NOTES OF JANUARY 22, 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. Not present: Finance Director Cyndi Gillespie. Also present and sitting in the audience or the lobby outside: Police Chief Kevin Walsh, Fire Chief Mark Cotreau, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy.
Persons present from the public included: Steven Borne, Mike Brown, Lori Carbajal, Eileen Eberhart, Mark Epply, Dick Furey, Mike Garvan, Jane Holway, Sally King, Mel Low, Brad McKenna, Lindsay McKenna, Marisa Novello (Portsmouth Herald), Larry Rocha, David Tilton, Patricia Weathersby.
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. Click here for the video of this meeting. 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).
1. Much of the meeting was devoted to public comment on a proposed leash law. The Selectmen decided not to propose one at Town Meeting this year. The matter will nevertheless be discussed at the Deliberative Session as there is a petitioned warrant article on the subject.
2. There were 7 bidders for the salt shed project. The low bid was $504,500, but an additional 25 percent will be added for contingency and engineering, likely enabling only a minor reduction of the $700,000 warrant article amount.
3. The transcriptionist used by the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board is no longer willing to do the minutes with the level of detail required by those boards. The town has no solution at this point as transcriptionists are not easy to find.
Announcements (1:04 elapsed)
Selectman Musselman announced the Deliberative Session on Saturday, February 3, 2018, 9:00 a.m. at the Rye Junior High Gymnasium. The second announcement was that it was Town Administrator Mike Magnant’s birthday.
Sealing of minutes (1:43 elapsed)
The motion of Selectman Jenness to seal the minutes of the non-public session just concluded carried unanimously.
Selectman Musselman asked that, if anyone was present to talk about dogs, they speak now.
David Tilton, 390 Washington Rd., spoke about what was going on on his property. He said that he has 56 acres of land, adjacent to what he calls the Rye Dog Park. There is continual harassment of wildlife on his property. I have set traps on the property and have caught two dogs. A dog charged his son after he shot a deer. He has set up cameras and has taken pictures of coyote, foxes and fisher cats. They are live traps. The animals are not injured. It has been, and will continue to be, my intent to release the foxes and fishers. Coyotes would be shot and the pelts retained. One dog was in a trap for an hour and 45 minutes before the owner of the dog, supposedly under his control, appeared to release the dog from the trap. Another dog was in a trap for an hour before the owner arrived. I have allowed people to walk the perimeter of the property, but not the interior. I had to put a sign up saying “no dogs.” This has been going on for a couple of years, he said.
Peter Crawford, 171 Brackett Rd., said that he agreed that the Trolley Barn should be sold if the town can get the right price. I wouldn’t want it to be sold to an abutter for $5000. I’d like to see language in the warrant article that requires an appraisal and a provision that requires sale for 80 percent of that or more and in no event less than a certain amount, which might be $150,000, $200,000 or $250,000, whatever is reasonable.
Mr. Crawford said, that, with regard to the dog issue, he recognizes the problem. I saw the frustration at the Deliberative Session last year when the article advanced by the Chief was diluted down to nothing. The Lower Merion Township ordinance mentioned by Selectman Musselman at the last meeting sounds like a logical solution. Why can’t we do something like that in Rye? It provides for a $20 or $25 tag which would allow your dog run unleashed, but if the dog disturbs people or will not come when called the tag could be rescinded. Over a period of time the problem dogs could be eliminated. The problem with the amendment last year was that it said that a misbehaving dog must be leashed. However, the next time the person comes to the beach with the same dog, the dog could again be unleashed and a police officer or animal control officer would again need to be there and would again need to see the dog misbehaving and again order it to be leashed. I don’t think that is a workable solution. I agree completely with the Chief on that, he said.
Mike Brown, 1134 Ocean Blvd., spoke in favor of the warrant article requiring a leash. It is necessary. The ordinance is good but it can’t be enforced. When a dog is already on somebody’s deck taking a dump, and it comes when called, in their eyes the dog is under control. The number of dogs is increasing. People own two, three or four dogs now and can’t keep track of all of them. I have no privacy or property rights. People are in my window chasing dogs and standing in front of my door yelling for their dogs, he said.
Dick Furey, 420 Wallis Rd., said that he is a dog owner. I regret that my neighbor with 56 acres of land is having problems. It might come down to having a leash law in only parts of town. A total ban doesn’t make sense, he said.
Mel Low, 650 Washington Rd., said that he was involved with Parsons Park years ago. I walk my dogs twice a day. I have a yellow lab that is always under control. I am against a leash law. Once you leash them, they get aggressive. Mr. Low turned back towards Mr. Chelton, and said that his dogs had gone onto Mr. Chelton’s land, but there were deer parts there. They don’t go on your land anymore, he said. If you people put this forward, we’re going to have to organize as dog owners and outvote the others. Democracy begins right here, he said.
Lindsay McKenna, 9 Acorn Acres, passed out a letter to the Selectmen. She said that the School Use Feasibility Committee reported that, from 2000-2015, the number of adults age 18-44 declined 32 percent in Rye. Residents over 65 were up 70 percent. Durham, Hampton, Exeter and Greenland all saw increases in young adults. We love Rye, but we don’t see a lot of people our age around. If a leash law is proposed, young people will not move here. There was laughter. Our dog is well trained off leash. We would consider moving as you’re talking about closing one of the schools and the one thing that we value in town, which is walking our dog off leash would be taken away. I took an informal poll of my friends. A lot of them are looking for houses. They all own dogs. They all said that, if Rye implements a leash law, they would never consider moving here. It is a reality of the millennial generation that millenials consider pets part of their family. We’ve noticed that our dog is more aggressive when leashed. Gloucester, MA has dealt with this type of issue, and came up with a solution with some beaches requiring leashes on even days and others on odd days, she said. She supports the off-leash tag that had been mentioned, and suggested making it a little bit expensive so that it would cover the cost of the animal control officer.
Eileen Eberhart, 70 Sea Rd., said that a leash law would change the character of our rural town. Leashes don’t control dogs. Owners control dogs, she said.
Mike Garvan, 220 Washington Rd., a member of the Conservation Commission, said that the town-wide scope of the proposed leash law is too much. The beach was addressed somewhat last year. I am here to address the Town Forest. We have met with Police Chief Walsh and Messrs. Tilton and Joyce who are the two abutters who have had the most encroachment on their property. We’ve been active since October and have put up signs at all of the major entrances to the Town Forest that describe the rules. With Chief Walsh and the Conservation Commission we have produced a flyer that walkers are handing out in the Town Forest. They are being put on windshields and I believe they are being handed out when people license their dogs. That covers only the Rye users, not those from elsewhere who are a good part of the problem. Chief Walsh has said that, at the beach, and we have confirmed at the Town Forest, that when dogs are first let out of the car they are enthusiastic and, if off leash, run into other dogs. Therefore, the Conservation Commission voted to have a leash required section for the first 150 feet. It will be clearly marked. Mr. Garvan said that this is an ongoing information campaign and he hopes that the Selectmen will allow it to come to fruition. We have many conservation areas that are used by the public and are open to dogs. These are Seavey Woods, Marden Woods, Cedar Run, Rand and the Airfield. That’s hundreds of acres and we’ve had no complaints about dogs in those areas, he said.
Brad McKenna from the Beach Committee said that some constructive comments have been heard. It is not fair to punish everyone and their dogs for a few dogs who are misbehaving. A creative way to address this needs to be figured out. We have discussed the dog waste bags at the Beach Committee. However, after October 1 the barrels go away. Sometimes dog waste is left among the trash that is piled up where the barrels would normally be.
Mark Epply, 267 Brackett Rd., expressed concern about taking away any place where dogs could be walked on public land in Rye. We should slow down and look at a couple of the good suggestions that have been made. A group of citizens did a great job a few years ago on educating dog owners and the problems went away, but the group fell apart after the problems had been solved. Now we have a lot more problems. A lot of those come from those who do not live in Rye. He referred to a medallion process. He thanked Mr. Musselman for his years of service to Rye and mentioned a quote in the January 20 Herald that referred to his statement about hanging on to what we have. It was a great comment and I’d hate to see a leash law, Mr. Epply said.
Patty Weathersby agreed that a blanket policy requiring all dogs to be leashed would be too broad and that a more targeted solution could be found. There were some really good suggestion here tonight including tagging and alternating days. I put a number of suggestions in a letter to you, she said. She suggested limiting the number of unleashed dogs to two per owner; attendants of dogs would need to be at least 13; only the dog owner or an immediate family member would be allowed to walk a dog; a leash would have to be carried in case the dog requires restraint; the dog must be in view of the owner at all times; dogs that have a history of attacking other dogs, persons or wildlife would lose the off-leash privilege; spayed or neutered dogs shouldn’t be allowed off leash; leashes are required on playing fields; and dogs must have a current dog license from the Town of Rye. Perhaps a parking permit should also be required. A scalpel rather than a hammer should be used, she said.
Larry Rocha, 39 Perkins Rd., and Rye Beach Committee said that not only millenials feel that dogs are part of the family. There was laughter. I walk the beach pretty much every day. When dogs are off leash people don’t watch them. It’s not that people weren’t going to pick up the dog waste, they don’t see the dog create the waste. If they do pick it up they’ll put it on the beach as they walk out or they’ll take it to their car and throw it by the side of the road. It’s an enforcement problem for the police. I’ve seen dog walkers arrive with truck loads of dogs. They go on the beach with ten dogs. If the dog is under control, great. The difficulty is to provide enforcement against those that aren’t, he said.
Lori Carbajal, 18 Tower Ave., also a member of the Beach Committee, said that she agrees with Larry and Brad. I’ve told people after 4:30 on a Sunday that they can’t have their dog on the beach. They say OK and keep on going. You know they’re not Rye residents. A lot of people are bad parents to their dogs. The old saying “you don’t poop where you sleep” is true. Visitors do not care. Perhaps if you are a visitor you should also have to sign up with the Town of Rye. If your dog doesn’t have that license you’re banned from the beach. We have been dealing with these things on the Beach Committee for four years, she said.
Deidre Smyrnos, 92 Clark Rd., said that she is not in favor of a leash law, although it would cause people to pick up dog waste more often. There are people from out of town that are very respectful. I wish Mr. Tilton was still here. I guess that the traps are legal, but some are as close as 70 ft. from the Town Forest. It does no good to hunt predators. Coyotes are important to fighting Lyme Disease as they are a predators of the white-footed mice.
Jeanne Low, 650 Washington Rd., said that she doesn’t like the us vs. them attitude. We have met wonderful people from Portsmouth and New Castle that are more respectful than the average Rye citizen. Rye has a reputation for being a little snobby. That is the perception that a lot of people have of us. The fact that young people cannot afford to live here has been mentioned. I hope that the solution is not to ban people from out of town, she said.
Susan Shepcaro, 45 Recreation Rd., Conservation Commission said that she supports the 150 foot leashes required zone. She said that she has been working a lot handing out the flyers developed with Chief Walsh. I am in the Town Forest frequently, she said. That started in December and its only January. We need more time. There will be dog waste dispensers installed at the four entrances to the Town Forest as soon as I get them. They just have to carry it with them as there will not be trash cans provided. I am not in favor of a leash law. We deserve a chance with what we are working on to try and solve this problem, she said.
Steven Borne said that he would stand up twice, the first time for the Rye Civic League. He referred to the warrant article and budget analysis presentation on January 31st. Candidates Night will be February 22, he said.
Steven Borne, speaking again as a citizen, said that the Elementary School is excellent and the Junior High has been getting better. There is no discussion about closing schools. With regard to dogs, compromise is something we used to do. Something like New Hampshire Listens could give people the runway to come up with the ideas. The best ideas would come to the surface and people get behind them. There are probably some good ways to make most people happy, he said.
Mr. Borne suggested that, since it had been two years since the Parson’s Creek Watershed septic ordinance went into effect, that those who had not had their septic systems inspected should be listed in the Annual Report. We know now that we have too many septic systems. The audio was really bad during the January 8 presentation of the testing data, he said. He asked for posting of the test data. He also asked why the meeting minutes couldn’t be linked to the video.
Tom King, 535 Wallis Rd., agreed that a town-wide leash law is too drastic of a solution for the problem. There are obviously issues. A lot of them have been brought up. Referring to the dog walker with 10 dogs, he indicated that that should be covered under the business operations on the beach ordinance implemented a few years earlier. The issue can be fairly divisive. It would be best not to “slam it” as hard, he said.
Seeing no more hands, Selectman Musselman said that there are no more contentious issues in Rye than dogs and frog jumping. We stopped frog jumping in Rye years ago. People came to the hearing dressed as frogs. There was laughter. It is nice to see that none of you came dressed as dogs, he said.
Click here for the Selectmen’s decision later in the meeting not to proceed with the dog leash ordinance.
Consent Agenda (46:00 elapsed)
There were no Consent Agenda items.
There was a break as a number of people left.
Minutes (47:25 elapsed)
The meeting was called back to order. The minutes of the January 8, 2018 meeting were unanimously approved with changes. The minutes of the non-public session of the same date were unanimously approved with the addition of the comment that Selectman Musselman had recused himself from the discussion.
Outside detail rate (53:34 elapsed)
Police Chief Kevin Walsh stated that the officers are currently paid $46 per hour for outside details. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, that rate is being raised to $48. The charge is $67 per hour to cover retirement and administrative costs. If the current rate remains in place there would be a loss of $3000 per year. That would increase to $9000 in three years. Chief Walsh asked for an increase in the charge from $67 to $69 per hour.
Chief Walsh also stated that there is an additional charge of $10 per hour for the cruiser.
All were in favor of approving the rate.
Chief Walsh asked that he be allowed to honor the old rate for requests that have already been made. There was no opposition.
Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy addressed. He said that they should have the tabulation from the bid opening the prior Thursday. We had 27 sets of plans out and received 7 bids. The low bid was $504,500. The high bid was $785,500. The engineers, Hoyle Tanner, are doing the due diligence on the three low bids and checking the math. They will be making a recommendation over the next day or two.
Selectman Musselman said that they wanted to know for the Deliberative Session what figure the warrant article could be lowered to.
Mr. McCarthy said that they would have the number once the winning bidder has been determined. Added to that would be 15 percent of that figure for contingencies, 10 percent of that figure for engineering and a $5000 stipend for interior electric which is not in the bids.
Selectman Musselman said that normally the contingency is 10 percent. He asked whether there was any money left over from the prior contract.
Mr. McCarthy said that that was for design, bid and award. There is still money in that, he said.
Selectman Musselman asked if these funds could be used.
Mr. McCarthy indicated that they could not.
Selectman Musselman agreed that the funds go away if they are not spent.
Selectman Winslow asked whether there were any surprises.
Mr. McCarthy said there were not.
Selectman Musselman said that the bids were lower than expected. The bottom two, Jamco and Careno, are close, he said.
Selectmen speaking to the various warrant articles at the Deliberative Session (60:15 elapsed)
Selectman Musselman said that, since he was a short-timer, he was not sure that he should speak to any of the articles.
Selectman Winslow said that the opposite was the case. He should speak to all of them, he said.
The Selectmen went down the list and indicated who would speak to each warrant article, other than the petitioned ones.
Moderator Bob Eaton said that, on the petitioned warrant articles, he would ask the petitioners to speak first. If the Selectmen have a desire to speak to those articles I would call on somebody next, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that they would express that desire on a number of them. We’ll wait for the meeting, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that there was correspondence on the issue. Patty Weathersby already spoke regarding her letter, he said. He said that the Town of Merion was close to some of those ideas. Editor’s note: See the public comment section here on the Lower Merion Township, PA ordinance on unleashed dogs. He referred to a letter from Suzanne McFarland. She is opposed to a leash law. She is at 1324 Ocean Blvd. and says that they have not had problems on their beach. There is a letter from Jay McFarland saying that he is also not in favor of the leash law. Dog walking may be the only exercise that the pet owner gets that day, his letter says. The letter also suggested that a Porta Potty be added at Concord Pt. as people often use the beach as their bathroom. There is a letter from Frank McDermott. It says that currently dogs are allowed to run free only if they are under control. There would not be a problem with dogs running free if they were all under control. A substantial number of dogs on the beach are neither leashed nor under control, his letter says.
Selectman Musselman said that the next item on the agenda is warrant articles.
Mr. Magnant said that there were not any other articles to be addressed.
Selectman Musselman said that the dog leash article was Article 25. He asked what the pleasure of the other Selectmen was with regard to a leash law.
Selectman Jenness said that there had been a quieter way to suggest a change we would not have had the group before us that we did. The fact that there might be a leash law brings people out. That is usually difficult to get people to do. We heard a couple of new things. I hadn’t thought there would be anything new. I’m not sure about putting the ideas into something workable for the upcoming season. It would be nice if it were something in the middle. Having separate places where dogs could be might be a solution. We’ve heard mixed messages regarding people coming from other towns, she said.
Selectman Winslow said that the issues are safety, enforcement and individual rights. We need to balance those and not use a hammer when a scalpel is best, he said. The proposal from the last meeting relating to the Philadelphia suburb, which involves people taking a course and a fee to help cover the administration and enforcement, is good. It could be made available to outsiders as well, perhaps at a cost of $25 for residents and $50 for those from out of town.
Selectman Musselman said that he thinks that a Rye solution to the problem is needed. It can’t be all free or all leashes. We reviewed last time the ordinance from Lower Merion Township that might give us ideas. We heard a lot of comments in that regard. The ordinance as proposed is dead on arrival at the Deliberative Session. We should not put the townspeople through that process. The Board of Selectmen next year should work with people on all sides of the issue to come up with a solution that would cut down on the number of dogs that are running free and allow us to preclude dogs that create incidents from continuing to run free while providing more control and a greater ability to enforce. I am not in favor of this article. There is another petitioned warrant article saying that dogs would not be allowed on town property, in town woods, or on beaches, except Foss Beach. That is what the voters this year should deliberate, he said.
Police Chief Kevin Walsh said that Merion, PA (sic) has a leash law. There are only two parks that dogs are allowed on. Those are fenced. There are some good guarantees there. I am very proud to present that, in 2017, we had zero burglaries reported. That is a compliment to the Rye residents and the Police officers. That hasn’t happened in any other town. That tells you that the officers and the residents are communicating. To detach from that and deal with dog complaints is not focusing on what people want the officers for, which is keeping our homes safe, he said.
Sally King, 535 Wallis Rd., suggested that they continue to work on this as the problem can be solved. Editor’s note: Ms. King is Chairman of the Rye Conservation Commission. She continued, saying that, with regard to burglaries, there are a lot of dogs in Rye. You have to credit them a little bit for that, she said. There was laughter.
Steven Borne, 431 Wallis Rd., suggested that the warrant article be changed to say that there would be listening circles, and possibly give the Selectmen the authority to implement ordinances on the issue. There is no guarantee that anyone is going to come up with the best solution on the first try, he said.
Selectman Musselman moved that Article 25 not be approved. Selectman Winslow seconded. Selectman Jenness agreed, and added that it not be so complicated that it increases the amount of police work. The amount of time that each complaint takes has to be taken into account, she said.
All were in favor.
Town Administrator Magnant said that the transcriptionist has notified the ZBA and the Planning Board that she would no longer be able to do their minutes. Those boards will be looking to the Town for a solution. Quite frankly, we do not have one. I monitor the managers list serve and a lot of towns are facing this problem. The transcriptionist does not have the time to do the detailed minutes that are required, he said.
There was brief discussion of court reporters that charge by the hour. Mr. Magnant said that they typically transcribe verbatim. Selectman Jenness said that you wouldn’t want to see the cost for that. Selectman Musselman quickly agreed that this was not a viable solution.
Mr. Magnant said that he would send out an email blast to the adjacent towns to see if they have anyone that could be suggested.
Selectman Jenness asked about the number of hours.
Mr. Magnant said that sometimes it is 20-25 hours per week or more.
There was discussion about the level of detail needed in the event that there is a legal challenge.
Mr. Magnant said that the transcriptionist was concerned about the amount of time and the pressure to complete the minutes within the legally-required time frame. People want the minutes done within the legally-required time frame, he said.
There was discussion about what would happen. Mr. Magnant said that it would fall back on the boards or the clerks of the boards. I don’t know what else to do, he said. It appeared agreed that that would not be workable.
Mr. Magnant said that Dyana Ledger had been charging about $20 per hour. Editor’s note: It appears that she is the transcriptionist to whom he had been referring.
Steven Borne pointed out that the Planning Board minutes are not yet up. He said that the minutes of the Selectmen’s meeting are dated the 17th, but he had not seen them up the prior weekend. We are behind on a lot of things, he said.
Selectman Musselman said that it seemed to him that the time pressure on someone who couldn’t meet the deadlines isn’t helping.
Adjournment (86:50 elapsed)
Whereupon the meeting adjourned at approximately 8:28 p.m.