String of e-mails between Andersons & Gilford officials details war of words over unfinished warming hut restoration project

GILFORD — The mother of the 17-year-old girl who is heading up the fund-raising and volunteer coordination to restore the Gilford Outing Club warming hut told town officials that some of the project's donors are "poised and ready" to start a letter-writing campaign that would embarrass the town about the town's  inability to finish the project.
In an e-mail sent to Town Administrator Scott Dunn from Carol Anderson on June 6, she said the "town had better be careful that one of the donors doesn't sue (it) for taking in money for a town-owned property with the promise of fixing it up and not doing it."
The town holds the money from the donations, about $7,200 with $4,600 left, and acts as a dispersing agent. Typically the money that is spent is requested by 17-year-old Sarah Anderson, the project's defacto manager, and Dunn pays the bills. The selectmen have no authority over how or when the money is spent but also have no official role in the project other than owning the land.
The subject was mentioned at Wednesday night's Selectboard meeting, at which a string of e-mail correspondence was alluded to. The Daily Sun asked for and received copies of those e-mail.
Seven years ago, the restoration of the warming hut was the dream of 10-year-old Sarah who went to the 2006 Board of Selectmen with the idea for the restoration and placement of the hut on the state's historical registry. According to research done by Dunn, while selectmen were "enthusiastic" about the project, which is on town property, they never formally voted on it.
Last summer, town volunteers, many of them town employees working on their days off, tackled the project with the Anderson family and completed some of it. Scott Davis rebuilt the roof and students at the Huot Technical Center in Laconia constructed the walls. So far this summer, the project lays idle, for what the Anderson's say is a lack of volunteers to construct it.
According to Selectmen John O'Brien and Kevin Hayes as well as Dunn, this has never been a town project and the Anderson's agree.
In the wake of the threats of litigation, Sarah reached out to a private contractor in Belmont to help finish the project but the fireworks began when O'Brien questioned the town's commitment to a contract with the company and said the "threats of litigation" were offensive to him as a selectman who has been elected to keep the best interest of the town in mind.
O'Brien, who has personally worked on the hut and supports the project, said he had some concerns with the town signing a contract that could expose Gilford to some liability if there wasn't enough money. He also said selectmen never officially voted in favor of the project and it was all supposed to have been done with volunteer labor.
When Carol Anderson replied that minutes from the May 2006 meeting said "ALL selectmen" cast an affirmative vote for the project. She chastised him for not doing his research and recommend he "watch his working in any correspondence due to that fact."
She went on to say that she "will not stand by and have anyone turn this project into a negative one" for Sarah's and the town's sake.
Carol Anderson also told O'Brien not to e-mail them anymore because she "would automatically delete it."
O'Brien objected to the personal attack, order Dunn not to go forward without further board input, and condemned the "baseless threats of litigation" and "suggestions of embarrassment" he attributed to "one of the major people involved in the project."
John Anderson responded first by complimenting Dunn on his helpfulness and reiterating the positive nature of the project. He said the family has been aware all along that the former outing club is not their property and that, as private citizens, they cannot take on any liability for the project but they have consulted with the town on every step.
"The comments about lawsuits and negative comments come from the local people who are donors and concerned citizen(s)," he said, noting his family has been on the receiving end of "many challenging comment about the lack of progress."
Which donors have allegedly threatened to sue the town and why they think they can sue the town is unknown.
The "lack of progress" has been attributed to a lengthy fund-raising campaign — almost three years and amassing the necessary volunteers for the physical labor.
O'Brien said yesterday that he applauds Sarah Anderson and the effort she has put into the project. He said the minute he saw Dunn was going to sign a contact with a private contractor he starting asking questions.
"We have been drawn into the project," he said adding it's unfortunate that a project he truly supports. "I'm just unhappy that people are saying shame on me for wanting to protect the town. That's my job."
Dunn said yesterday that he supports the project and wants to see it finished.
"Lots of good people and many hours have gone into this," he said. "In the end, the project is worth more than the personalities.
The Selectboard is scheduled to discuss the warming hut when it meets on June 26.