NOTES OF FEBRUARY 3, 2018 RYE DELIBERATIVE SESSION
Final Revision B – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present on the stage (left to right as viewed from the audience): Town Clerk Donna Decotis, Town Counsel Michael Donovan, Vice Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Priscilla Jenness, Selectman Phil Winslow, Finance Director and Assistant Town Administrator Cyndi Gillespie, Town Administrator Michael Magnant, and Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Craig Musselman,. Present at the podium: Bob Eaton, Town Moderator.
Additional persons present from the Town included: Police Chief Kevin Walsh, Fire Chief Mark Cotreau, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy, Planning and Zoning Administrator Kim Reed.
Editor’s note: The elapsed times are relative to start of each video segment. Segments consist of one or more warrant articles. To access the video for a particular warrant article, click on the heading for the warrant article. The video will be positioned to the beginning of the segment. You may then use the slider to position the video to the appropriate elapsed time. The video is available at https://vimeo.com/254861928/
Moderator Eaton read the warrant article:
In order to help ensure prompt compliance with the New Hampshire right-to-know law, shall all Town Boards, Commissions and Committees be required, starting 30 days after this Article passes, to:
a. Post all minutes and draft minutes of meetings on the Town website at the same time that they are first made available to the public;
b. Notwithstanding whether or not any person is reviewing draft minutes prior to them being made available, make publicly available all minutes on the Town website on or before the Due Date, whether or not an internal review is being conducted and whether or not the minutes are in draft or final form; and
c. Maintain a log of all meetings, available on the Town website, including the date of the meeting, the Board, Commission or Committee name, the date that the minutes are due according to RSA 91-A:2, II (the “Due Date”), the date that the minutes were sealed, if applicable, the date that the minutes were first available in draft form to any person other than the transcriptionist, the date that the minutes were first made available to the public and the date that the Board, Commission or Committee approved the minutes.
Sam Winebaum introduced the warrant article. He said that the article reflects the need for continuous improvement in this area. There have been a lot of improvements over the last seven or eight years. The minutes are more complete and more timely, but the minutes are still not being made available, in some cases, within the five days called for by the RSA. This reinforces the RSA and makes sure that all minutes are posted on the town website, not just in paper form so people have to come in to see them. Finally it has a log, which should not be onerous these days.
Selectman Jenness made a motion to delete section c. from the article. Mae Bradshaw seconded. Ms. Jenness referred to the lack of staff at Town Hall. We consider it to be burdensome for the staff, she said.
Steven Borne said that the town has gotten better over the past two or three years. However, it’s still not meeting the RSAs. You get the behavior that you measure. The only way you know that the requirements are being met is to track it. It can be put in a spreadsheet to do that. Every month, when putting out the Civic News, I’m looking for the minutes, and it’s not happening.
Mae Bradshaw said that, as a member of four committees, and chairman of two, she would have to give up her paying job to have time to track the minutes.
Selectman Winslow said that he was one of the signatories on the petitioned article about six years ago to have video streaming. That was important for opening up transparency. Someone who is really interested in what happened at a particular meeting simply needs to go to the Town website and look at the streaming. This is burdensome and would put an additional burden on the staff. Dyana Ledger has stopped transcribing for a number of committees, he said.
Bill Epperson said that, as Chairman of the Planning Board, the minutes and the need to transcribe them accurately has been an unbelievably tough job for all persons involved. The RSA, unless I’m mistaken, says that the minutes have to be an accurate representation of what happened in the meeting. They don’t have to be verbatim or transcribed as spoken but the spirit of what was said has to be reflected, he said.
Peter Crawford said that a number of the issues are being confused. One is that, whatever this Article does, it’s not going to change state law. The RSA is actually pretty simple. The minutes have to be done within five days, the votes that were taken need to be recorded, and who spoke needs to be recorded. I spoke to Mike Magnant about two or three years ago about simplifying the load on the transcriptionist because we have the video streaming. Mr. Winslow is absolutely right. People can go to that. The problem is that the meetings are often four hours. To try to go through an entire meeting to find the part you are interested in is something that will only be done if you’re focused on the issue. What people want to know is what happened. That’s what the RSA requires. Within five days you have to record the votes that were taken. If you don’t have what paragraph c. provides, which is the log of the meetings, you don’t have a process that you can control and you track relative to the goals. You don’t know whether the five days are being met or not. Often what happens, and I don’t know why, we’re repeatedly seeing minutes backdated. On Saturday, someone may visit the website and see that the minutes are not there. Then, on Monday, they see that the minutes are there but are backdated to the prior Wednesday. I suspect that it’s due to the minutes having been put up in draft form but not linked to. Without tracking you don’t have the ability to engage in continuous improvement.
Jaci Grote called the question. Scott Marion seconded. The motion carried.
The amendment carried.
Selectman Winslow offered another amendment. Selectman Musselman seconded.
Moderator Eaton said that the article, with the amendment, would read:
“In order to help ensure prompt compliance with the New Hampshire right-to-know law, shall all Boards, Commissions and Committees be required to post all minutes and draft minutes on the town website.”
Selectman Winslow said that they want to have transparency. While I respect Peter for a lot of things, I take exception to his comment about it taking four hours to get through the video of a four hour meeting. A lot of times you can take a look at the agenda and, if it’s the last thing on the agenda, you go to the last ten minutes of the meeting. You don’t have to wait five days.
Steven Borne said that puts it back to where it is today. If we really want to make improvements, allow people to track what’s going on and keep them engaged and informed, Town Hall Streaming allows chapters. Editor’s note: Town Hall Streaming is the organization that provides the video streaming services for the Town Hall, Library and Junior High. Mr. Borne said that the times when issues were talked about can be set after the meeting. Posting those links with the draft meeting minutes would help everyone tremendously. You could just go back and drop the times into the agenda, which would make it easier to use Town Hall Streams.
Karen Oliver offered a friendly amendment as the Library posts its minutes on its own website. She also said that the same might apply to the School. Moderator Eaton suggested adding at the end “except for Library minutes which will be posted on the Library website and School Board minutes which shall be posted on the School Board website.”
There was discussion about adding language for the School but it was decided that the School District was separate and irrelevant to this vote. Ms. Oliver said that she was OK with adding the language for just the Library. Selectmen Winslow and Musselman agreed.
Shawn Crapo referred to instantaneous access to the website, and suggested a friendly amendment to change the article to “to see if the town will require compliance with the New Hampshire right-to-know law by all town boards, commissions and committees.” Some may have posted on a bulletin board, he said.
Selectman Winslow accepted the friendly amendment.
Moderator Eaton read the amendment. He asked what it would say if the voters rejected the article.
Bill Epperson agreed with Mr. Crapo but is also supportive of Steven Borne with regard to placing the chapters on the video. He said that that would be very helpful.
Moderator Eaton expressed the opinion that, if the town rejected the article as amended, it would be unenforceable as it would be illegal.
Sam Winebaum said that, by removing the requirement to post all minutes on the town website, that provides an opening to go backwards. He also referred to the lack of the reinforcement of the five day requirement in b., and the issue with delays due to internal reviews prior to posting. He said that he is against the amendment without b. being included.
Moderator Eaton said that Mr. Crapo’s amendment had been accepted by Selectman Musselman.
Jaci Grote called the question. Sally King seconded. The motion carried.
The amendment passed.
Alex Herlihy said that he had been doing the concise summaries of the Planning Board and ZBA meetings for the Civic News. It doesn’t take long as it consists only of what the proposal was and what the vote was. That could easily be complied with in five days. It’s certainly much harder to get all of the minutes out. He asked Bill Epperson whether that was reasonable. To tell people that something was defeated you have to go into the video streaming, he said.
Someone moved the question. Moderator Eaton neither identified the person who made the motion nor asked whether there was a second.
The motion carried. Moderator Eaton ordered the article to appear on the ballot as written.
Shawn Crapo moved to restrict reconsideration. Scott Marion seconded. The motion carried.
Moderator Eaton read the warrant article:
“Should all dogs on town property (inclusive of town woods and beaches) be required to be on a leash at all times except for Foss Beach.”
Kevin Kobylinski addressed. He said that he had lived in Rye for over 10 years. We have a dog. She is a part of the family, but we can’t walk her on the beach or in the woods. She only gets along with fifty percent of the dogs that she meets. We bring her to areas where there are not dogs running around off leash. A couple of weeks ago, I was attacked by two loose dogs in Rye woods. Neither was on a leash. The dog owner did not apologize, but said that the dogs had been intimidated by his dark clothing. I’m not a person who is easily intimidated by dogs, he said.
I’ve seen an increase in dogs in the past ten years, Mr. Kobylinski said. He referred to websites that direct people to bring their dogs to Rye’s woods and beaches. A leash law will not ruin the happiness of our furry friends. Many people would feel more comfortable in the woods and on the beaches if there were a leash law. They say “love can be found at the end of a leash.” Having a dog on a leash shows that you love that dog, he said.
Mark Epply said that there is no doubt that there have been some dog issues, probably more recently than in the past. But, dogs need exercise. You can’t throw balls or Frisbees or allow them to swim in the ocean if they are leashed. It seems overly restrictive. We formed ROMP (Rye Owners Monitoring Pets) a number of years ago. The mission of that is to educate pet owners about keeping their dogs under control and allow them to enjoy the freedom. We now have over 140 members. There are people coming from out of town that are causing there to be a lot more dogs than in the past. At the Selectmen’s meeting on January 22 there were a number of people who spoke in favor of solutions to make everyone happy. There were some good suggestions made. I suggest that we slow this down and form a committee. Next year we could have a warrant article that would solve the problem. He proposed an amended warrant article:
“Should all dogs on town property (inclusive of town woods and beaches) be under control of the dog owner or walker at all times. Dogs not under control must be leashed.”
Karen Oliver seconded.
Dave Tilton said that he has a dog. He asked whether the Selectmen had dogs. Selectman Winslow said that he has grandchildren in town who have dogs.
Mr. Tilton said that he has 56 acres that extends from Washington Rd. to the Rec. Area. All 56 acres is wildlife habitat, including the lawn. If there are deer feeding on the lawn the dog is not allowed out. What is happening today is not effective. I have trail cameras on the property. The wildlife can be anywhere on the property: fisher, otter, raccoons, skunks. You name it. Section 466:3 of the state law says that “it shall be unlawful for the owner or custodian of any dog to permit such dog to run at large in territory inhabited by game birds, etc.” Editor’s note: N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) 466:3 goes on to include quadrupeds as well. Since the first of the year, I have pictures of 19 dogs on my property, coming off of the town land. That’s a violation of the game law. They’re under their control? Well, if they’re under control that means you’re allowing them to break the law and come onto my property. It’s been over two years. It’s been the same thing, over and over again. When are we going to get something done? I certainly hope something good comes out of the whole thing before it’s finally over.
Mike Garvan said that he agrees with Mr. Tilton and others who have dog issues on the beaches and in the Town Forest. The way that the original article was written it would also include other areas. I don’t think that that is appropriate. I’m on the Conservation Commission. We have numerous properties with trails. There are 200 acres or more of these properties. There is information on those on the town website. On those properties, dogs under control should be allowed without leashes. We’ve been trying to address this problem. It is a problem of education. There are definitely bad owners. Mr. Tilton has proof of numerous instances of trespassing. Chief Walsh has established a working group with people on all sides of the issue. Recently the Conservation Commission has voted to have a leash required zone within the first 150 feet of the Town Forest at all of the four major entry points. This came about in part due to a suggestion from Chief Walsh. We hope that that will educate the dog owners. There will be a sign indicating that being under control requires that the dog be in sight and able to be recalled immediately upon voice command and sit by the owner’s side. The Town Forest Management Plan is being updated and will be updated in the Spring. There are a number of solutions that we are looking at. Mr. Tilton has been a good and patient neighbor. I ask that the Town be a little more patient and maybe next year we can have a warrant article with controls in place that will be effective, he said.
An individual from 39 Pine St. said that he is a dog owner and, when he moved to Rye, one of the things that he was most excited about was the leash law here. The problem is not dogs being on or off leash, but the lack of enforcement of the current law. It is as much dog walker’s fault as it is non dog walker’s fault as it is law enforcement’s fault. This year is the first year that I’ve seen clear signage. On the beach, 95 percent of the people in January are dog walkers.
Lisa, also from 39 Pine St., said that they go to the beach and have had no issues. We’re talking about isolated incidents. People aren’t speaking up. Do people follow up and call the police? Even if this law were put in effect, nothing would change. It just overly restricts those who are following the law. It would really change our lifestyle. Hopefully we can find a way to work together as a community and make sure that there is no longer a problem. There was applause.
Sam Winebaum said that the amendment was a good idea, but asked where the teeth are. I don’t have a dog, but I have experience where runners were attacked and bitten or jumped on practically daily. The area had a leash law, except on private property. The police and animal control suddenly started enforcing it vigorously. Everyone got a fine. They did that for about two weeks, with $200 fines. Then they said OK, the issue is untrained dogs and lack of control. We are going to allow dogs off leash but under the conditions that the dog must be under control, and not within 150 ft. of a trailhead. They also designated areas where dogs could be unleashed. The dog walkers who were walking aggressive dogs in groups completely disappeared from these areas. It’s a process but there needs to be teeth. I’d like to see more enforcement with stiff fines. The dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control at all times. That’s easier said than done. They have to be well-trained.
John Bellino said that there’s no easy solution. He has had dogs. I would hate to see the ability for dogs to be unleashed in the parks eliminated. We all have a fellow resident and neighbor who had to defend his animals using violent force. We all have friends who are responsible dog owners, but a lot of them aren’t. There was an amendment. I think we can study a little more, but I don’t think we can wait another year. I don’t have the answer.
Matt Marra said that he had been a Rye resident for two years. He raised a concern about concentrating dogs on one beach. He referred to Nahant, MA which is a disaster with e..coli. He offered a friendly amendment to included Pirates’ Cove and Wallis Beach. He also referred to electric collars.
Mr. Epply said that the warrant article as amended includes all beaches so there is no need to include additional beaches.
Shawn Crapo says that the existing law is difficult to enforce as “under control” is subject to interpretation. I’ve seen both of my kids be knocked over by a dog that the owner would say was under control. He spoke about dog waste being left because it would be washed away within 12 hours. He spoke about the possibility of dogs being certified with a tag indicating that they are under control. Short of that I think the amendment should fail.
Doug Nelson said that there were fewer issues with dogs off leashes. I support Mr. Epply, he said. There was applause.
Tom King said that he supports the amendment. We have gone through this a few times. We think we (meaning those who like to walk their dogs) have made a pretty reasonable accommodation. We’ve separated the beaches in time and space. Dogs are not allowed on the state beaches. If you have to go to a Rye Beach you can go between 9:00 and 7:00 during the summer and, theoretically, you won’t see a dog. That seems reasonable. People with dogs pay taxes too. We want to be able to enjoy our animals. Mr. King spoke about the trails not being wide enough to prevent leashed dogs from interacting. This comes down to personal responsibility. If someone’s dog goes to the bathroom on the beach, I have to believe that, if you forgot your bag, there’s probably somebody within about 50 feet that has one. We pick up more dog poop every time we go to the woods or the beach than our dogs deposit, for sure. Most people are like that. Part of the problem is not having trash cans during the winter. In the summer when the trash cans are there, people pick up trash as well. That’s one of the reasons the beaches are as clean they are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I don’t think love is at the end of a leash. What’s love is not being on a leash. There was applause.
Maggie Hannah said that she also abuts the conservation land. She said that she enjoys having her dogs off leash. Dogs are going to poop on the beach or on the trail whether they are on leash or not, so I don’t see how that is an issue. There’s more signage in woods and more dog poop bags now. I have seen a lot more dogs under control. I have less than an acre and there’s no way my dog would get the necessary exercise. One of the reasons I moved where I did was that there would be the trails on which my dog could be walked, she said.
Jaci Grote called the question. There was a second from an unknown person. The motion carried.
Moderator Eaton then called for a vote and reread the amendment:
“Should all dogs on town property (inclusive of town woods and beaches) be under control of the dog owner or walker at all times. Dogs not under control must be leashed.”
The motion to amend carried.
The question was moved by Jaci Grote. Mr. Nelson seconded. The motion carried.
Shawn Crapo moved to reconsider. Scott Marion seconded. Mr. Marion explained that Chief Walsh had been trying to speak.
Moderator Eaton called for a vote. He then called for a hand count. Shawn Crapo was one of those counting. Moderator Eaton said that the motion passed 41-37.
Police Chief Walsh said that prior and current Selectmen had made it crystal clear to department heads that there should be no new full-time employees. It has long-term effects on the budget. The police officers and I have batted this around. The statistics on Animal Control calls are:
2017 370 (93 on beach)
We’re issuing tickets. When the officers come back with warnings the Chief tells them it should be a ticket. “Under control” is very wide open. Who knows how a judge is going to rule on that. We’re leaving Dow Ln. and other areas needing enforcement to go to the Town Forest and the beaches for complaints about dogs. The purpose of the leashes is to self regulate. We’re going to brainstorm to come up with a solution. What you’re asking to be done is time consuming.
In 2016, on July 3 there were 53 dogs on the beach. How many officers have to stand there to watch 53 dogs that the other dogs don’t get out of control and get into a fight. How many multiple areas to we have to watch, plus the other quality of life complaints that people ask us to handle. It’s difficult at best with the staff that we have.
We had an unfortunate incident. It is going to court. At the end of the day when that case is disposed of, both sides are going to regret what happened. It’s gotten to a level where people are going beyond the scope of respect for each other. The words of the Town enforce, but we’re going to do the best we can. We’re going to put the ideas out and if we can come up with changes I’ll go to the Board with them. We want everyone to enjoy their dogs but we also want it to be safe. I want it to be clear that I represent some of the people who won’t speak up but don’t go to the beaches or the Town Forest because they know there are so many dogs. I just don’t think that’s fair. I want to be able to look at these folks and say you can go because there are safety measures in place. There was applause.
Moderator Eaton said that the reconsideration had been for the limited purpose of allowing Chief Walsh to speak. He ordered Article 34 to appear on the ballot as amended.
There was a motion to restrict reconsideration and a second, which passed.
Moderator Eaton read the warrant article.
Selectman Jenness spoke to the article. She said that it speaks for itself.
Scott Marion called the question. Burt Dibble seconded. Moderator Eaton called for the votes in favor. He then said “all opposed,” followed by “don’t you dare.” The motion carried and Moderator Eaton ordered the article to appear on the ballot as written.
Moderator Eaton read the warrant article and then said “go Patriots.” He then declared the Deliberative Session adjourned at 5:11 p.m.