SANBORNTON — Five of the seven people commissioned by selectmen to form a Public Works Privatization Exploratory Committee met with the board last night and agreed to serve.
The five who were there last night are Jeff Jenkins, Curt McGee, Andy Sanborn, Fire Chief Paul Dexter, who will serve as a citizen, and Ralph Rathjen. The two members who weren't at last night's meeting are Mark Thurston, who had said he'd be late, and Bill Whalen who, according to Town Administrator Bob Veloski was unable to attend. Public Works Department Director Johnny VanTassel and Veloski, will be advisers.
Selectmen Dave Nickerson spoke initially for all three selectmen when he told the new committee the goal was to see if privatization "is a good idea or is it a bad idea."
He said the selectmen would like to see a recommendation from the committee after it finishes its work. "The good, the bad, and the ugly," Nickerson said.
When some people started taking about possible future uses for "the campus" area near old Town Hall and uses for the new DPW Building, Jenkins said he thought this committee should narrow its focus to just the immediate task at hand.
"If we get too wide, we get talking about a small committee talking about the whole town budget," Sanborn said, agreeing with Jenkins that the task must be a specific one and limited to the DPW only.
Sanborn also noted that $1 million, which is the annual operating budget of the highway portion of the Department of Public Works, is "a whole lot of money" and he feared there may be some attempts to influence the committee's work in one direction or another.
Nickerson told him that was why there would be no selectman's representative on the committee.
"That's why we wanted business people and that's why we're staying out," he said. "If it starts to get political, put a kibosh on it."
Speaking informally among themselves, the newly appointed committee members said the first thing they need to do is to create a mission statement. All agreed the first meeting would be on November 5 — a Tuesday — at 7 p.m. and they would do the organizing a scheduling at that time. The first meeting will likely be at the town offices although there are other spaces in town including a conference room at the DPW where the committee can meet if there is a conflict with the town office meeting room.
Melanie VanTassel said as a courtesy she would like to see town employees kept abreast of the committee's work because she said some of them were upset to read about the formation of the committee in Wednesday's Daily Sun.
Selectmen Karen Ober said the earliest the selectmen expect any recommendations is in 2015 and should any changes be adopted at the May 2015 Annual Town Meeting it would be 2016 before they could be implemented.
In other Sanbornton news, resident and former Selectman Evelyn Auger spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and said she was "bothered a lot" by a story in Wednesday's Daily Sun about disharmony among selectmen. She said it occurred three weeks ago and while it was news, the board has already put it in the past.
She also took exception to having two of Selectman Karen Ober's spoken statements printed verbatim in the minutes of the meeting so that they end up in the newspaper. She also said when she was a selectman she often thought about resigning and at one point went so far at to bring a resignation letter to a meeting.
"Sanbornton has already gone through the fire 10 years ago. I know, I was in the battle and I have the scars to prove it," she said.
Sanborn took the opportunity to suggest the board put a video camera in selectman's meetings and air them on Lakes Region Public Access so they wouldn't be dependent on the newspapers to get the news to residents.