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Meredith selectmen & library trustees remain at odds

MEREDITH — After meeting in a workshop session yesterday, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Trustees of the Meredith Public Library appear no closer to agreement on a "Memorandum of Understanding" that would clarify the relationship and delineate the responsibilities of the town and the library.

Tension between the selectmen and trustees has arisen against the background of a state statute that vests library trustees with a measure of autonomy, particularly over compensating employees. In 2012, the trustees created a new position, filled it with an existing employee and reclassified it by three pay grades, raising the hourly wage of the incumbent by 19 percent. Town manager Phil Warren acknowledged the statutory authority of the trustees, but reminded them that the town's personnel policy authorizes the selectmen to amend "salary plan" on the recommendation of the town manager. He also that in approaching the budget, the selectmen had agreed "no new positions and no re-classifications."

Earlier this summer the selectmen presented the trustees with a draft, which provided that "in order for the town to be able to defend and uphold various legal, personnel and liability matters, it is necessary that all employees and departments, including the library, follow all town ordinances, policies (including the personnel policy) and administrative regulations." The other major component of the draft recognized that the library is a town building and provide for the town to administer and manage its day to day "maintenance and operation."

The trustees prepared a draft of their own that was circulated to the selectmen. "This redraft smell like a lawyer," Selectman Lou Kahn remarked yesterday. "I don't like lawyers, because I was one."

Colleen Nolan, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, told the selectmen that the trustees intended to prepared a personnel policy for library employees. Erin Apostolos, director of the library, assured the selectmen that the policy would be consistent with the town's policy "for the most part," but indicated that the outstanding issue remains "who has the final say."

Selectmen Peter Brothers said that while he was eager to see the library's personnel policy, he was also somewhat concerned. He noted that the relationship between the town and library may expose the town to liabilities arising from personnel practices and issues, particularly as the treatment of employees must conform to both state and federal laws. Kahn added that while state law purports to define the relationship between the town and the library, a federal court may apply a different standard.

Town Manger Phil Warren pointed out that a federal court recently ruled that both McDonald's Corporation and its franchisees are jointly responsible for the employees at privately owned franchises. "That is my concern," he said, suggesting that the town could find itself liable in a situation of the library's making.

Both Kahn and Brothers were surprised to find the trustees reluctant to yield responsibility for maintenance to the town. "If you want to go looking for a plumber," Kahn said, "that's up to you, but we thought taking over the maintenance would be an improvement." Brothers said that responsibilities are not clearly defined and delineated and that the memorandum was intended to "eliminate the guesswork."

Paul Eldridge of the Board of Trustees reminded the selectmen that "you run a municipal corporation and we run an educational institution. They can't be run the same."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:37

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Newfound, MV & Franklin courting Hill students; Winnisquam says no thanks

by Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — The Winnisquam Regional School District has declined this town's request for proposal (RFP) to provide educational services for Hill students in grades 7-12, citing time constraints. The Hill School Board had asked in early July for proposals to be submitted by Aug. 13, in time for Hill's next school board meeting. While Winnisquam found that to be too short a deadline for a formal response, the Merrimack Valley and Newfound school districts did respond, as did Franklin, the school district Hill currently utilizes under an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement.
School Administrative Unit 18 Business Administrator Michael O'Neill said the request did not seek specific tuition figures; only a model of how the districts would calculate the cost per pupil. Franklin's response was that it would continue using the current model which multiplies total per pupil charges by the number of days the Hill pupil is registered in the Franklin schools, then dividing by 180, with the total payment made in two installments, in October and April.
Franklin's per pupil cost is based on the appropriated operating costs of the Franklin Middle School and Franklin High School for the previous academic year, minus an agreed-upon expense for special education tuition and transportation, adjusted to exclude field trips. That total then is divided by the latest average daily membership (ADM) attendance number reported to the N.H. Department of Education.
Superintendent Robert McKenney told the Hill board at the Aug. 13 meeting that individual members of the Franklin School Board, and others in Franklin, had asked him to "bring a message of peace" and indicate that Franklin wants Hill to continue its relationship with Franklin schools.
Hill School Board Chair Shelly Henry responded that she is "struggling with the words from Franklin" coming through the lips of a superintendent who represents both Hill and Franklin. "You spoke of 'we want Hill to stay,' but you are with our district, too," she said.
McKenney said he thinks it is in Hill's best interest to stay with Franklin.
School Board Vice-Chair Nancy Coffin reminded the superintendent that "We're coming at it from the perspective of what's best for our students, and with the cuts that have taken place in Franklin, we're looking at what the school is not able to offer."
Henry agreed: "It comes down to funding and what they're able to do under their (property) tax cap."
The Hill School District voted last year to investigate its options, with its current 10-year AREA agreement with Franklin coming to an end.
School Administrative Unit 46 (Merrimack Valley) in its written response to Hill stated its interest "in discussing a mutually agreed upon arrangement with the Hill School District" and went on to highlight "a few of the unique opportunities Hill students will be afforded should MVSD be your choice."
The district emphasized its decades-long experience in "hosting and acclimating students from neighboring districts" and said, "A hallmark of our district is seen in the support we regularly receive from our local communities. This is exemplified by the fact that the district's budgets have passed every year since the incorporation of the District (1965)."
Merrimack Valley also noted that it is 20 miles from Hill and that both the middle and high school underwent significant facility upgrades in 2007. "Our physical plants and athletic complex are the envy of many visitors."
The letter concluded by saying, "We look forward to the chance to discuss and specify the scope of services and enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with the Hill School District."
Newfound, in addition to sending three documents in response to Hill's request, also sent its school board chair, Ruby Hill of Danbury, to observe and answer questions. The district's paperwork included a letter of interest, a formal response that outlined in general form the scope of services and how it would calculate the tuition rate, and an overview of the Newfound Area School District and its offerings.
Hill resident Gerard Desrochers observed that Merrimack Valley is another 15 minutes beyond Franklin and he said the district already picks up elementary students as early as 5:45 a.m. Adding another 15 minutes would be even harder on the children, he said.
As to Newfound, Desrochers said he was concerned with the troubling situation at Newfound, where the district is operating under a two percent (property) tax cap. "We don't know what their long-term situation will be," he said. "Franklin's been operating under a tax cap for a lot longer, and they're having trouble maintaining programs. With their tax cap, Newfound may be facing the same thing in not too many years."
Henry said the next step for the Hill School Board would be to meet with its attorney to review the responses and establish how to proceed in negotiating potential agreements with the interested parties.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:29

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Meredith goes with take coyotes to scare geese

MEREDITH — Visitors to Hesky Park and Scenic Park should not be alarmed to find coyotes lurking amid the shrubbery and sculptures, for they are only manikins placed in hopes of dispersing the Canada Geese, who have dropped the curtain on "Barefoot in the Park." .

Town Manager Phil Warren told the selectmen yesterday that at $70 a head the faux coyotes offered the least expensive and most promising means of persuading the geese to take their business elsewhere. But, he emphasized that the coyotes must be moved about frequently in order to be effective.

Extermination, Warren said, is "out of the question." He explained that a three-year process, including a study and appeal to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, would be required with no assurance of success. Chemical sprays are available, but cannot be used within 150 feet of the water. Fences and hedges, about four feet in height, might deter the geese, but disfigure the park. Dogs, trained to harass the geese until they leave never to return, can be hired at significant cost. Devices that produce sound geese find unnerving cost $1,600 apiece.

Of all the options, Warren chose the coyote manikins. So Wiley and Smiley it is.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:23

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Driver rolls truck trying to evade police at Weirs Beach

LACONIA — Police said yesterday that an as yet unidentified person is facing multiple charges for failing to stop for a police officer and rolling over a truck during his effort to get away.

Lt. Rich Simmons said an officer on routine patrol on Lakeside Avenue at Weirs Beach attempted to stop the truck however the driver drove at a rapid speed up Tower Hill Road at 12:52 a.m. Saturday.

He said the officer chose not to engage in a high speed pursuit but followed the truck toward Rte. 3.

Simmons said the driver lost control of the vehicle after making the turn on to the highway and rolled the truck in front of the Tower Hill Cottages.

He said the driver and his passenger fled into the woods and the closest police dog was in Warner. The driver was not apprehended that night but he said police have been able to identify him.

He said the truck was heavily damaged, if not a total loss, and the Belknap County Sheriffs Department helped them contact the vehicle's owner, who lives in Gilmanton.

He said the driver of the vehicle was not the owner. However the truck had not been reported stolen.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 01:47

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