acquisition that was on the agenda for the earlier non-public session. He asked whether it involved land or a building, and when the nature of the acquisition would be disclosed to the public. Selectman Musselman did not respond, other than to say “thank you.” Editor’s note: The August 22nd non-public session will be the seventh such BOS meeting since the beginning of May.
Sealing of minutes (20:22 elapsed)
The Selectmen voted unanimously to seal the minutes of the non-public session of August 4, 2017, and of the non-public session just concluded.
Consent Agenda (20:48 elapsed)
At the request of Selectman Winslow, Item A was removed from the Consent Agenda. The remaining items, B through I, were then unanimously approved. Item A is a letter about the lack of trash receptacles at Summer Sessions.
Selectman Winslow asked whether there was a health regulation requiring these receptacles. Building Inspector Peter Rowell said that he was not aware of any, but that he would check. The motion to place the letter on file carried unanimously.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector Donna Decotis introduced her new assistant, Lavon Reynolds. She said that there had been many candidates, and that she, Amy and Cyndi had done the interviews. Editor’s note: These are apparent references to Deputy Town Clerk/Tax Collector Amy Thibodeau and Town Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie. Ms. Decotis explained that Ms. Reynolds was currently head cashier at a Home Depot store. Former Town Clerk/Tax Collector Beth Yeaton’s sister in law works with Ms. Reynolds and highly recommended her. A recommendation was also obtained from another employee of the store, she said. Ms. Gillespie stated that they were attracted to Ms. Reynolds’ background of remaining in positions for a long time, as the required training is expensive.
Selectman Musselman noted that the position is part-time, without benefits. Ms. Decotis agreed, saying that the position is for 32 hours per week.
The hiring of Ms. Reynolds was unanimously approved, pending completion of background checks.
Editor’s note: Former Assistant Town Clerk/Tax Collector Amy Thibodeau was appointed Deputy Town Clerk/Tax Collector after the former Deputy Town Clerk/Tax Collector, Wendy Bookholz resigned. This created a vacancy in the Assistant Town Clerk/Tax Collector position. Ms. Bookholz had unsuccessfully run for Town Clerk/Tax Collector against the incumbent Donna Decotis in March 2017, and resigned not too long thereafter.
Selectman Musselman explained that there is additional funding being provided this year to each New Hampshire municipality. The State is providing these funds as additional Highway Block Grant funds in accordance with Senate Bill 38. It is a non-lapsing grant to be used for highway construction or maintenance purposes, he said.
Town Administrator Magnant added that it was surplus money from the last state budget. The only real condition is that the money must be used for additional work for this year. He said that he had asked Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy to put together a list of possible uses.
Mr. McCarthy provided the list:
1. Remedial repairs to Wallis Rd., $15,000. There is a delamination problem with the road and they would like to try infrared heating to repair it.
2. Substitution of a wood guard rail for a metal one for the Red Mill Ln. culvert on which construction is beginning. People at the “precinct” have requested the alternative. It would not meet the DOT criteria, so the Selectmen would need to approve. The cost increase would be $11,000.
3. Completion of West Rd. paving from Washington Rd. to Garland Rd., $30,000. Currently the plan is to shim this section this year, and overlay it next year, but this would permit it all to be done in one year.
4. Shim and overlay the final section of Central Rd., $60,000. There is a question of whether they could get to that road this year.
The total is $116,408. All four projects meet the state criteria, he said.
Peter Crawford said that it seems like it would be a good idea to take the “free” money, although it is not “free” to state taxpayers. He asked about Mr. Magnant’s statement that the money needs to be spent this year. Mr. Magnant said that it is non-lapsing and does not need to be spent this year.
Mr. Crawford suggested that the money could be spent on something that was planned for 2018, thereby saving taxpayer money in the 2018 budget.
Mr. McCarthy said that one of the caveats is that the money cannot be spent on anything that was going to be spent anyway. Editor’s note: Senate Bill 38 (Chaptered Law 227:1, III) provides that “[n]o funds appropriated in paragraph I shall be used for supplanting locally budgeted and approved funds for road or bridge maintenance or construction.” He said that the intent is to do more work.
Selectman Musselman said that, if work planned for next year is done this year, the same amount would still be spent next year, but would be added to so that more would be spent on highway construction than would otherwise be done. It is our understanding that reducing next year’s budget by $116,000 would be contrary to the state law requirement.
Mr. Crawford stated that it was a gray area. Mr. McCarthy interrupted and disagreed, saying that the legislation was very explicit. The funds must be spent in addition to what the town would have spent.
Mr. Crawford said that we not yet know what Town Meeting will appropriate for next year. He asked what would happen if someone at the Deliberative Session made a motion to reduce the $250,000 paving budget by $116,000. Mr. McCarthy said that that would be fine, as long as it was not done because the Town received $116,000.
Mr. Crawford said that the “free” money is great, but it would be nice if tax dollars could be saved.
Ms. Gillespie pointed out that the accompanying letter from the Department of Revenue said that the grant would not become part of the Unassigned Fund Balance, and there would not be an addition to the MS-4, estimated revenues.
Mr. Crawford said that he understands that, but that’s the accounting and then there is Senate Bill 38 that needs to be looked at.
Gregg Mikolaities asked whether there is a list of projects and whether the four proposed projects are not on that list.
Mr. McCarthy said that the paving projects are on the list for some future date. We did a study and the minimal amount for paving needs to be $300,000 annually. Mr. McCarthy read the sentence from Senate Bill 38: “No funds appropriated in paragraph I shall be used for supplanting locally budgeted and approved funds for road or bridge maintenance or construction.” You can’t substitute these funds for future funds, he said. Editor’s note: That does not appear to be correct. Only funds that are both budgeted and approved are subject to the restriction. That provision, by its plain language, does not apply to funds in the 2018 budget that have presently neither been budgeted nor approved.
Selectman Musselman said that this is like the trillion dollars that never came, but it’s only $116,000. Editor’s note: He is apparently referring to proposed infrastructure spending at the national level.
Steven Borne spoke about the first part of West Rd. being really bad. He asked also about Sagamore Rd.
Mr. McCarthy said that they are planning on trying infrared repairs to roads that are not yet old, but have potholes.
Mr. Borne raised an issue about Ocean Blvd. where the rose bushes were removed, but Mr. McCarthy said that he had no jurisdiction as it is a State road.
Joe Cummins asked how the grant had been applied for and whether a cut of the grant funds was being provided to the person writing the grant, as he has seen in the past.
Mr. Magnant said that it is based on a formula, and is not a grant that needs to be applied for. They had $30 million left over.
Selectman Musselman said that, each year, a portion of the $300,000 is funded by the State.
Mr. Cummins asked about gold plating on the bridge at Red Mill Ln.
Selectman Musselman explained how the guard rail was being changed from metal to wood.
Mr. Cummins asked how old the coat was on Wallis Rd. Mr. McCarthy responded.
There being no further comments, the public hearing was closed by Selectman Musselman.
Selectman Winslow read the motion, which was to accept and expend the funds, with the provision that the funds are non-lapsing, would not become part of the unassigned fund balance, and will not be used to offset the 2017 tax rate. All were in favor.
There was then discussion about which of the four items the Selectmen needed to vote on. Town Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie, in response to a question from Selectman Winslow, said that the funds are already in hand. The motion to authorize Mr. McCarthy to proceed with his plan carried unanimously.
Minutes (47:32 elapsed)
The minutes of the meeting of July 18, 2017, and the non-public session of the same day were unanimously approved without changes. The minutes of the July 24, 2017 meeting were unanimously approved with changes. Selectmen Musselman expressed uncertainty with regard to what he had said about a third sample, but stated that he does not now believe that that is an appropriate step. The landfill issues will be discussed later in the meeting he said. The minutes of the non-public session of the same day were unanimously approved without changes. The minutes of the meeting of July 24, 2017 and the non-public session of the same day were unanimously approved without changes.
Recreation Director Lee Arthur and Recreation Commission Chairman Gregg Mikolaities addressed. Mr. Mikolaities said that this had been an ongoing issue for the 20 years that the program had been in place. There are 55 children in the program. These are the same kids that are at school from 8:00 to 3:00. He does not understand why they cannot find the two classrooms needed. School is about to start and there has been no resolution, he said.
Ms. Arthur explained why a dedicated classroom is needed and why the space that has apparently been offered is inadequate. The only option is to bus half of the children to the Recreation house, she said. Mr. Mikolaities explained that the program is split by grade, so some families would have children at the school as well as the Recreation house. The response from the SAU was that they should talk to Rye Junior High or figure out how to bus the children. Ms. Arthur also explained how the SAU 50 pre-school program would be moving to Rye Elementary School. She also said that there are 52 children registered for the After School Program, with 3 or 4 on a waiting list.
Selectman Musselman said that, the last time this had come up, a joint committee was formed and the issue was resolved. He said that both he and Mr. Mikolaities had been at the School Feasibility Committee meeting a week and a half earlier and “they” had said that the issue would be resolved. Editor’s note: See the notes of the School Feasibility Committee, August 3, 2017. Both Selectman Musselman and Mr. Mikolaities are on that committee. At the meeting, Rye Elementary School Principal Suzanne Lull, after Mr. Mikolaities had expressed concern, assured him that there would not be a problem resulting from the transfer of the SAU preschool program from the Greenland School to Rye Elementary School.
Ms. Arthur said that the discussions had been amicable, and that she had met with Principal Lull. She said that she had called the Superintendent, but had not heard back.
Selectman Musselman suggested that the Town Administrator call the Superintendent.
Mr. Mikolaities said that he would say that Recreation has been provided two classrooms.
Selectman Musselman said that the School Feasibility Committee had been told that the schools have 110,000 square feet, but would need only 55,000 to 60,000 square feet if everything was jam packed together.
Mr. Magnant suggested that he send a letter that Ms. Arthur had written to the Superintendent, state that the issue had been addressed at the Board of Selectmen meeting, and request a resolution.
Selectman Musselman said that busing children to the Recreation House makes no sense.
Steven Borne said that he was confused regarding the involvement of the Superintendent. He said that the issue should be addressed with Ms. Lull and, if necessary, the School Board. He does not understand the role of the SAU in allocating space within Rye, he said.
Selectman Musselman disagreed, saying that Principal Lull reports to the Superintendent.
Ms. Arthur said that, just because the space may be empty at the end of the day does not mean that the space can be used effectively.
There was discussion about the program having been in place for 18 years and the school population having declined during that time.
Peter Crawford said that he had watched the video of the meeting of the School Feasibility Committee a week and a half earlier. During that meeting, the numbers had been provided demonstrating that the schools are way below capacity. They are within 30 children of being able to squeeze everything into Rye Elementary School today. There are 150 children at the Junior High. It would seem that there would be capacity for 120 children somewhere, he said. Editor’s note: The numbers discussed at the School Feasibility Committee meeting were:
Current students Capacity
Rye Elementary School 280 400
Rye Junior High 151 280
Total (calculated, not discussed) 431 680
Selectman Musselman agreed with Mr. Crawford, saying that one would think that.
Mr. Crawford said that they should be able to fit 55 children in.
Selectman Musselman said that the class sizes are smaller, but the same spaces are being used for the same purposes. All of us do not understand this very well as we are not closely involved and are not educators. He said that the School Board would be as frustrated as we are that the issue cannot be resolved.
Joe Cummins said that, when the School Board meets together, they have a very possessive spirit. As individuals, however, they are great. He referred to past discussions where two or three of the School Board members had thought that they owned the facilities. He said that he was amazed that they debated what would happen to the money if the buildings were ever sold. Editor’s note: See RSA 199:4, II (at least in the case of cities, school houses that are no longer needed for public school purposes must be transferred to the city). He suggested a Special Meeting of the School District and said that he would sign a petition requesting that, if it is possible to have such a meeting. He knows that the Town can have a Special Meeting with 50 signatures, he said. With the taxes that we pay, it is detestable that working people have to be on a waiting list, he said. This is outrageous, he said.
Ms. Arthur said that the pre-school program had previously been located in Rye and that the School Board, when it voted to permit the SAU to utilize Rye Elementary School space, had not intended to create this problem.
Selectman Musselman said that the problem would be resolved. Mr. Mikolaities said that there is no choice. The start of school is two weeks away. We cannot be a tenant at will with an August disaster, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that the town had been notified by NHDES that its ground water permit is being modified. They have changed the monitoring requirement such that the five wells that were sampled for PFAS (PFCs) will be added to the permit. The State has the right to do that. Those wells will need to be sampled again in November 2017. They have also added two residential wells, one on Random Rd. and one on Lafayette Rd. These could otherwise be served by the Rye Water District which has lines in the street. These are being added to the monitoring program. The Town will be responding with a letter to DES, confirming that they will be added to the monitoring, but making the point that there is no indication that there is any hydraulic connection between the Breakfast Hill Landfill and the wells. The type and depth of the wells is not known. There will be some cost impact this year and going forward, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that, at the last meeting at which contamination at the Grove Rd. Landfill was discussed, there were questions about whether to take a third sample and about the repeatability of the sample analysis. We have received further information that, with regard to the two laboratories used so far, the State of New Hampshire has split samples, sent them to these two laboratories, gotten companion analyses made, and that both of them had results within EPA’s QAQC tolerances for these parameters, which are plus or minus fifty percent, which is unusual, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that when results of 150 one time and 110 another are seen, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it went down. The same is true when a result of 14 goes up to 17. That in all likelihood is the same number.
Selectman Musselman said that the growing body of state-wide information needs to be taken into account, and before a conclusion is reached that the sky is falling, we need to understand what it is that we’re dealing with, the occurrence of contaminants here, as well as in other locations in New Hampshire. We’re on a steep learning curve. We’re a little bit ahead of that in Rye, which is a good thing, he said.
Peter Crawford noted that it was said that the laboratories were within the EPA standard of fifty percent, but he did not hear how far the results were from each other when the split samples were tested by these particular laboratories.
Selectman Musselman said that he did not get that, but was told that these results were much closer. However, you’re not looking at plus or minus five percent, he said.
Mr. Crawford said that there may not be a fifty percent variation between these two laboratories. Selectman Musselman agreed.
Steven Borne asked whether Selectman Musselman was saying that we don’t know for sure that we have a problem.
Selectman Musselman said that “we have a problem.” I’m not saying that at all, he said. At the Breakfast Hill Landfill. There are two samples above the groundwater standard, but they are within the groundwater management zone, so that is acceptable under State law. At Grove Rd. we have a monitoring well, with two samples, both of which are above the drinking water standard, and a monitoring well with one sample to date, from within the waste in the groundwater, that is above the drinking water standard. The Water District is monitoring the Garland Rd. well and the levels there have been relatively low to date. The last one was a little bit higher, and was in the low 20s. There may well be more frequent samples at that well. The test samples between the Grove Rd. Landfill and the Garland Well were very low. We will be dealing more with the State on that. We’re doing everything appropriate. We have acted quickly, and have, at each step so far, have taken the next appropriate step. I am 100 percent confident of that, he said.
E-mail from Peter Randazza regarding no parking stencils on pavement (82:46 elapsed)
There was discussion about whether this was involved the property next to Petey’s that was discussed at the last meeting. Mr. Randazza was present and it was confirmed that his property is near Jenness Beach. Town Administrator Magnant said that there had been a site walk and stenciling was denied because the driveway was wide. Mr. Randazza said that his driveway is three cars wide, but often there are three cars parked there, so the cars on the edges find it difficult to pull out into traffic. He also said that the Town is now ticketing cars parked at this location as if they are in a no parking zone. Mr. Randazza suggested that the Public Works Director take $30 of the $116,000 that he received and mark his driveway with stencils.
Selectman Jenness said that his driveway is more like a parking lot than a driveway.
Mr. Randazza said that it had been there since 1965. He said that he was the only one who didn’t get his driveway stenciled.
There was discussion about safety issues and whether a precedent would be set.
Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy said that the resolution of the driveway issue for the property next to Petey’s was that the State provided ten feet on either side. He then said that the State does not care, but is leaving the issue to the Town.
Selectman Jenness said that Mr. Randazza’s driveway had previously been gravel, but had been paved. Mr. Randazza said that it was paved in 1974. Selectman Musselman looked at Mr. Georgopoulis and said that Selectman Jenness was older than him. Editor’s note: Mr. Georgopoulis had spoken during the public comment period earlier in the meeting and had stated that he is 85.
There was then discussion with Police Chief Kevin Walsh about the basis for ticketing in the location. Chief Walsh referred to a line indicating no parking. He acknowledged, however, that the matter is being challenged on appeal.
It was agreed that there would be another site visit.
New business, old business, capture of escaped Iguana (93:42 elapsed)
There was no new or old business, however Town Administrator Magnant commended the Police Department for their work earlier in the day wrestling an Iguana. Chief Walsh said that the Town’s insurance company would be happy because nobody was bitten. Selectman Musselman said that there was a rumor that someone had been bitten. Someone said that it was just a local resident. There was further jocularity, concluding in a motion to adjourn.