State said to be looking to 'formalize' arrangemetns with homeowners who have been using railroad right-of-ways
MEREDITH — At a workshop yesterday, the Board of Selectmen declined to comment on a proposal by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to lease railroad property owned by the state to the Needle Eye Association in order to construct a pedestrian crossing of the track, maintain a boat dock and provide access to Lake Winnipesaukee.
The state Council on Resources and Development will consider the proposal at a meeting on November 13.
For many years the DOT was permitted to lease waterfront property within the railroad right-of-way to abutting landowners to afford them access to the water. However, in 2007 the Legislature restricted the purpose of selling or leasing railroad properties to "continued operation of a railroad, or other public use."
At the same time, the Legislature addressed the circumstances of owners of developed residential lots adjacent to railroad properties on the shores of public waters. The DOT was authorized to lease the state-owned waterfront for the private use of those adjacent homeowners, who applied for a building permit or constructed a concrete foundation before January 1, 2011, so long as their use of the land did not interfere with railroad operations.
In correspondence, Patrick Herlihy, director of the Division of Aeronautics, Rail and Rransit at the DOT, explained that the Needle Eye Association owns a 17,400-square-foot corridor that serves as a right-of-way to the waterfront for residents of the subdivision. At an unknown time, members of the association built a dock on the railroad property. Herlihy said that the DOT is willing to lease between 50 feet and 300 feet of shorefront at the edge of the railroad right-of-way provided the association constructs and maintains a crossing with appropriate signage to alert pedestrians.
Selectman Peter Brothers told the board that he encountered similar situations while working at Meredith Village Savings Bank. "It's all about finding revenue," he remarked. He explained that after restricting leases of state-owned waterfront, the DOT is taking stock of such land, which has been used by adjacent property owners without leases — in cases for many years — and entering formal arrangements with them.
Brothers said that since no new development is planned for the property, apart from the pedestrian crossing, there was no reason for the Selectboard to comment.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 12:57
GILFORD — For the second time in two years, selectmen are planning to increase the fees collected for solid waste to help offset the town's subsidy of trash disposal.
Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the town plans on raising the amount collected from residents from $30 per ton to $45 per ton. He said this should raise the revenue to the town by about $75,000.
Solid waste or garbage collection costs can be broken down into three-parts: the cost of getting the garbage to the Laconia Transfer Station, the cost of getting the garbage from Laconia to the Wheelabrator facility in Penacook, and the cost of incinerating it.
In Gilford, individual residents bear the full expense of getting the garbage to Laconia. The town doesn't have a transfer station or curbside pickup and residents either take their garbage to the Laconia station or pay a private trash hauler to take it.
The costs of transporting the garbage to Penacook and disposing of it is currently $66.80 per ton and is called a tipping fee. This fee is projected to increase to about $70 for the calender year 2015 said Dunn.
The town of Gilford pays the upfront costs to Laconia and a portion of the revenue collected from the sale of coupons to residents who haul their own or by haulers who pay by the ton to dump their loads is returned to the town.
The town disposes of about 5,000 tons of trash per year. For accounting purposes, the town budgets $350,000 annually as an expense and creates a revenue offset for the money returned to Gilford by Laconia once the fees are paid.
If the town raises its fees for disposal at the Laconia Transfer Station, Dunn said it would mean that the town will be subsidizing about 50-percent of the costs instead of the 67 percent it currently subsidizes.
When the board broached the subject last year, Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan said it was tantamount to shifting it to more of a user fee and less of a property tax.
"Either way, someone will pay the bill," he said.
Last year, there was some strong push back from some residents who said that garbage collection is one of the key functions of local government and the town should be paying for it through property taxation.
Their fear was the private haulers would use the rate increase as an excuse to increase their rates and trash disposal would ultimately cost residents and taxpayers alike more in the long run.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 12:16
by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — The Bridgewater-Hebron Withdrawal Study Committee has concluded that, while feasible, it would not be desirable to secede from the Newfound Area School District at this time.
Committee Chair Patrick Moriarty of Hebron and Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater voted against the motion to end the study.
Bristol Selectman Rick Alpers announced the committee's decision at his board's meeting on Oct. 16, saying it means there will be no warrant article in March and no need to move ahead with the study now that the Newfound Area School Board has responded to the towns' persistent request to pull the sixth graders from the middle school and return their classes to the elementary schools.
"The school board is finally doing something, and that has appeased a lot of parents," Alpers said.
Migliore, who had predicted that directing the superintendent to come up with an implementation plan for a K-6 educational structure would appease Bridgewater and Hebron residents, said in a telephone interview that he wanted to go forward with the withdrawal in any case, "because I understand the politics of how this is going to play out".
He explained that, because the superintendent will not present her implementation plan until April, it will give those who disagreed with the decision a chance to elect new school board members who might reverse the vote. "The report won't be until after the elections in the spring, and there will be two or three new members on the board," Migliore said. "There may be enough votes to make that happen, and then Groton, Bridgewater, and Hebron will vote to go forward again with withdrawal."
Alpers who was among the selectmen serving on the study committee, said he is optimistic about the future. "What came out of these meetings was, let's bring all the selectmen together to share resources, and have a greater discussion," he said. "We have this $22 million school district with a failed business model. We need to look at what will happen if we do change, and what else we can do to save money."
Alpers continued, "We've got a problem. If the numbers continue to decline, in a few years, we will have the same number of students as when we started the district, with all these extra facilities."
Selectman Shaun Lagueux pointed out that the school board had not yet made a decision on what will happen with the middle school after the sixth graders are removed, leaving only seventh and eighth graders in the building. He added that the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School can accommodate sixth graders but some of the other elementary schools will be hard-pressed to find the space for the additional classes.
During the public comment period, resident John Sellers said his concern with the school board's decision in not addressing the future of the middle school at the same time is that it might leave Bristol with a higher educational cost.
When it made the decision to implement a K-6 educational model, the school board sidestepped the issue of Newfound Memorial Middle School's future, suggesting that the central office, currently in rented space, might be moved into the building, along with special services and other offerings by the school district. Superintendent Stacy Buckley will need to address those issues in her April report.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 12:11
CIRCUIT COURT — About 50 students from the ninth grade civics class at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton spent the morning in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division as part of a lesson on how courts and the judicial system works.
Presiding Judge Jim Carroll greeted the students and queried them briefly on their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and how those protections works.
Carroll also questioned them about the meaning of Veteran's Day.
He told them they should be especially respectful of the men and women who have served in the armed forces who have fought and died so students like them could have the rights afforded them under the Constitution.
"We have a duty as citizens to at least know what our rights are," Carroll told them.
The students were accompanied by civics teacher Kim Kelliher, substitute civics teacher Brian Stuart, a guidance councilor, Laurie Maheu and School Resource Office Sean Sullivan.
Each year, all ninth grade social studies students attend a court room session withing the N.H. Judiciary.
CUTLINE: Prospect Mountain High School ninth graders attend a session at the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo/Gail Ober)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 12:06
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