NOTES OF OCTOBER 11, 2012 RYE BOARD OF SELECTMEN MEETING
Final Revision C – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present: Selectmen Jenness, Musselman and Mills. Also present: Michael Magnant and Cindi Gillespie.
Lee Arthur announced that Victoria Loring would be joining as administrative and programs assistant. She had previously worked for the Town of Rye with Ms. Arthur. Selectman Mills suggested that she needed to be checked out because of her willingness to come back after having previously working with Ms. Arthur. Laughter ensued.
Fire Chief Sullivan announced an open house on Sunday, October 14, 2012. The 1873 steamer “Eagle” will be present. He joked that Town Administrator Magnant was one of the first persons to be certified to use the equipment.
“Announcement” about new assessments
Selectman Mills spoke about the new assessments that had come out over the past week. He said that he had gone through sleepless nights over the issue. He is not faulting Town Assessor Norm LeBlond who was present in the audience, as a firm had been hired to do the work. Selectman Mills alleged that there were glaring mistakes. On one street with $1 million homes, an assessment had been lowered from $5 million to $4 million. In another case, the owner, who had paid $2 million for a shell in a recent transaction, had his assessment lowered to $1.6 million. He spoke of other properties that had risen in value. Thank God his assessment went up, Selectman Mills said.
Assessor LeBlond responded that the hearings started today.
Selectman Mills continued, stating that every place on Church Rd. went down in value. A lot that was $800,000 is now $400,000. Nothing had been done to it. He will never sign the purchase order to pay that company.
Mr. Mullaly, 237 Locke Rd., spoke. He said that his assessment had gone up $80,000. Nobody ever came to his house. Selectman Mills read off the before and after assessments of a number of properties from a list that he had. Two or three other taxpayers in the audience related their oppositions to the new assessments.
Assessor LeBlond said that values will change through the hearing process. There will not be $45 million in adjustments as there was in 2010. That year, more than 200 properties were adjusted. Sales on a particular road help to establish the value. Assessor LeBlond continued, stating that 34% of taxpayers had an increase of 5% or less. In general 1/3 are up, 1/3 down, and 1/3 have stayed the same.
Selectman Mills said that he had tried to get a non-public meeting, but this was not allowed. He could have had a meeting with Town Administrator Magnant and Assessor LeBlond, but that meeting could not have included the other Selectmen. He chose this forum so that the other Selectmen could hear what he had to say.
Selectman Musselman stated that there are meetings, then there’s a right to appeal assessments once the bills come out. They have a track record of treating these seriously. Once an abatement has been made the adjustment is permanent. Assessor LeBlond clarified that the adjustment lasts until the next update. Selectman Musselman stated that the State looks at the assessments, and if the Town is beyond certain parameters, they are ordered by the DRA to resolve the issue.
Assessor LeBlond spoke about the coefficient of dispersion. In 2010 it was 11, in 2011, 14. It will now be 6-7. The ratio will be 95-96%. Editor’s note: He is apparently referring to the equalization ratio, which is the average ratio of assessments to sale prices. Market value is theoretically equal to the assessment divided by the equalization ratio. An equalization ratio of 95% indicates that the average sale is for approximately 5 percent more than the assessment.
Selectman Mills asked where the Town will pick up the value. The tax rate will need to jump, he said, if the assessments are reduced. Assessor LeBlond questioned this, stating that, this year, assessments increased $9 million. Utility values are down $1.3 million as they used the DRA values. They hope to make this up next year. Editor’s note: the Selectmen discussed hiring a firm to do utility appraisals at their March 26, 2012 meeting.
Assessor LeBlond stated that this is a statistical update, not a revaluation. They remeasure based on sales over a two year period. After the second attempt to get into a property that has been sold they send a letter. If there is no response, they measure the outside. An exterior review was done of all of the approximately 2900 properties in Town.
Selectman Mills asserted that every house on Brackett Rd. is down. He turned to Peter Crawford, who was in the audience, and said that Mr. Crawford should be pleased that his assessment was down and read off the figures. Mr. Crawford responded that, while the data are correct, the reduction was accomplished in two steps. The first value cited was from two years before. Selectman Musselman suggested that there may be a problem with one of the columns on the spreadsheet that Selectman Mills was reading from.
Selectman Mills indicated that he has a feeling that the tax rate will need to go up. Assessor LeBlond questioned how that could be as the total valuation is up. Selectman Mills responded that the abatements would outweigh the increases. Assessor LeBlond stated that there was a $45 million hit in 2010. It won’t be close to that this time. Selectman Musselman said that they had approved every one. Some dropped by a lot.
Selectman Mills apologized to Assessor LeBlond for “taking it out” on him, but said that he “knew it was coming.” Selectman Jenness questioned whether that made it O.K.
The minutes of the September 24, 2012 meeting were approved with a minor change. The minutes of the non-public session on the same day were approved without change.
Southeast Regional Refuse Disposal District Contract discussions
Bud Jordan indicated that a committee consisting of Messrs. Hubbard, Walsh and McCarthy would be seeking options. Editors note: Mr. Walsh is Police Chief, Mr. McCarthy Public Works Director. Several companies have attempted to get the business but this has not been possible as the Southeast Regional District’s contract with Waste Management will not expire until June 1, 2015, Mr. Jordan said. The process is starting early, as a Town meeting and vote will be required.
Selectman Musselman expressed his views. The tipping fee is now $72 (apparently per ton). Salem has a contract with Waste Management for $64.50 and two other vendors have contracts for $60 and $56. In his experience, competitive bidding will be required to get the price down. It can’t be negotiated down. There are other disposal facilities closer than Rochester. Mr. Jordan referred to a transportation cost hurdle. Selectman Musselman replied that Haverhill is close. Selectman Musselman requested that the contract be put out for bid. That can be done in mid or late 2013.
Union sidebar agreement on health care deductible
It was announced that the unions are agreeable with a January 1, 2013 implementation of an increase in the deductible with Blue Cross Blue Shield from $500 to $2500. Employees will not be affected as the Town, rather than the insurance company, will pay medical costs as though the lower insurance deductible was in effect. This will apply to both union and non-union employees as the contract is Town-wide. Selectman Mills asked whether non-union employees needed to sign off on the new procedure. Town Administrator Magnant indicated that this was not necessary as it is within management’s right to institute the change. There’s been no objection as there’s no change except to the process. Claims will be brought to Cindi Gillespie to be paid. Ms. Gillespie stated that she had explained the process to 3-4 people, who were happy. Mr. Magnant indicated that both the Town and employee premiums would be reduced as a result. Selectman Musselman indicated that a $500 deductible does not make sense any more. A motion to approve the new process was approved unanimously.
Parsons Creek 319 Grant
Town Administrator Magnant indicated that there were two bidders on a contract relating to the bacterial load at Parsons Creek. They worked with the DES on this issue. A proposal has been received. The Selectmen unanimously authorized Mr. Magnant to negotiate the contract based on the proposal, and for Chairman Jenness to sign it.
Seacoast Half Marathon approved
Chief Walsh reported that the paperwork for this event is now in order. An unmet issue has now been addressed. The participants will come down Sagamore Rd. from Portsmouth. There will be 2 people at the traffic circle. Approval was unanimously granted for the November 11, 2012 event.
Removal of three trees approved
Public Works Director McCarthy stated that 10 hazardous trees have been identified, and 3 of these warrant removal at this time. Since every road in Rye is designated scenic pursuant to a vote of the Town Meeting, Town Meeting approval would normally be required to remove any trees. However, there is an exception for trees which constitute a hazard. The removal of these may be approved by the Selectmen, Mr. McCarthy said. This had not been done in the past, but will be done now that he has determined that every road is scenic. Notification of the owners is required, but they have no say regarding the removal of trees in the Town right of way. Permission to remove the three trees was unanimously granted.
Public Works Director McCarthy indicated that there were four bids for this work, plus another from Sturgis Concrete. They ranged from $6500 to $9850 for 210 feet of sidewalk adjacent to the Parsonage Apartments. Mr. McCarthy indicates that he plans to accept the low bid, and also add $400 to the contract for feeler plates to aid the handicapped. Selectman Mills indicated that this is the only sidewalk in Town that the Town is responsible for. Mr. McCarthy indicated that there is also the sidewalk in front of the Public Safety Building.
Selectman Mills indicated that this is a lot of money, suggesting that asphalt, as used on Cable Rd., or even gravel, would be less expensive. When someone stated that the sidewalk was to remain concrete due to historical reasons, Mr. McCarthy stated that there is nothing more historical than dirt. Selectman Musselman indicated that $31 per foot is a good price. Town Administrator Magnant indicated that $10,000 had been budgeted. Selectman Jenness indicated that the sidewalk replacement had resulted from a complaint from someone living in the Parsonage Apartments.
It was agreed that, since the low bid was being accepted, no formal vote was required.
Donation of Goss Farm Wagon and other issues relating to the Goss Farm
A letter of appreciation is being sent to Bud Jordan relating to his restoration of a wagon found in the barn at Goss Farm. It was asserted that the Conservation Commission owned the wagon because it was on the farm when the Commission acquired the property. While Mr. Jordan offered to donate the wagon, which he has restored, the Commission responded that he did not own it to begin with. However, the Commission appreciates him donating his time to restore the wagon.
The north side of the barn at the Goss Farm now has a beautiful green roof. The next step will be the foundation. Joey Cresta of the Portsmouth Herald wrote an article that was published on July 19 regarding the time donated by Mr. Jordan to restore the wagon. An IRS form will be provided to Mr. Jordan for his donated time and material.
There was then discussion regarding a Moosehead grant for the Goss Farm. Mr. Raynes of the Conservation Commission stated that the Board of Selectmen must sign it first. According to Mr. Magnant, it will then go to the governor and the executive council.
Donation of Five police radios
After Town Administrator Magnant indicated that the radios had a value of more than $5000, Selectman Jenness indicated that a public hearing would be required, which would be held at the Selectmen’s meeting a week from Monday. Selectman Mills asked whether the radios had been received, which Chief Walsh confirmed. Selectman Mills suggested that they not be used until after the hearing.
At Chief Walsh’s request the yield signs at Central Rd. Spur and Central Rd. were unanimously approved.
Diane Bitter request for candidates table at dump, discussion of Rye Civic League solicitation at dump
Ms. Bitter had written a letter requesting a table to meet with candidates on October 20. After Selectman Musselman confirmed that Mr. McCarthy had no objection to this, Selectman Musselman suggested that the permission be provided to the candidates and not to Ms. Bitter. He stated that it is traditional for candidates to campaign at the Recycling Center.
Mr. McCarthy stated that there is a free speech zone up near the fence which must be used unless he specifically approves otherwise. The attendants try to keep people up there as it slows people down otherwise. Cars are blocked when the drivers stop.
Selectman Mills spoke about the Rye Civic League having solicited signatures for petitioned warrant articles to “make us more transparent.” Turning to Peter Crawford, who was in the audience, Selectman Mills said: “right, Peter.” Mr. Crawford replied that he didn’t know as he wasn’t part of the Civic League at that time. Selectman Mills responded that it was Messrs. Herlihy and Borne who were involved.
Mr. McCarthy indicated that having people up near the fence makes it difficult to “hit” everyone as not everyone stops.
Selectman Jenness referred to a “safety issue.” Selectman Mills interjected, “especially with the Civic League.”
Kittery flagpole memorializing 50th anniversary of the Thresher sinking
It was announced that a letter had been received indicating that a 129 foot flagpole in Kittery Circle would be installed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the April 10, 1963 sinking of the nuclear submarine Thresher with the loss of 129 crew. Many of the crew were residents of neighboring towns. Selectman Musselman indicated that a fair number of Rye residents died in that sinking. After inquiring as to the availability of budget, Selectman Musslman moved to approve a $200 contribution and a link on the Town web site. The motion carried unanimously.
Correspondence from Eric Spear regarding donor towns
A letter thanking the Town of Rye for continuing to monitor the property tax issue was received from Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear. Selectman Musselman indicated that their entire legislative delegation had voted against recent legislation that would have been favorable to Rye and other potential donor towns. Selectman Mills indicated that since “it” was in the rate, it could be brought back. Editor’s note: This is an apparent reference to the state portion of the property tax rate. That portion is theoretically a statewide education tax that goes to the state to be divvied up among the State’s cities and towns. In practice, Rye and other potential donor Towns keep the money and apply it towards education. Selectman Jenness also agreed that donor towns could come back.
Selectman Musselman indicated that this was done during the announcements. Selectman Mills reiterated his displeasure with the $1.6 million assessment for a property bought for $2 million as a shell.
There was a discussion about the beach signs, an issue that arose at the prior meeting on September 24, 2012. Editor’s note: the question was whether the current practice of removing certain of the signs during the winter should continue. One of the signs refers to surfing being prohibited between flags, raising the possibility of confusion if there are no flags. Mr. McCarthy stated that it should be obvious that if there are no flags, as is the case after the season ends, that surfing is permitted everywhere. After Mr. McCarthy indicated that some signs might be lost over the winter if they remain posted, Town Administrator Magnant suggested, apparently in jest, that a sign be posted saying “don’t steal the signs.” Selectman Musselman, also apparently in jest, asserted that that was a “fine idea.”
Pit bull incident
Selectman Mills referred to a pit bull incident at Cable Rd. extension, on the beach, that was publicized in the paper. Selectman Musselman indicated that the police had taken care of this, that it wasn’t the Selectmens’ business.
Trench across driveway on Brackett Rd.
Selectman Mills referred to an attorney’s letter indicating a problem with a trench having been dug across a driveway on Brackett Rd., causing flooding. He asserted that it sounds like it is in the Town right of way. Selectman Musselman asserted that the letter referred to a “squabble between neighbors,” and the issue was dropped.
Letter from Jack Driscoll regarding repair on Breakers Rd.
Selectman Jenness read the letter into the record. Public Works Director McCarthy indicated that they have been working at this location all week with the State, getting great cooperation. Editor’s note: for further details, see the notes of the September 24, 2012 meeting relating to the Ocean Blvd. drain line. There is agreement that the State and Rye systems are tied together. Pumping down has been proceeding for two days. Repairs have not started yet. State Senator Nancy Stiles deserves real credit. They’re meeting a lot of people from the State Division 6 and getting a comfort factor between the groups.
Mr. McCarthy stated that NH DOT is in worse shape than the Town. The funding is 1/3 of what is needed. The state has only one vacuum truck, which is located in Coos County. The State is gun shy about making commitments.
Selectman Musselman brought this issue up. He indicated that, in connection with another legal matter they had talked about “PVT” appearing on signs for private roads. Mr. McCarthy indicated that the Town that he was previously with had a separate color for these signs, which also bore the notation “PVT.” Selectman Musselman indicated that the signs are needed for safety reasons even if the road is private.
Budget wrap-up and warrant articles
There are 3 operating budgets that still need to be completed, plus a capital issue for Recreation. Editor’s note: the issue is apparently expansion of the parking lot at the Recreation area and whether there would still be sufficient space for an additional baseball diamond. Then there are the warrant articles. Selectman Jenness indicated that this could be done as part of the next meeting. Selectman Musselman indicated that this could be done as long as there were no long announcements (apparently referring to Selectman Mills long discussion of the new assessments at the start of this meeting). Selectman Musselman indicated that there would not be any warrant articles except budgetary.
After Selectman Mills asked Peter Crawford about Rye Civic League petitioned warrant articles, Mr. Crawford indicated that he believed that there would be some individuals submitting warrant articles, but that the Rye Civic League does not sponsor warrant articles. Last year, the Selectmen were sent with a letter from the Rye Civic League with the petitions but the Civic League did not take a position. Mr. Crawford asked whether there was a date by which petitioned warrant articles with a budgetary impact must be submitted. Selectman Musselman responded that these can go in late as a matter of right. However, if they are to be reviewed by the Budget Committee or the Selectman, which is preferred, they need to be submitted in November or December.