NOTES OF NOVEMBER 25, 2013 RYE BOARD OF SELECTMEN MEETING
Final Revision B – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present: Selectmen Jenness, Musselman and Mills. Also present: Mike Magnant. Not present: Cyndi Gillespie
Persons present from the public included: Peter Crawford, Sam Winebaum, Tom Farrelly, Devin Farrelly, Steve Hillman, Katy Sherman, Lori Carbajal, Keith Eveland
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 begins at 6:35:51 p.m.
Announcements (0:00 elapsed)
Selectman Mills spoke about two site walks earlier that day. He also announced the annual holiday parade, Sunday, December 8 at 1:00 p.m.
Minutes (1:02 elapsed)
The minutes of the October 30, 2013 Budget Work Session were approved unanimously after a change. The minutes of the November 13, 2013 meeting were unanimously approved with significant changes to a paragraph relating to the Harbor Rd. Bridge. The minutes of the November 13, 2013 non-public session were unanimously approved without changes.
Wendy Lull, President of the Seacoast Science Center introduced Brain Fitzgerald who is a Rye resident and on their board, as well as Ashley Stokes who will be the coordinator for the hotline.
Ms. Lull announced that the Seacoast Science Center would be taking over marine mammal protection from the New England Aquarium in Boston, effective January 1, 2014. The number for the hotline will be 603-997-9448. Rye is second only to Hampton in seal sightings reported in New Hampshire. It is a crime to alter seal behavior in any way. Even making a noise and having a seal look at you is technically illegal.
Seals are typically born in mid-May, spend 2 ½ to 3 weeks with their mothers and are then on their own. A healthy seal will assume a banana shape on land. Their head will be above the sand. Dead or sick seals should be reported to the hotline. But, seals spend half of their time out of water, so a seal on land is not cause for alarm.
The seal population is robust, Ms. Stokes reported. Selectman Jenness asked whether that would be attracting more sharks. Ms. Lull responded that more data was needed on that.
In terms of dead seals, the freshly dead are sent to Quincy for a necropsy. The responsibility for disposal of seals that have been dead for a time falls upon the Town. Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy confirmed that these are buried deep in the “pet cemetery” landfill on Grove Rd.
The discussion then turned to the signs relating to marine mammals requested at beach access points. Mr. McCarthy agreed that if they supplied the signs, Public Works would put them up. The motion to approve installation of the signs carried unanimously.
Webster at Rye link (24:59 elapsed)
The request for a link under Senior Serve on the Town website was unanimously approved.
Ted Merritt addressed the issue of the contract. The Mosquito Control Commission strongly recommends the reappointment of Dragon Mosquito Control, despite its having submitted a bid of $91,400 which was $7000 above the competing bid of Swamp. Mr. Merritt stated that Dragon had done a good job and came in well under budget the last 5 years. There has been no street spraying the last 3 years. Editor’s note: Although not addressed, it appears that the deletion of street spraying, rather than Dragon having charged less than its bid, was the reason for being under budget.
With regard to ticks, while Swamp feels that their spraying controls ticks, Dragon does not make this assertion. There are some complaints about ticks in Town, Mr. Merritt acknowledged. He also stated that both outfits use the same chemical.
There was discussion about Swamp having had the contract a number of years earlier. Selectman Musselman stated that he had been on the Commission at the time of the transition to Dragon and agreed that there had been problems with Swamp. Mr. Merritt stated that Swamp’s proposal had improved from prior years. Selectman Musselman then stated that he was inclined to agree to award the contract to Dragon this year, but in the future they may want to consider saving $7000 to $20,000 by going with a different vendor with performance controls in place.
The motion to approve the award of the contract to Dragon carried unanimously.
Finance Assistant job description (38:39 elapsed)
Town Administrator Magnant stated that he felt that the additional position was justified. Selectman Jenness stated that Cyndi Gillespie had taken on more and more on herself, including a huge survey of Town Halls the prior year. Town Administrator Magnant stated that it was a waste to have Ms. Gillespie doing data entry. She has been with the Town for well over a decade.
Selectman Jenness suggested that the word “accurately” be added to the job description.
Joe Cummins, speaking from the audience, asked about the fiscal impact. Mr. Magnant stated that it was 25 hours per week, perhaps $25,000 total.
Selectmen’s Meeting schedule for 2014 (43:32 elapsed)
It was noted that the October 14, 2014 meeting constitutes a conflict for Selectman Jenness with a Planning Board meeting. Selectman Musselman suggested that they adopt the schedule and make the change later. The motion to approve the schedule carried unanimously.
Holiday schedule for 2014 (45:39 elapsed)
The motion to approve the holiday schedule carried unanimously after it was noted that the Police and Fire Departments do not get the Friday after Thanksgiving off.
Editor’s note: See the notes of the October 15, 2013, October 28, 2013 and July 22, 2013 meetings for background on the ongoing complaints by Ms. Morrissey.
Ms. Morrissey spoke about Alliance having retained all of the MB Management employees and an additional management firm having been hired to oversee the other management firm. She asserted that this is a change in name only, as the same employees are there.
Ms. Morrissey stated that an offer had been made to her to move into a larger apartment at the same rent, or to reduce her rent on the existing apartment that she occupies to make it more equitable.
This is the fifth change in the management company, even though Marty Chapman downplayed the disruption at the July 22, 2013 meeting, she said. Ms. Morrissey stated that things had been done to the building since July, but her concerns have not been addressed.
Ms. Morrissey then asked to read a letter.
The letter, as read, related to the honesty and integrity of Town employees. It asserted that Ms. Morrissey had been asked to leave the Town Hall on October 23 and 24 apparently for disturbing the peace. It related certain interactions with Town Administrator Magnant and Town Finance Director Gillespie. The letter stated that Ms. Morrissey’s grandfather had been president of Stoneleigh College and her father, Judge Morris, had been the first judge of the Rye District Court, holding court in the very room in which they now sat. She had worked for many hours for no money setting up the Sewer Department and taught reading at the Rye Elementary School.
Ms. Morrissey characterized the incidents as an attempt to humiliate and disgrace a 73 year old woman with major medical issues. The letter asked that Mr. Magnant and Ms. Gillespie be reprimanded and their positions at Town Hall reviewed. The letter continued by stating that her having raised her voice on one occasion was not grounds for being asked to leave the Town Hall under police escort.
Immediately after the letter had been read, Selectman Mills related that he had been fined by Judge Morris for speeding on Central Rd. after Officer Fernald had been hiding in the bushes. Selectman Mills quipped that he had been asked to leave a lot of places.
Ms. Morrissey stated that all she was trying to do was get equitable rent and get the bugs to stop biting her. Selectman Mills stated that they are working on the rent. Selectman Mills asserted Ms. Morrissey that Town Administrator Magnant had been working very diligently on the issue.
Ms. Morrissey stated that she did not trust anyone any more. She added that she trusted Selectman Mills, who she had known all her life, and that she also trusted Priscilla.
Selectman Mills stated “… if they said it, I apologize, okay, but it must have been a real bad day for both of them to act that way.” Town Administrator Magnant pushed his chair back and softly said no, no. Selectman Musselman, who had had appeared upset and had been twiddling his pen in his lap, dropped it on the table, turned and looked sternly at Selectman Mills. Selectman Mills then asked him to speak, to which Selectman Musselman responded that he had nothing to say, and suggested that they move on to the next item.
Joe Cummins, speaking from the audience, asked whether the Town’s insurance covered the Town for defamation or slander. Selectman Mills responded that it did.
Selectman Jenness stated that she had known all of the people involved for a very long time. She feels that it became too much of an emotional issue. She suggested that Ms. Morrissey be patient. She would find that the people at Town Hall are working on the issue.
Ms. Morrissey stated that she is willing to be patient but that she did not intend to continue being abused.
Selectman Musselman asked whether Ms. Morrissey had pursued the new apartment or a monetary break on her existing apartment that she had referred to earlier. These sounded like olive branches, he said. Ms. Morrissey responded that the apartment had been offered first to a woman with MS, and that Ms. Morrissey had declined it for that reason. With regard to the lower rent, it was presented as a possibility, but everything needs to go through Marty Chapman, she said. Selectman Musselman stated that it sounded like they were trying to resolve the issue and suggested that she call them and try to reach a resolution.
There was then discussion about the effect of the existing lease that Ms. Morrissey had signed and whether Ms. Morrissey was required to pay the stated rent for the duration of the lease.
Mr. Magnant stated that he had been in touch with Mr. Chapman. The Housing Partnership has hired a new property management company which is replacing the other one, he understands. A rent analysis is underway. They are looking at charging a rent that is based on the amount of space. He will put the Housing Partnership on the agenda for December 9.
Mr. Magnant then looked upset and stated that he would not defend against the allegations regarding him. However, he would defend Cyndi Gillespie. She has been with the Town for 13 years and you could not ask for a more loyal, hard working person. One would find no complaints from the public in her personnel file. She bends over backwards to help anyone who walks in the door. Selectman Musselman stated that she is honest, courteous and patient. Ms. Morrissey interrupted, saying that that had nothing to do with me and her treatment of me. Mr. Magnant stated that he did not believe that Ms. Gillespie would have taken the action alleged had she not been forced to do so.
Ms. Morrissey responded that she would bring over a stack of letters from New Hampshire Superior Court judges that had been written about her. She stated that she would not have written the letter if it was not true. Judge Morris did not raise her to be a liar, she said.
Letter from Jeff Latimer regarding bicycling and walking ordinances (73:19 elapsed)
Selectman Mills said that the letter was quite lengthy and proposed that it be attached to the minutes. All were in favor.
Selectman Musselman stated that he had one comment. There is an assertion that keeps coming up that it is illegal to walk side by side with a child. That is incorrect. This is permissible if one of the persons is off of the roadway. However, both cannot walk in the right of way, he said.
Sam Winebaum, 52 Cable Rd., stated that he had obtained the letter and had read it. He asserted that the point of the letter is that Rye should think about becoming pedestrian and bike friendly. The issue of a better environment for pedestrians and bicyclists has not really been tackled. Complete streets should be looked at. Speed limits should be lower, he said.
Devin Farrelly stated that there is now a lot more traffic in Rye. Driving north from Perkins Rd. to Locke Rd., there is parking on both sides of Route 1A. The speed limit is 35 going north and 30 going south. Elsewhere on Route 1A the speed limits are lower. Other communities have no parking. Ms. Farrelly spoke of the mothers killed in Hampton and a child fatality near the Beach Plum. She proposed eliminating parking on the west side of Route 1A from Perkins Rd. to Locke Rd., and lowering the speed limit to 25 m.p.h.
Selectman Mills stated that the speed limit could not be reduced as it was a State road. Police Chief Kevin Walsh stated that the parking plan would be looked at after the holidays. They are looking for a solid plan for next summer, he said.
Ms. Farrelly stated that the Surfrider Foundation, while being against reductions in parking, has a proviso that the parking must be safe. She asserted that the State DOT had stated that ideally they would like there to be no parking on Route 1A. Tom Farrelly interjected that the statement had been made at the second meeting with Senator Stiles.
Selectman Musselman interrupted and questioned that assertion. Steve Hillman interrupted, and was then recognized. Mr. Hillman, 399 Central Rd., asserted that he had been at the meetings and this was never said. He stated that he had written a letter to the editor of the Portsmouth Herald stating that the claims of the Rescue Jenness Beach Group are exaggerated. He agrees that there is overuse of the beach, but there is overuse of every beach. He does not trust the intentions of the Rescue Jenness Beach people. Editor’s note: Tom Farrelly appears to be the leader of the Rescue Jenness Beach group. I knew they were going to regulate or restrict access and people’s rights to do things on the beach, Mr. Hillman continued. This is the first step. They wrap things up in safety. But, they’re taking away. That parking has been here and is staying here. Education is needed, not regulation. We need solutions, not restrictions. These are not solutions, they are wedges that push people apart. These are not helpful and serving a small group in the community and not benefiting the whole, Mr. Hillman said.
Selectman Musselman asserted that he had been at the second meeting and the head of the State DOT had not been at that meeting. He does not recall the statement having been said. He would have been shocked if the statement had been made.
There was then discussion about the speed limits. Selectman Jenness stated that it did not appear that the State was about to change the speed limits. Instead, they were justifying the limits that were in place. Selectman Musselman stated that the speed limits were set based on clear roads and good weather. Traffic moves more slowly when there is congestion, he said.
Tom Farrelly, 18 Gray Ct., stated that he had heard the statement. It was made during a confusing portion of the meeting. He was there and he heard it. It should not be hard to prove that as the meeting was recorded. The statement was made jokingly and anecdotally. He added a that a lot of good things have come out of the meetings with Senator Stiles. He also stated that Rescue Jenness Beach is an informal group, and it does not have a sinister agenda.
Steve Hillman asked whether the Town supports open access. The Selectmen responded yes. He stated that a parking reduction restricts access to the beach, even to Rye residents. The beach is for everyone, even French Canadians, Mr. Hillman said. Editor’s note: At the various meetings of the Beach Use Committee and elsewhere, French Canadians have been singled out in assertions by certain attendees as causing particular problems. There have been allegations that surfers from there come in campers that block visibility and create a dangerous situation for pedestrians. It has also been asserted that French Canadians often are seen drinking on the beach. There will always be bad actors, Mr. Hillman said. Education and understanding of the rules is needed.
Selectman Musselman stated that a parking study is sorely needed. At the December 9 meeting something ought to be budgeted. An issue has come up with regard to parking meters. Editor’s note: See the notes of the September 24, 2013 meeting with Senator Stiles. She stated that State law permits towns to install parking meters and retain the revenues from them, provided that they bear the cost of installation, maintenance and enforcement. One of the impacts of precluding parking in one place is that the parking will move to side streets, Selectman Musselman continued. They are under pressure from people on Locke Rd. to cut down on the parking there. The current parking spaces need to be identified, as well as the safety issues, and then the alternatives need to be looked at, including the parking meter idea. There is an eleven week season where the parking is on good days and primarily on weekends. They need to look at how much revenue would be generated as this is not downtown Portsmouth.
Selectman Jenness stated that a big positive is that the State is working with them, which has not been the case in the past.
Joe Cummins commented that the tightness of the parking causes him to double the traffic in the beach zone. He explained how he uses multiple trips shuttling back in forth with his car and bicycle to drop his family off at the beach and return later himself by bicycle. Tight parking causes people to circle looking for parking, he said.
Sam Winebaum, 52 Cable Rd. stated that he had seen the State do strange things in places, He cited the example of the State Police writing tickets where there is no issue with the width of the road, for example when skiers are parked to ski Tuckerman’s Ravine. There are places where the State has signs establishing variable speed limits, notably on Route 101. Hampton has deluxe facilities, but Rye gets very little from the State.
There was then discussion about painting and bike lanes. Selectman Mills noted that Jeff Latimer had asked for wider paving, but the State would not do that and would only pave what was paved before.
Selectman Musselman noted that there is a corridor study ongoing. Massive construction projects would be needed to make it safe. Selectman Jenness mentioned that there was a lot of encroachment. Selectman Musselman stated that the right of way is 100 feet wide. Selectman Jenness stated that, with a 100 foot right of way there would be room for parking, pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes and cars. Selectman Mills stated that the telephone poles could be looked at near Petey’s Restaurant, as those indicate the edge of the right of way.
Keith Eveland letter regarding commercial activity on the beach (103:00 elapsed)
Mr. Eveland, Liberty Common, read his letter relating to commercial activity. He proposed a one year moratorium on commercial activity on the beach. The Police, Fire Department and lifeguards cannot handle the current beach use, the letter said. The Fire Chief is requesting more lifeguards. Police Chief Walsh is requiring more beach patrols, and states that he cannot regulate the beach with his current staff. It has also been necessary for the Police Chief to donate extra time without pay over the summer months.
The sides are extremely polarized. He proposes a moratorium. Usage is increasing steadily every year. This would allow time for study, as well as a determination of what commercial activity should be permitted.
He stated that there are large classes with as many as 100 people. His issue is not with recreational surfing, paddle boarding or rentals. If there is permitting, there would need to be oversight and enforcement. Residents would not appreciate an increase in the tax rate, particularly as it has just come down.
Mr. Eveland stated that the discussion had been mostly about surfing and Zumba. In response to a question from Selectman Musselman, Mr. Eveland acknowledged that his proposed moratorium would apply to surf lessons. Selectman Musselman stated that companies that had been conducting business for over a decade would be put out of business.
Steve Hillman stated that the Beach Use Committee had permitted only Summer Sessions, Zumba and, occasionally, Cinnamon Rainbows to be brought up. Editor’s note: Summer Sessions is a surfboard rental shop and provider of surfing lessons in Rye. Cinnamon Rainbows runs a similar operation in Hampton, and occasionally buses participants to Rye.
The proposal is putting a moratorium on entities that are not defined, Mr. Hillman said. Beach Use Committee Chairman Mike LaBrie has been unable to enumerate the other entities. This, just like the permitting process, is putting the cart before the horse. The BUC was charged with studying, possibly coming up with solutions, but not writing an ordinance. One of the entities is local, another uses the beach 5-6 times a year, and the third occasionally uses it when the tide is too high. Facts are needed on who is using the beach, what are they doing when, with how many people, and what the impact is. He asked how can a moratorium can be thrown into the mix before those facts are available.
Mr. Eveland stated that the Beach Use Committee does not have the information on the number of people. Mr. Hillman responded that it is 30-35. Mr. Eveland stated that they are hearing about things occurring on Saturday, which was never mentioned before. Mr. Hillman interjected that these are single person surfing lessons. Beach access is somewhat restricted, Mr. Eveland said, due to the number of kids at the surf lessons.
Lori Carbajal, 18 Tower Ave., stated that it is important for people in Rye to understand that organizations like Surfrider are specific to ocean borne activities. She would hate to see a limitation of public recreational use. There is always a small percentage that does not behave. Ms. Carbajal suggested that parking be controlled as to duration by chalking of tires. She is not certain that metering is needed. The revenue from metering or a chalking system should be put back towards the beach, for cleanup, patrols and the walkways.
She is not opposed to surf camps. Perhaps the 30 person groups should be split in half and put in different places on the beach. There are only six Zumba classes now. The Town would be opening itself up to a lawsuit if they say that it is limited to one Zumba instructor and ten others want to come and conduct business here. You cannot surf in a swimming pool, but you can conduct Zumba lessons in a studio, she said.
Steve Hillman stated that he has been a member of the Surfrider Foundation for 20 years, and organized the local New Hampshire chapter about 10 years ago. It is not about recreation. Their credo is open access, clean beaches and clean ocean water.
Auction results (121:47 elapsed)
Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy passed out a sheet with the results of the auction bids from a recent sale of Town property. Selectman Mills commented that the safe had gone for a lot more than he had expected. Selectman Musselman noted that the rescue surfboards had gone for $11 each. The motion to accept the high bids carried unanimously. Selectman Musselman noted that a truck had gone for $8100.
Parsonage Apartments parking lot (123:27 elapsed)
Anne Morrissey asked about the resurfacing of the parking lot at the Parsonage Apartments. Editor’s note: The Parsonage Apartments are owned by the Town and Ms. Morrissey is a tenant. Dennis McCarthy stated that it would be cold patched at a cost of over $6000. Selectman Mills stated that the amount had not been budgeted. They are trying to get the Housing Partnership to pay for part or all for this. Selectman Jenness stated that the cold patch would make the lot smooth. Selectman Musselman stated that it was too cold to do regular paving. This is what they fill potholes in with, Selectman Mills said. Editor’s note: See the notes of the October 15, 2013 meeting. There were complaints about the residents, many of whom are handicapped, tripping on the irregular pavement. Ms. Morrissey asked whether there would be a new budget in the spring to do the entire parking lot. Selectmen Jenness and Mills stated that it depended on who was paying as to whether this would be done.
Letter regarding dog problem (126:06 elapsed)
Selectman Jenness raised the issue of a pit bull at 555 Washington Rd. going after a springer spaniel puppy. Police Chief Walsh stated that he and Officer Kendall had gone over and spoken to both parties. There had been an intertwining of chains. The owners now understand that the dogs need to remain on their respective owners’ property. Chain lengths have been adjusted to ensure this. Although there was personal contact between owners, that has ceased.
Dennis McCarthy commented that he now has two staff members out on short term disability. This will affect snow removal operations. Plow operators are difficult to find. Snowstorm response will not be as efficient. He has reached out to retired staff, however many cannot drive commercial vehicles due to age and health. Many of the CDL drivers that are available cannot drive a plow with a wing. The issue is age. The department has not brought in a younger staff member in a long time. Selectman Jenness stated that until they go out for a full-time position they probably will not find someone.
Whereupon the meeting adjourned at 8:46 p.m.