NOTES OF JANUARY 8, 2018 RYE BOARD OF SELECTMEN MEETING
Final Revision B – 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 (came down. Also present and sitting in the audience or the lobby outside: Police Chief Kevin Walsh, Fire Chief Mark Cotreau, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy, Library Director Andy Richmond.
Persons present from the public included: Karen Allen, Tom Aspinwall, Victor Azzi, Frank Drake, Brian Klinger, Karen Oliver, Elizabeth Sanborn, Jenny Sears, Phil Walsh.
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 6:47:56 p.m. (0:00 elapsed).
Selectman Musselman announced the closure of Town Offices on January 15, 2018 in observance of Martin Luther King Day. He also announced that the last day for submission of petitioned warrant articles was January 9, the next day.
Selectman Musselman said that he had served as a Selectman for the past twelve years and asserted that he had given it 100 percent. Family reasons dictate that he cannot continue to serve, he said, referring to grandchildren that he needs to visit. Selectmen’s meetings around the holidays interfere with that. He said that he would not be signing up to run again.
Sealing of minutes (2:11 elapsed)
The motion of Selectman Jenness to seal the minutes of the non-public session just concluded carried unanimously.
Public comment (2:19 elapsed)
Peter Crawford said that he assumed that John Loftus’ $3.05 million bond warrant article to tear down and rebuild the Town Hall had come in. He said that his views on this issue have not changed. It is not a good idea. Last year there were two bond warrant articles for between $3 million and $3.5 million, one to tear down and rebuild, which got only 20 percent of the vote, and another Heritage Commission article to renovate the Town Hall for about the same amount. That also got only about 20 percent of the vote. The petitioned warrant article that I was behind, to spend $500,000, to be financed with cash that year, got 45 percent of the vote, which wasn’t quite enough to pass, he said. That article provided for painting the Town Hall and taking care of ADA requirements. The Loftus article which, at that point, had no money attached to it, got 55 percent of the vote. That allowed them to proceed with the design, he said.
I certainly got the impression from all of the public meetings that that was going to come in a lot closer to $2 million than $3.05 million, Mr. Crawford said. We have a number of courses of action that would be much less expensive than tearing this building down and rebuilding it. One of those would be the TD Bank option. Also, the possibility of a completely detached building on this site needs to be considered. The study of the Old Police Station in 2013 came up with a cost of $377,000 to renovate that building to be used for Town offices. That is about 2000 to 2500 sq. ft., about the same size as the TD Bank building. It also said that renovation of that would only be about 10-20 percent less than the cost to build a new building. I take from that if there were to be a detached building on this site it might be possible to build that building somewhere in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, which would be in the same range as the TD Bank building, he said.
Mr. Crawford said that he will be submitting a petitioned warrant article the next day, with a $6000 cost, to require, before anything happens with the TD Bank building, assuming that article passes, a Charette or visioning session of the Town center. The residents’ input regarding what we should do with all of the facilities in the Town center and the best course of action is needed. Steven Borne and Victor Azzi worked with me on this. We think that this is an appropriate step. It could be done in conjunction with the TD Bank acquisition. I would like to see that made contingent on our article passing, he said.
The reason that the renovation option was $4.1 million or eventually around $3.2 million was primarily due to the fact that we were adding onto this building, which kicks the whole thing into another range of requirements in terms of code compliance, including putting steel posts in the walls to reinforce the building and a new foundation, Mr. Crawford said. None of that would be needed if we just fix up the Town Hall. We do need more space, but that could be provided with any of the three options that I mentioned, that would cost on the order of $.5 million, he said.
Jenny Sears, Dow Ln., referred to prior discussions regarding safety issues with the Dow Ln. and Route 1 intersection. GPS systems are sending motorists down our road at a high rate of speed, she said. She also referred to the skewed angle and work done by the Rockingham Planning Commission. We submitted a warrant article today with 34 signatures, she said. We are asking tonight that the Board recommend and support our article. It has been six months and we have gone back and forth. We all have families and it is our neighborhood, she said.
Elizabeth Sanborn, Dow Ln., echoed what Ms. Sears had said. She credited the town with putting up signs, placing a barrier and providing speed control signs. Those things help, but they don’t completely solve the problem, she indicated. It is really tough to pull out of the driveway there. The endorsement would mean a lot as many people do not read the articles in detail.
Brian Klinger, speaking individually and not as a member of the Library Trustees, thanked Selectman Musselman for his dedicated service to the Town of Rye.
David Marchefka, Dow Ln., also asked for the Selectmen’s support on the Dow Ln. article, as did Tom Swift, also of Dow Ln.
Consent Agenda: Appointment to Energy Committee (12:22 elapsed)
The one item on the agenda, an appointment to the Energy Committee was removed so that the prospective member could introduce himself. Michael Joyce introduced himself, saying that he moved to Rye about a year and a half earlier. He said that his background is business and that he does venture capital.
Selectman Jenness said that Mr. Joyce is a neighbor, and lives near the Old South School’s location.
The motion to appoint Mr. Joyce carried unanimously.
Minutes (14:20 elapsed)
The minutes of the December 11, 2017 meeting were unanimously approved with a change. The minutes of the non-public session of the same day were unanimously approved without changes. Selectman Jenness stated that she was recusing herself from the litigation portion and said that she had only gotten the minutes on the reputation portion.
The minutes of the December 26, 2017 were unanimously approved with changes. Selectman Jenness noted that she had recused herself from the litigation matter in the non-public session. The minutes of the non-public session of the session of the same day were unanimously approved without changes. Selectman Jenness abstained with respect to the litigation portion.
Unmerger request, 15 Glendale Rd.
Town Administrator Magnant referred to RSA 674:39 and the ability to petition the Board of Selectmen for unmerger. The process involves review by the Planning Administrator, the Assessor and the Town Attorney. All have looked at this. There was a concern that the leach field might be on the lot without the building. Building Inspector Rowell went out to look at the property and determined that that was not the case. The motion to accept the unmerger request carried unanimously.
Mosquito services (22:29 elapsed)
Tom Aspinwall recommended that Dragon Pest Control’s bid be accepted. There was only $500 difference between that and the Swamp bid. The difference in quality justifies going with Dragon, he said. Selectman Musselman said that street spraying was generally a waste of money, and the budget for that was only for cases where there was a hue and cry. The motion to award the contract to Dragon carried unanimously.
Selectman Musselman said that he was recusing himself from the discussion. Editor’s note: Mr. Magnant is Selectman Musselman’s wife’s cousin.
Selectman Jenness addressed. She said that the four year working agreement provides for no increase in compensation. The details all remain the same. This is a permanent, part-time position. The two of us are in agreement that this is a good step. Selectman Winslow moved that the agreement be accepted as written. Selectman Jenness seconded. Both were in favor.
Selectman Musselman read the email. It referred to a dog having been shot and killed in the Town Forest. It said that the issue of a leash law had been set aside before due to the vocal opposition of a minority of residents, and that the “Live Free or Die” motto applies to persons, not dogs. It said that most unleashed dogs on the beach are not under control, and that their owners are often 100 yards away and do not know or care where their dogs are defecating.
Selectman Musselman noted that such laws have been proposed as recently as last year. The meeting was packed with owners who love dogs and the language was changed such that the leashes were eliminated. It is probably the most contentious issue in the community. There were two incidents this past year, one the shooting, and the other regarding a dog caught in a trap on private property, with the owner also complaining about trespassing on their land to release the dog. That was next to the Town Forest. We have no warrant article prepared, but Police Chief Kevin Walsh has come prepared with a proposed ordinance.
Chief Walsh said that he had met with the Animal Control Officer. He said that dogs should be leashed as that is the one way that the owner can control the dog. He spoke about the Town Forest incident, which actually occurred in the Recreation Area, as well as one at Wallis Rd. Extension where two dogs “went at it” as one dog was exiting a vehicle. A lot of the officers’ time has been put into this dog fight. It’s difficult to have an owner found guilty in court for not having a dog not under control. At one point he and another officer were dealing with two dog bites when a third officer had to handle a burglary call and an outside agency had to be called in to assist. A lot of people that the police are dealing with are not from Rye.
Selectman Musselman asked whether the proposed ordinance would apply to beaches, other public land, or dogs on someone else’s private property.
Chief Walsh said that it would apply on public, but not private, property. If there are dog bites on private property the police will deal with that, he said.
Selectman Musselman clarified that his question related to the property of someone other than that of the dog owner.
Chief Walsh said that that was up to the property owner. They are exposing themselves to a civil complaint if the person has a right to be there, for example in the case of a delivery person.
Selectman Winslow asked whether it would be OK if a dog went on private property.
Chief Walsh said that it was only OK if the dog was welcome there.
Selectman Musselman asked whether that was part of the ordinance.
Chief Walsh said that it was because the dog would be going from public property to private property.
Selectman Musselman said that it was not a straightforward issue because ordinances that conflict would need to be changed. I’m a dog owner and dog lover but I’ve reached a point. I supported restrictions at the beach last year. What happened at the Deliberative Session last year would likely happen again. We probably need a leash law. It is the most unpopular thing in Rye, he said.
In response to a question from Selectman Jenness, Chief Walsh said that Parsons Field, the Rec. Area and the Town Forest have seen an uptick from people that used to use places like Pierce Island that has been closed for some time for construction. He was unable to estimate the percentage of dogs that are from out of town.
Selectman Musselman noted the need for redrafting by Town Counsel to specify with more clarity the places where the ordinance applies. This is a broader ordinance than last year, he said. If it’s needed it is needed as much in the Town Forest as at the beach. People might be happier if it applied inland, but not at the beach, he said.
Selectman Winslow said that it was best for the ordinance to go to the voters of the town for them to make a decision. Chief Walsh agreed.
Frank Drake asked whether the Selectmen could enact a temporary ordinance that would be in effect until the next election.
Selectman Musselman said that they have the ability to do that, but have not been so brazen on controversial issues.
It was agreed that the Town Attorney would work on a draft of the article for the meeting on January 22.
Editor’s note: Click here to see the report on Breakfast Hill Landfill water quality.
Click here to see the report on surface water sampling results (note the apparent typo on the date of the letter, which should be 2018).
Selectman Musselman recused himself from the Board of Selectmen to make a presentation to them as the Town’s consulting engineer. Editor’s note: CMA Engineers is Selectman Musselman’s firm.
Selectman Musselman displayed a poster board and pointed to portions of it. May 2017 was the first sampling date of PFCs. Editor’s note: PFCs stands for perfluorinated compounds. The drinking water standard is 70 nanograms per liter or parts per trillion, for either PFOA or PFOS or a combination of the two. There was one sample at 9, but two wells on site were at 74 and 82 combined. The off-site well, NW10, was 68. DES requested samples from two private wells. These were non-detect. The results were different in the latest sample. The well that had been 9 was now 13. The on-site wells were down, one from 82 to 46, and the other from 74 to 73. The off-site well was substantially lower, at 18, down from 68.
In response to a question from Selectman Winslow, Selectman Musselman referred to “not unusual” chloride levels at Breakfast Hill, believed to be from road salt.
Selectman Musselman referred to research indicating that levels of 1000 parts per trillion of PFCs are not unusual for lined landfills that are being rained on. These are much lower than that, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that these levels indicate that the contamination is coming from the Breakfast Hill Landfill. Similar levels are being seen at the Grove Rd. Landfill. Editor’s note: The Breakfast Hill Landfill is located in Rye, on the town line, between Route 1 and the Bethany Church. The Coakley Landfill is further southwest, and not in Rye. The Grove Rd. Landfill is in Rye, across Grove Rd. from the Transfer Station.
Selectman Musselman said that statewide and nationwide, Rye is at the tip of the iceberg in terms of figuring out and evaluating the impact of very low concentrations of these chemicals and their public health implications.
Selectman Musselman displayed a second poster board about surface water. He referred to a State Senator and a State Representative having referred to PFOS contamination in Berry’s Brook at a Board of Selectmen meeting. Editor’s note: At the September 25, 2017 meeting, State Senator Dan Innis stated that the third highest level of PFCs in the world had been found in Berry’s Brook. At the October 23, 2017 meeting, former State Representative and Doctor Tom Sherman, who was on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster Task Force, appointed by Governor Hassan, also referred to PFCs in Berry’s Brook at Sagamore Rd.
Selectman Musselman said that he had looked for State DES surface water and none was available. He then asked the Town Administrator to address whether that was a public safety and health issue. Mr. Magnant then talked with the other two Selectmen, who decided to authorize a “very, very brief sampling program.” Selectman Musselman referred to sampling at Lang Rd., Sagamore Rd. and Brackett Rd. which are all fairly pristine. The first sample was taken just south of the roundabout at Foyes Corner, the second at an unnamed brook that flows under Brackett Rd. next to Clark, and the third at “Long John Marsh” and Brackett Rd. Two other sampling stations were tested, one on Cedar Swamp Run at West Rd. and samples were taken at Lang Rd. and Sagamore Rd. The results were interesting. The three drainage basins were all below detection levels for perfluorinated compounds. The one at West Rd. had a level that was a couple of parts per quadrillion above the detection level. At Lang Rd. and Sagamore Rd., the levels were 10 and 12 parts per trillion of PFOA.
The upshot of this is that what was said about perfluorinated compounds in surface waters is true. There are very low concentrations, he said. We likely do not have an industrial source causing atmospheric deposition in the Seacoast area. There is nothing there that indicates a public safety issue, he said.
Victor Azzi asked how samples were taken for ground water monitoring. He asked about the depth of the wells and how samples are taken in the lens of ground water that is flowing.
Selectman Musselman said that wells were driven with the help of a hydrogeologist. They hit ground water and kept going, he said. These wells are not at multiple levels. At other sites there is sampling at multiple levels. The samples have been taken from wells that are 15 or so years old and have been capped and locked. Samples from private wells are also taken. These are often from outdoor spigots. Selectman Musselman provided further description in response to follow-on questions from Mr. Azzi.
Selectman Musselman said that they have a budget request from the Library of $655,289. The Budget Committee met and voted on that. Staff have provided two numbers, the former number and $648,687. At this time it is necessary for the Selectmen to make a recommendation so that the Budget Committee can deal with that next Tuesday, he said.
Phil Winslow noted that there are two issues. The 2% COLA increase is obviously accepted. Editor’s note: COLA stands for cost of living adjustment. This budget would bring four employees up to mid-range. He asked whether there was any element of the budget that is a performance pool.
Library Director Andy Richmond responded that there was a one and half percent increase for merit over 39 weeks. That amounts to $4242, he said. He and Chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, Karen Oliver, stated that the merit increases would be given to only those employees who earn them.
Selectman Musselman asked why the Selectman had not seen a plan. He said that their interest was in treating employees equally. The town does not have performance bonuses. There is a concern with the Library giving these. He asked whether these were raises or one-time bonuses.
The response of Karen Oliver was that they would be raises. She referred to 2 percent for COLA and 1.5 percent for merit.
Selectman Musselman said that town employees are not getting 3.5 percent.
Mr. Richmond pointed out that town employees stand to get 10-11 percent from step increases.
Selectman Musselman pointed out that that is “gone” for all Town and Library employees. Editor’s note: Step increases are typically available only for employees in their first ten or so years of service. However, there are other increases in the town’s compensation plan for these longer term employees.
Karen Oliver read a letter that she had drafted. Editor’s note: The letter is available at Click Here. She referred to the Library budget having been tabled on November 13 and the multiple subsequent occasions on which the Library Trustees had attended Board of Selectmen meetings to address the issue of their budget. The letter states that the Library Trustees are elected by the citizens to oversee the Library, including its finances, personnel practices, compensation plans and operations. Editor’s note: See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) 202-A:6 (library trustees have custody and management of all property of the town relating to the library, including over appropriations). Each member takes an oath of office to be responsible to all of the citizens, not just the Selectmen, the letter says. The Selectmen do not have line by line control. Formulating the Library’s budget is the responsibility and duty of the RPL Trustees. The Trustees spend part of every monthly meeting examining the Library’s financial reports and determining compliance with the budget. At the November 13 Selectmen’s meeting, the compensation studies by Thornton on both the town and library were reviewed. Contrary to what was heard from the Selectmen at that meeting, the majority of the Town’s 19 employees are compensated at or above the 75th percentile. “In light of this, RPL Trustees being taken to task (not to mention the manner in which it was done) for the level of its employees’ compensation is both puzzling and troubling.” Community size is only one of the compensation considerations, the letter says. The cost of living in Rye and the expectations of Library patrons are also vital considerations. RPL has much higher participation levels than many larger towns. “As Trustees, we take our fiduciary duty to the taxpayers and library patrons to heart every day.” The letter states that the Thornton studies show that many library and non-library town staffs use performance- or merit-based compensation systems. The performance-based increase pool was reduced to 1.5 percent vs. 3 percent in the prior submission. Selectman Jenness suggested using the coming year to prove the concept of the performance increase and the Trustees reflected on this. The letter concluded by asking for approval of the $655,289 budget request.
Selectman Musselman said that they had read the letter. Editor’s note: It has not, however, been attached to any of the minutes of meetings of the Selectmen between the date of the letter and January 8, 2018.
Karen Oliver said that they wanted to make it part of the record.
Selectman Winslow asked how many people had been lost in recent years and whether the Library had had trouble attracting new employees.
Andy Richmond said that the only loss was due to death. Editor’s note: Tricia Quinn died in late 2016. He said that the only hire had been a student who had not been hired in a professional capacity, but had the potential to grow into that. It was a salary that was fair, but they are looking to increase it.
Selectman Winslow said that it did not appear that the Library was having trouble attracting or retaining employees, which was the reason given for the 1.5 percent merit increases. This could be a precedent for town employees.
Library Trustee Victor Azzi said that both the town and library employees get COLA, but the town employees also get step increases. After those, they get longevity increases. They are growing their salaries whether or not there is any improvement in their performance. At least we are providing for Library employees to be evaluated based on their performance, he said.
Selectman Jenness said that they thought that they would have the salary plan by now. For me, it has to be the $648,000 figure until there is a written salary plan, she said.
There was discussion of where that figure came from. Selectman Musselman said that it was Cyndi Gillespie’s calculation of what the budget would be with only two percent COLA increases. He said that the Library should come back with a plan and be able to show how it is consistent with what they have negotiated with town employees, rather than just talking about three and seven year steps and longevity pay.
Library Trustee Brian Klinger said that they do not want to wait until they lose people. If they have an unfair situation they want to address it now. We feel that we need experience before developing the compensation plan. We followed Selectman Jenness’ suggestion. Last year’s budget was $673,573. This year’s $655,289 is a two percent reduction even with the 1.5 percent test compensation pool, he said.
Selectman Winslow pointed out that all departments are benefiting from a reduction in health insurance costs. The Library has a $27,000 reduction in that item. If you add that back in then there is an increase in the budget, he said.
Selectman Musselman made a motion that they recommend $648,687 and that the Library Trustees be asked to come back with their formulated plan for next year. Selectman Jenness seconded.
Mr. Klinger asked whether that figure eliminated both the merit pool and the funds to bring the four employees to parity.
Selectman Musselman did not disagree, did not answer the question, but reiterated the need for a plan.
Mr. Klinger asked whether they could come back and ask for a supplementary appropriation.
Selectman Musselman said that there is no such thing.
Mr. Klinger said that he knew that and pointed out that four employees were being punished.
Selectman Musselman raised his voice and said that they were not punishing anyone, that they were not bringing everyone up to median in the town. That would be a knee jerk reaction. He said that bringing the employees up to the median would, from a personnel standpoint, be “silly.” We don’t do that on the basis of a survey that comes back, we do that based on performance, qualifications and experience.
Mr. Klinger asked him to say that one more time.
Selectman Musselman said that “we do it on the basis of qualifications and experience and uh, and, and, and uh, performance evaluation.”
Mr. Klinger said that that sounds like what they’re trying to do already.
Selectman Jenness said that they were only setting the bottom line. We’re just explaining how we arrived at that. That doesn’t mean that you have to follow that, she said.
Frank Drake said that the difference was about $6600 and asked questions of the Library Trustees. Karen Allen pointed out that there was a period of three years during which there were no increases. Mr. Klinger said that, the past three years, the only increases had been the 2 percent COLA.
Library Trustee Karen Allen asked how much the total was for bringing the four employees to the median.
Library Director Richmond was unable to answer.
Selectman Winslow said that he calculated it at only $2360. He said that that money could be saved elsewhere in the budget and people could still be increased to midrange.
Library Trustee Karen Oliver indicated that she was risking the Selectmen’s wrath, but asked how what the Library does affects what the Selectmen do in terms of compensation.
Selectman Musselman said that the issue had come up the prior year. You were proposing something, although you didn’t know it, that was very sensitive issue in union negotiations that we were not going to give. We didn’t describe that then and we can’t describe that now. We need the details of your plan so we can describe a rationale to others that it is in sync. We do not want to create a town-wide budget problem, he said.
Mae Bradshaw said that she had spent time talking with the Library chair in Durham. They are losing employees because of the parity problem. She spoke about the risk of waiting until employees had been lost before addressing the issue.
Selectman Jenness spoke about union employees that had been lost in prior years after they had been trained.
Frank Drake said that this hullabaloo had been gone through 10-15 years earlier. As a taxpayer I am sympathetic to the need for a rationale, he said. He warned about setting an expectation of 1.5 percent increases every year.
In response to a question from Selectman Winslow, Library Director Richmond said that the $2360 could be covered elsewhere in the budget.
All were in favor of the motion to recommend $648,687.
Harbor Rd. bridge $75,000 (109:55 elapsed)
Selectman Winslow recused himself. Editor’s note: He lives on Harbor Rd., on the far side of this bridge. Selectman Jenness moved to approve. Selectman Musselman seconded. Both were in favor.
Stormwater management, $30,000 (111:14 elapsed)
Town Administrator Magnant said that the Selectmen had wanted the article reworded to emphasize that there was no cost. Selectman Musselman noted that that had been done. The motion to recommend and place the warrant article carried unanimously.
Budget warrant article (112:07 elapsed)
Selectman Musselman said that the number is $9,186,273. He also referred to a figure of $8,789,573. Editor’s note: That is the figure for the default budget.
Town Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie noted that it is $396,700 less. Most of that was in capital. Editor’s note: Both capital outlay and debt service are down substantially. As a contractual commitment that is going away, the debt service would be subtracted from the prior year’s budget to arrive at the default budget. Capital outlay items are typically one-time items that also must be subtracted when arriving at the default budget. The motion to recommend the warrant article carried unanimously.
Selectman Musselman read the warrant article, which provides $624,800 for the purchase of a 3.71 acre parcel of land and the former TD Bank building. The appropriation includes related purchase costs, first year operating costs and renovation expenditures. He asked whether the Selectmen wanted to do a bond article, which would incur $100,000 more in interest expense over ten years and would require a 60 percent vote, or save the money and need only a 50 percent vote.
Selectman Jenness asked about the impact of the tax rate. Ms. Gillespie said that it would be 25 cents and 3 cents for the bond. On a $600,000 home it would be an additional $151.82, she said.
Selectman Musselman asked whether there was any comment from the public on the issue.
Mae Bradshaw asked about the possibility of putting the Trolley Barn on the market as a possible sweetener.
Selectman Musselman said that that is a separate warrant article that they have already voted to place. It is not a money warrant article. There is no estimate of the proceeds. We would need to go through the procurement process to determine that, as it is a fairly unique property, he said.
Peter Crawford said that he was torn and not sure how he was going to vote on the article when it comes before the Budget Committee. He said that he had run some numbers. It looks like the school tax rate is going to be up around 7 cents, the town would be up another 30 cents if this was not bond financed. The town would be flat if it is bond financed. Mr. Crawford said that he had made some assumptions as to revenues that could turn out to be off. Editor’s note: Revenues, including the amount, if any, that the Selectmen vote to apply from prior year surpluses towards reducing the tax rate, are not determined until the tax rate is set in October or November of each year. The appropriations, however, are determined by the Town Meeting in March and do not change even if the Selectmen know that some appropriations will not be spent. The appropriations minus the revenues are then divided by the town-wide assessed valuation to determine the tax rate. Mr. Crawford said that the town is coming off of a 7 percent taxation increase last year, which was a pretty serious increase. Editor’s note: the tax rate actually went down, but only because the town-wide assessed valuation was up approximately 13 percent. Those whose assessments increased in line with the 13 percent average saw a 7 percent increase in their tax bills. Mr. Crawford said that he thinks that it would be tough to get 60 percent vote. He said that he would like to see this done in conjunction with a Charette. The price is good at $540,000, but until we decide what we want to do as a town, the property should be set aside and we should not start with the renovations. The property could be sold in a year, he said.
Selectman Winslow moved that the warrant article be done on a one year basis. Selectman Jenness seconded. All were in favor. The motion to rescind the prior warrant article for a bond to purchase the TD Bank building carried unanimously.
Selectman Musselman referred to this as the “Loftus” article and read the article. It provides $3,048,077, to be raised through bond financing, for building a new Town Hall on its current site, and to raze the old Town Hall. It provides for constructing the design proposed by Rye resident John Loftus and Schaeffer & White, architects. Schaeffer & White would be retained to provide the construction documents, with input from Mr. Loftus, who would not accept any remuneration for his work. Competitive bids would be obtained for the physical construction per the construction documents. The article states that a 60 percent vote is required.
Selectman Musselman said that it is unusual for a warrant article to specify a particular design professional. That said, these people have helped John Loftus without being paid so he is not suggesting that it be removed. However, the issue should be run by counsel.
Mae Bradshaw asked, as a citizen, how the designer would be vetted. She said that while it was said that the firm had not been paid, she understands that there has been fund raising and that she assumes that some of those funds were paid to the architect.
Frank Drake said that the architect has been paid a little. Nobody on the “gang of four” has been compensated, he said. Editor’s note: Based on the proponents of this option that have been most involved, and who have been attending information sessions, it appears that Mr. Drake may be referring to himself, Mr. Loftus, Joe Tucker and Ann Malpass, however that is not certain.
Selectman Musselman said that he doesn’t think that Rye taxpayers are going to vote $3 million when they voted down $3 million and $4 million. Editor’s note: A 2015 warrant article for $4,100,000 to add a connected second building and renovate the existing Town Hall failed 837-575. Two 2017 warrant articles, one for $3,386,752 and the other for $3,200,000, the first to tear down and rebuild a replica of the existing Town Hall, and the second to renovate the existing Town Hall, both with small extensions beyond the existing building, failed 337-1227 and 340-1233 respectively. Secondly, Selectman Musselman said, there is an alternative in hand to spend 600-some odd thousand dollars to buy the bank which deals with part of the staff. Renovating this building to provide for the remainder of the staff. Both would not add up to anything near $3 million. While we wouldn’t end up with Class A office space, we haven’t had that since people were working out of their houses. I think that we should not recommend this, he said.
Selectman Winslow said that it would be very confusing to the voters to recommend this as well as the TD Bank article. It can’t be one or both. It must be one or the other, he said.
Selectman Jenness said that TD Bank solves all of the problems. We would have the office space and the historical space to renovate. I wouldn’t recommend it either, she said.
Selectman Jenness made a motion to not recommend the warrant article. Selectman Winslow seconded. All were in favor.
Selectman Musselman read the petitioned warrant article, which provides for closing the hazardous intersection at the junction of Dow Ln. and Lafayette Rd., making it a dead end. It provides $60,000 for that purpose.
Police Chief Kevin Walsh said that they are waiting for a report to come back from the Rockingham Planning Commission. The digital sign/solar panel has been purchased. That will be erected. There have also been temporary posts installed. There is also a plan for reconfiguration of the intersection to slow the traffic down, he said.
Town Administrator Magnant said that a trial program had been agreed to and will occur in the spring. He said that the report from Rockingham Planning should arrive in the coming week.
Selectman Jenness said that a fair chance to try all of the plans had not been given. If we close all of the roads that might have speeders at some point we won’t have any roads left, she said.
Selectman Musselman made a motion not to recommend the article for the reasons that she laid out. Selectman Jenness seconded.
Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy said that he has a problem with creating dead ends, which inhibit traffic circulation. That is why they have funds in the article for a turnaround. I don’t think that all of the alternatives have been explored or tried. The flashing sign is effective, he said.
Selectman Musselman asked about the problem with the sign picking up traffic on Lafayette Rd.
Chief Walsh said that the sign picks up traffic at a certain distance and there is no way to change that. The sign will be strategically placed as close as possible to Route 1 but far enough back that there shouldn’t be a problem. The sign will be able to produce a report, he said.
Mr. McCarthy said that the $60,000 was a reasonable.
All were in favor of the motion not to recommend the article.
L-Chip Grant (136:11 elapsed)
Town Administrator Magnant said that a letter had been received indicating that the grant had been awarded. You have appropriated the money for the match. Now it is just a question of going for the town vote, he said. Editor’s note: In fact the Selectmen do not appropriate money, only the voters do. The appropriation does not occur until the town has voted. There are pretty much no strings attached, he said. He said that the Town had been upfront about the tear-down warrant article.
Selectman Musselman suggested that proposals be obtained for the historic structures report (HSR) so that they could hit the ground running in April, so that that work could be wrapped up in June in time for submitting a grant application. Editor’s note: This would apparently be for work to Town Hall recommended by the HSR report.
Mr. Magnant said that that makes a lot of sense and that he would get started on it the next day.
Selectman Musselman said that there was no vote to take yet, but that they were ready once it was clear that the voters are not going to knock the building down.
Mae Bradshaw asked whether they were accepting the grant, contingent on the Loftus article failing.
Selectman Musselman said that they were not doing that yet, but that is our intent, he said.
Storm response kudos (140:19 elapsed)
Town Adminstrator Magnant passed out kudos for the Fire, Police and DPW departments for all of the work that they had done related to the storm. There was snow, wind and a high tide, he said.
Adjournment (141:04 elapsed)
Whereupon the meeting adjourned at approximately 9:09 p.m.