UNH authorized to conduct Shaker 'culture' study

BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to have the University of New Hampshire administer two of the three culture surveys it plans on having within the month.

Chair Sean Embree said the university will host an online culture survey for students and staff for a cost not to exceed $4,000 for both.

The idea of a culture survey was being discussed among members of the staff and the board before some of the people who were at the annual district meeting in March passed a non-binding resolution demanding one.

The board met with an independent company from Boston in April and May and learned the price for them to develop a specific survey for the district would be just over $20,000 and that it couldn't be done before the end of the school year.

Minutes of School Board meetings indicate members formed a subcommittee in July consisting of Patty Brace, Gretta Wilder-Olsen and Bob Reed to develop questions that should be asked. The subcommittee also determined there will be three surveys – one for the staff, one for the students and one for the parents and community.

The subcommittee has submitted sample surveys to the full board for its consideration and said each block of questions will provide a comment section.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board agreed the most efficient way to survey the staff and students would be through email. The survey is anonymous.

There was discussion Tuesday about whether or not staff and students should identify the buildings they are in. Member Heidi Chaney said she want as much anonymity as possible and also wanted the creators of the survey questions to know that this wasn't going to be a "witch hunt."

"We're looking for general feedback," she said.

Chaney and Reed said they want all of the surveys to go out at the same time but wondered how to distribute the community and parent survey because not all of them have access to computers.

In the past, board members said that sending post cards and press releases about the survey may work for those without a computer as they can go to the library or somewhere where there is computer access. Board members estimated about 10,000 people live in Belmont and Canterbury.

The board will continue its discussions about the culture study in their September 22 meeting.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 478

Gilmanton adopts 2015 spending freeze

GILMANTON — At the recommendation of Town Administrator Paul Branscombe the Board of Selectmen this week unanimously agreed to impose what Branscombe called a "spending freeze" until the end of this year.

Branscombe explained that he will expect all department heads to consult with either the Finance Director or himself before authorizing any expenditures. "We'll be distinguishing between wants and wishes," he remarked.

Branscombe, echoed by Finance Director Marie Mora, assured the selectmen that the town is in sound fiscal condition, owning in part to the board's decision to authorize the transfer of funds between different departments and lines within the budget. "That is very helpful," he said.

As of September 1, 61.2 percent of the funds appropriated had been expended with four months remaining in the fiscal year.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 490

Gilmanton's share of bridge replacements will be $465k

GILMANTON — Matt Lowell, an engineer with Hoyle Tanner & Associates, Inc. this week briefed the Board of Selectmen on the schedule for replacing three bridges — one on Crystal Lake Road and two on Stage Road.

All three bridges are owned by the town, but were enrolled in the state bridge program, which will fund 80 percent of the cost of replacing them, some years ago. Lowell said that while all three bridges are nearing the end of projected life span, none qualify for the so-called "red list" of bridges whose condition is sufficiently poor as to require annual rather than biennial inspections.

The bridge on Crystal Lake Road at Nelson Brook, a 12-foot span built in 1929, is rated at 50.6 out of 100. A 13-foot span on Stage Road built in 1930 is rated at 40 and the 28-foot bridge at Nighthawk Hollow Brook on Stage Road, also built in 1930 but rehabilitated in 1960, is rated at 48.5.

The state bridge program, administered by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT), invests $28-million in bridge repair and replacement. Bridges are placed on the list and projects are undertaken as funds become available. The bridge at Crystal Lake Road is scheduled to be replaced in 2018 and both bridges on Stage in 2019.

The initial estimated costs of the projects are $750,000 for the bridge at Crystal Lake Road, $650,000 for the shorter bridge on Stage Road and $925,000 for the longer span on Stage Road or $2,325,000 altogether, of which which the town would contribute approximately $465,000. However, Lowell cautioned that design and engineering work would be required to reach firm and timely cost estimates.

Lowell stressed the importance of beginning to plan for the work by considering routes for school buses and detoured traffic while construction is underway, anticipating that each project could take five or six months. He also told the Selectboard that it is more expensive to keep one lane of a bridge open during construction than to close the bridge altogether.

Lowell also suggested that town officials begin to consider how and when to raise the municipal share of funding for the projects.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 576