Selectmen give teen go-ahead to finish warming hut project with some paid labor

GILFORD — Selectmen last night gave the teenager who began the restoration of the warming hut at the former Gilford Outing Club hill site the okay to hire a private contractor to finish the project with the assistance of volunteers.
Sarah Anderson told selectmen that Richard Moreau, a contractor from Belmont who has experience with historic restorations would do the doors and windows and Harry Bean of Saltmarsh Pond Road would volunteer his crews to do the siding.
There was no formal vote taken.
At a previous meeting, Selectman John O'Brien had questioned the use of private contractors to complete the job that was, in his opinion, supposed to be completed by volunteer labor only. He also took offense to what he interpreted as an implied threat from some of the donors to the project to sue to the town for not finishing a project that was on town property.
The goal of the project is to complete it with historical accuracy so it can be placed on the state's historic register. Anderson raised money — about $10,000 — for six years and the actual restoration began last year. There is $4,600 left.
Anderson has said she never intended the taxpayers spend any money on it, but had only asked to use fund-raising money to hire someone to finish the labor because there were not enough volunteers.
Though O'Brien said nothing last night, he has expressed his concerns that because the project was on town property the town may face liability down the road because it acts as a defacto disbursing agent for the money and the checks issued to a contractor would be drawn on an account with the town's name on it.
There had been some discussion about having the Department of Public Works crews finish the project but Selectman Kevin Hayes and O'Brien weren't sure if it would be a good or appropriate use of taxpayer resources.
Hayes told Anderson the town would be there if she ran into any snags with the labor. He also encouraged her to use more volunteers than contractors because the money would go much further.
Anderson said that if the project runs short of cash, there are additional people who said they would donate addition money to finish the warming hut.
In additional business, representatives from Lake Region Public Access television asked selectmen to create a local cable committee that would provide feedback from customers who are also paying the franchise fee through their cable bills, part of which goes back to LRPA to pay for the development of public access programming.
LRPA Director Denise Beauchaine said the Northwood model, that has been in operation in some form since 1999, is a suggested model.
When Hayes asked Northwood's Committee Chair Ken Curley how much the cable committee and the taping cost the town, Curley said it was about $27,000 annually — $20,000 for a part-time videographer, equipment maintenance and equipment updates and $7,000 in fees to LRPA.
Selectmen made no decision but toward the end of the meeting, Town Administrator Scott Dunn said he wasn't sure if there would be enough interest in a town cable committee as other recent attempts at forming additional town committees have been unsuccessful.
Hayes asked Dunn to provide the board with the pros and cons of forming a committee and present them to a future board meeting.