by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — With the municipal tax rate having risen from $5.25 per $1,000 of net assessed valuation in 2000 to $6.88 per $1,000 in 2013 — despite the town's net assessed valuation having more than doubled during that same period — calls for harsh budget-cutting have been rising, prompting a fierce contest for selectman and budget committee positions this year.
The heated campaigns reached a new level of acrimony this week after the Newfound Area Taxpayers sent a mailing to Bristol residents that included campaign inserts for selectman candidates Paul Manganiello and Andy O'Hara Jr. but not for incumbent Shaun Lagueux and former selectman Rick Alpers. The mailing announced a moderated Meet the Candidates event scheduled this Saturday, March 8, at the Minot-Sleeper Library at which candidates for Newfound Area School District and Town of Bristol positions will appear.
Responding to the criticism, the taxpayers' group posted on its Facebook page: "As done in previous years mailings, the mailing went out with the Announcement/Agenda which includes list of candidates and inserts from those who approached prior to our mailing date for inclusion. All candidates will continue to have opportunity to place materials at the event for attendees to take."
That explanation has not gone over well with supporters of the other candidates, who continued to complain that they were not aware that they could include inserts with the announcement. Krystal Alpers wrote, "As a 'neutral' association, one would have thought there would have been a request to all candidates for inclusion in the mailing opposed to assuming citizens/candidates (k)new this group was hosting and sending this mailing. Perhaps the candidates that were unaware of this opportunity from this 'neutral' association should have a separate mailing with their information as their (sic) is ample time to get this additional information out to the community."
The Meet the Candidates event will begin at 11 a.m. at the library, with Archie Auger serving as moderator for the school district positions and Edward "Ned" Gordon serving as moderator for the municipal candidates.
In advance of the event, the selectman candidates responded to questions about why they are running and what they bring to the table.
Manganiello, who owns and operates Basic Ingredients Bakery and Gift Shop with his wife, Garlyn, has served on the Bristol Budget Committee since 2012. "My voting record the past two years has consistently maintained the platform that you, the voters, elected me to advocate on your behalf. ... While I have not completed my elected term as a member of the budget committee, I feel strongly that the select board is where I can best advocate for the voter. Last year's residents voted for a change in make-up of the Bristol Select Board. The newly elected board has made some progress in that direction; however, the enhanced status quo still exists. I hope to be the member that ensures that meaningful change can happen."
Citing fiscal discipline, accountability, and transparency as his goals, Manganiello noted that he purchased his home in Bristol in 1983 after having served in Vietnam with the US Marine Corps from 1967 to 1971. After moving here, he has resided in Bristol both full-time and seasonally until 1995 when he and his family moved permanently to the area. He retired from General Electric Company Aircraft Engine Division in 2004, completing a 31-year career supporting Allied Military programs.
O'Hara, a graduate of Newfound Memorial High School, has resided in Bristol for 38 years and for 15 years has owned and operated APT Plumbing & Heating. He said he is seeking the selectman's position "to help the town of Bristol and select board control the spending and stop raising taxes".
His top three goals are "to work hard with the board and all department heads to cut spending without cutting services and safety; continue with the town makeover and repair town buildings and sidewalks; and to help bring more jobs in town so people can work in town again."
O'Hara, who has served on the board of directors of the Pemi Fish and Game Club in Holderness, said he is "open-minded with smart decisions and no agendas".
In his insert to the Meet the Candidates announcement, O'Hara wrote, "Bristol's goal of being a hub to surrounding towns was recently called a 'leaky bucket' so let's fix that leak now and stop providing services to other towns that enjoy very low tax rates at our expense." He also wrote, "I support excellent police and fire department services but believe their budgets are more than most residents can afford and will work towards maintaining top-notch public services on an affordable budget with special emphasis on improved services for the less fortunate and elderly." He also noted that he will "work closely with Windwatch to save our community from industrial wind turbines on our ridge lines".
Lagueux, who served seven years on the Bristol Conservation Commission and five years on the Bristol Budget Committee before joining the Bristol Board of Selectmen one year ago, said he wants to continue to promote Bristol for economic development, stable and dependable town services, and fiscal responsibility for all Bristol taxpayers.
In speaking of economic development, Lagueux said, "Bristol is a great place to do business. How can we make it better? How can we encourage responsible growth?"
A second goal is to "fund current levels of services, including public safety. Cutting these departments will have dire effects on public safety. However, we must find savings where appropriate."
Lagueux also wants to "invest in continual infrastructure improvements where feasible; continue to build on the downtown improvements."
A consulting forester for 18 years, Lagueux said, "As budget committee chairman for several years, we were able to level-fund the budget or, at worst, hold it to CPI during a very hard economic climate while still providing essential town services."
Alpers, who previously served as town administrator for three years and then served nine years as a selectman, said he is returning after a year's absence because "local government is a passion of mine. I care deeply about my community and want to ensure that Bristol continues to be a great community to live, work, and play. I hope to keep things positive, conservative, and keep our community moving forward."
With a degree in public management and having worked for nearly six years for Primex, a governmental risk management company, Alpers continued, "In order to better stabilize our tax rate, we need to work hard on economic development. We need to form strong partnerships with state and county economic development officials to help attract new business and retain the great businesses we have. We also need to ensure that we are as business-friendly as possible in order for folks to move quickly through our permitting process.
"With the great renovation of our downtown, I believe it is essential the board of selectmen find ways to continue extending the new downtown sidewalks throughout our greater downtown community. The current sidewalks are tired and in desperate need of repair and replacement. We can achieve this with a 10-year replacement plan just [as] we do for our roads, as well as continue to apply for grant funding as we have done through the Safe Routes to School grants.
"We as a community need to start talking to our neighboring communities about what services we can share, from bulk purchasing of office supplies, salt and sand, and heating fuel, to actual departmental services like public safety. These conversations can be difficult, but in an effort to stabilize the tax rate, the time has come to seriously consider regionalizing services."
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 01:19
GILFORD — The School Board on Monday night rejected Superintendent Ken Hemingway suggested calender for 2014-2015 school year that included 15 instead of 24 delayed-opening days at the high school.
After a considerable amount of discussion, the board settled on 21 days — considerably more than the nine delayed-opening days mandated by the recently renegotiated union contract but less than the 24 the teachers have this year.
On a delayed opening day, student arrive at 9 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m., giving teachers two hours of preparation and coordination time.
The rational, said School Board member Kurt Webber, who told Hemingway he would not vote for the calender as it was initially presented, was that board was told the teachers at the high school needed more preparation time.
Member Paul Blandford said he recalled that the delayed-entry days were created because the board had learned that two math teacher had entirely different curricula and entirely different grading standards but were supposedly teaching the same class.
"There is no good reason to reduce the number of delayed entry Wednesdays," Webber said, adding he wanted to go back to the 24 days so the faculty could do "sufficient preparation."
Principal Peter Sawyer said the teachers were "not happy with 15 days at all." He said his personal feeling was 21 days would be enough but said he could live with 18.
At the elementary and middle school levels, the teachers have early student-release days for planning and coordinating curriculum. However, because of athletics and the Huot Technical Center schedule, the high school is unable to let students go home after a half day.
There are nine early release days in the 2014-2015 calendar.
According to School Board Chair Sue Allen, the delayed-openings came about during the administration of former Superintendent Paul DeMinico for the purpose of giving high school teachers more time to coordinate their curriculum toward competency-based grading.
"We wanted to make sure all of the teachers were on the same page as to expectations of student learning," she said.
At the time, Allen said the board and the administrative team determined 24 days of delayed entry — or roughly 48 hours of planning without students in the building — was the appropriate amount of time. It is also consistent with the number of hours elementary and middle school teachers have for planning through the use of early release days.
"I'm very sensitive to the issue of equitable time," she said, referring to the amount of time teachers get to plan and coordinate at each of the three schools.
At their meeting, the equitable time issue between the three schools was briefly discussed but Webber said he wasn't buying it.
"I want the administration to tell me why a schedule at the elementary school should effect one at the high school," he said.
Hemingway said he and the current administrative team believe much of the coordination of curricula has been accomplished as part of the district's planning for the Common Core implementation and that 24 days is more than what the teachers need.
He told the board he wanted to get more instructional time or "seat time" for the students.
"It's always been about "seat" time verses teacher preparation time," Allen said yesterday. "It's a very delicate balance."
The calender also set August 27, 2014 as the first day of school, with the last week in February as winter vacation and the last week in April as spring vacation.
In other school district news, the board voted unanimously to go forward with Phase I of the Gilford Meadows Athletic Fields project.
Allen said Phase 1 includes preparing and seeding the multi-purpose field closest to the Gilford Meadows Condominium along Intervale Road and installing irrigation for the football playing field and the new practice field.
She said they are looking to seed in mid-August so the new field will be ready for fall of 2015.
Allen said the goal is to always have a multi-purpose field and the football playing field available during the multi-phased project.
The project is being constructed through in-kind donations coordinated through the Gilford Meadows Committee and money raised through donations and events.
Hemingway also announced the date of the golf tournament that raises money for the fields is May 17 at Pheasant Ridge Country Club. Hole sponsorship will be $125 and it is $90 to play in the tournament. Anyone who wants to play or sponsor a hole should contact the SAU at 527-9215.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 12:59
GILFORD — A former employee of MacDonald Veterinary Services has been charged with one count of possession of controlled drugs and one count of theft for allegedly stealing animal anesthetics for his personal use.
Police affidavits filed in court said Bruce Sanborn, 42, former of 41 Gilford East Drive #A was living in a "temporary rent-free apartment" adjacent to MacDonald's Veterinary Clinic. He had been given the apartment by Dr. Robert MacDonald and was doing janitorial work for the clinic and had a key to the business.
Sanborn had been living there since the end of January, said police, because his girlfriend in Meredith had apparently thrown him out of the house.
At some point, MacDonald realized that some Telazol — which is a brand name for a drug used by veterinarians — was missing. Police said Telazol is a combination of an anesthetic and a muscle relaxer administered to animals during surgery. It is a schedule III drug.
Once MacDonald realized some of it was missing he tested the rest of the drug and found out that what he had in the vile had also been diluted.
Police said he set up a video surveillance system and recorded Sanborn taking a vial out of the refrigerator on March 3 after the business was closed and before they opened the next morning. After Sanborn returned the vial, MacDonald measured the contents and said there was one cubic centimeter less liquid that before Sanborn allegedly took it.
Detectives said MacDonald was able to recognize Sanborn by his face and by some specific tattoos.
On March 4, police got a warrant and searched the apartment, finding a syringe that MacDonald's wife identified as the same type as some that were kept in the basement — an area Sanborn had once cleaned.
Sanborn was arrested by Meredith Police on Tuesday and turned over to Gilford Police. He refused bail.
He appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday and was released on $25,000 personal recognizance bail. He was ordered to stay away from the MacDonalds and to live on Livingstone Road in Meredith.
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 12:52
by Thomas P. Caldwell
ASHLAND — Trustees of the Ashland Town Library, citing crowding at the Scribner Library, are hoping voters will agree to purchase the former Ashland School from the Tri-County Community Action Program. A $950,000, 10-year bond issue will be on the ballot for a decision on March 11.
TCCAP purchased the three-story brick building from the Ashland School District in 2008, paying $1 plus a $44,000 reimbursement to the school district for the demolition of the former high school building. Community Action then spent $1.25 million for restoration and improvements to the school, bringing the building up to code, installing new heating and cooling systems and a zoned sprinkler system, and putting in energy-efficient lighting and windows, as well as building a handicapped entrance and installing an elevator to provide access to all floors.
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1877-78 and served as a school until 1990. The new Ashland Elementary School sits on an adjacent parcel and the library trustees cite that as one of the attractions of the building: It is a short, safe walking distance from the elementary school so students could use the library for in-school visits and after-school activities.
In addition to the main circulation area on the first floor, there would be three office spaces that could serve as rooms for study and tutoring. There would be triple the current space for a children's room — the Scribner Library has room for only 12 children — and when the library holds a reading program, they have to remove the furniture from the room. There also would be a computer lab with space for laptop users.
Plans also call for a young adult area on the second floor, with space for the storage of historical records and volumes. The main collection also would be on the second floor, along with the library's audio-visual collection, work tables, and comfortable seating.
The third floor has a large space with original woodwork, blackboards, and a divider that could accommodate large and small community and governmental functions. As an added benefit, the room has great views of downtown Ashland.
The current library is housed in a two-story clapboard building owned by the town and managed by the Scribner Trustees. Library Trustee David Ruell says that, with 1,245-square-feet of space, all shelving is full and adding new materials requires dispensing with older, still-valuable materials. Although the library has a ramped entrance, it is not fully handicapped-accessible, with the second floor inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair, and it has only on-street parking.
The school, by contrast, has a dedicated parking lot with space for 15 vehicles. With 7,920-square-feet of space, it would give the library six times the amount of room for its collections, activities, and storage.
TCCAP has offered to sell the building to the town for $850,000. Having closed the Head Start classroom and discontinued the Housing and Development office, TCCAP has been using just half of one story for its remaining office and no longer needs such a large building.
The warrant article seeks an appropriation of $950,000 because, should the library acquire the building, it would need to make about $100,000 in renovations, including installing a circulation desk at the main entrance and security doors to shut off the library section when the building was being used for public events in the third-floor function room. The library also would need shelving for its books and computer work stations.
While the benefits of the move are apparent, the building's purchase may be a hard sell, coming a year after Ashland's revaluation bumped the property tax rate to $25.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The first-year payment on the bonds issued would be $118,750, declining to $97,373 in the 10th and final year. Because the article involves a bond issue, it will take a 60 percent majority vote for the article to pass.
Nevertheless, the library is showing continued growth in usage, having increased the size of its collection by 20 percent in the last three years. Patron visits have increased 16 percent, items circulated increased 23 percent, and computer use has grown 29 percent, according to the trustees.
In order to prove the need, the library is inviting Ashland voters to visit the current library at 41 Main Street and see for themselves how crowded conditions are. Then, on Saturday, March 8, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the library will be leading tours of the Ashland School at 41 School Street.
The Friends of the Ashland Library will serve free refreshments during the tours, and hold a fundraising raffle. Children will have the opportunity to read to Willow, the reading therapy dog, and listen to stories in what would be the new children's room.
For further information, see www.ashlandtownlibrary.org; call the library at 603-968-7928, or call David Ruell at 968-7716.
CAPTION: The trustees of the Scribner Library, also known as the Ashland Town Library, are hoping voters will approve the purchase of the old Ashland School to give them more space for their programs and collections. (Thomas Caldwell photo/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
CAPTION: The old Ashland School would be transformed into the Ashland Town Library if voters agree to purchase the building from Tri-County Community Action Program which recently renovated the building but no longer needs all the space. (Thomas Caldwell photo/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 12:36
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