Gilmanton selectmen spar over board appointments


GILMANTON — The routine business of appointing members of the public to town boards took a strange turn Monday when a decision to postpone appointments sparked a brief uproar and a walkout by one of the selectmen.
Stephen McWhinnie, chairman of the Gilmanton Selectmen, delayed making appointments to town boards, sparking an argument that led to Selectman Michael Jean walking out of Monday's meeting.
The debate began when selectmen took up a request by Planning Board member Gareth "Marty" Martindale to serve as an alternate member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. An alternate is a fill-in member who can vote when a full-time member fails to show up.
According to the town website (, vacancies on town boards include two alternate positions on the Planning Board and three alternate positions on the Zoning Board.
At the Thursday, March 16, ZBA meeting, only four of the five full-time members were present to vote.
But before selectmen could wage much discussion, a motion by Jean to confirm Martindale's appointment failed to generate the needed "second" to allow a vote. Instead, selectmen McWhinnie and Marshall Bishop raised their hands in an apparent "no" vote, even though the motion hadn't been seconded.
Bishop later clarified that he had meant to vote to recuse himself, not to vote no. In any event, the failed motion spurred a back-and-forth about why selectmen would not place Martindale as an alternate to the ZBA.
Martindale, the Planning Board vice chairman, had appeared before selectmen at their Feb. 27 meeting to make the same request for appointment as a ZBA alternate. At that meeting, the selectmen had made no decision, saying they wanted more information. Selectman Bishop at that meeting had recused himself from any decision based on his ongoing dispute with the Planning Board over operation of his restaurant at the Gilmanton Winery and what was then an active regulatory review before the ZBA.
Martindale told selectmen both on Feb. 27 and again Monday that he simply wanted to improve communication between the ZBA and the Planning Board. The ZBA is a quasi-judicial body that reviews land uses based on the town zoning ordinance. The Planning Board is a town-created board that reviews site plans and the details of proposed activities.
Martindale said, "There's no such thing as a Planning Board rep," noting that he would not be a representative from the Planning Board to the ZBA.
Elizabeth Hackett, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, was not present at Monday's selectmen's meeting but clarified in an interview that she researched state law and confirmed that Martindale can serve on both boards. The caveat was that Martindale would not be allowed to vote on an application before the ZBA if that same application had come before the Planning Board and Martindale possessed "inherent knowledge" about it.
"I would not let him vote because that's unfair to the applicant and that's unfair to the rest of the board," she said.
Hackett said she has shepherded this request for dual board membership past the Planning Board and to selectmen. The Planning Board, she said, was aware of his request and expressed no concerns. As a formality, she suggested putting the matter into the minutes of the Planning Board, but the Planning Board did not vote on Martindale being a ZBA alternate.
"I would love everybody to come on as alternates," Hackett said, noting the difficulty of keeping slots filled on boards.

The dust-up at Monday's meeting happened as soon as the board failed to confirm Martindale.
Jean said, "We need alternates. You guys just voted it down. For what reason?"
McWinnie said, "I haven't decided yet. I haven't even spoken with them."
Jean said, "The chairman of the board was here and was in favor. I believe she was in favor of it a couple of weeks ago."
Bishop said, "I recused myself anyway, so I really can't give you a yes or no."
Jean said he was surprised that anybody would want to serve on a board as a volunteer member.
"I think it's a shame," Jean said. "He's willing to volunteer for this board, they need alternates. All he would be is an alternate in case somebody doesn't show up, like the other night, they had a board with four people instead of five. You would stand in for whoever wasn't there. Unless there was a conflict with the Planning Board, then he couldn't."
When town staff clarified that Jean's motion for appointment failed for lack of a second, Jean took issue with Bishop. Raising his voice, Jean said, "I want to make sure you document that he voted against it the first time because he's done that several times in the last year, and I'm getting sick and tired of it."
Asked what he was getting sick and tired of, Jean said, "Conflicts of interest," sparking a brief, muddled argument on the board between Jean and McWhinnie.
Pressed on why he failed to support the appointment, McWinnie said, "I haven't given enough thought to it."
Then, McWhinnie said he wondered if it was a good idea to "combine the two," referring to the Planning Board and Zoning Board.
"I wanted to talk to a few more people before I make a decision about combining two boards," he said.
McWhinnie said Martindale wants to be a representative to the ZBA. "Your exact statement was you wanted to bridge the gap between the ZBA and the Planning Board," he said.
"Only for communication," Martindale said.
With this appointment at an impasse, town staff noted that two other appointments were on the agenda. Perry Onion requested reappointment to the Zoning Board, and William Mahoney requested reappointment to the Planning Board, according to the agenda.
"I'm going to table all of them until next meeting," McWhinnie said.
"I make a motion to adjourn," Jean said.
When nobody seconded the motion, Jean rose from his seat and walked out of the room.

Commissioners: Delegation counting on revenue that won’t be there

LACONIA — The budget adopted by the Belknap County Delegation last week has a potential shortfall of as much as $365,000 in revenue according to the Belknap County Commissioners.
Commissioners are questioning $290,810 revenue the delegation had included in the budget, which is based on legislation approved by the House by a 267-83 vote on retirement program costs in which the state would pay 15 percent of what is now being paid by counties and local governments.
The bill, HB 413, would appropriate $40.8 million and has been retained in committee.
Commissioners say that even if the bill is eventually approved, it will provide funds only for Group II employees in the House of Corrections and the Sheriff's Department, which would amount to only $75,000.
But Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith), who included $290,810 as a revenue in the county budget he proposed and which was adopted by a 9-6 vote of the delegation, says it his understanding that the bill will cover Group 1 employees at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said the nursing home employees are not members of Group 1 and won't be covered. The legislation specifically references teachers as Group 1 employees.
He said that it was reckless for the delegation to approve a budget which includes revenues from legislation for which funds have not been appropriated.
Abear said that the large margin by which the bill passed shows strong support in the House for the measure and that it will receive the support of the Finance Committee during the budget negotiation process at the end of the legislative session.
Commissioners are not convinced the measure will eventually be funded and expect that the county will be left holding the bag.
Commissioner Glen Waring has also questioned whether or not the county should be including a $175,000 revenue from the Gunstock Mountain Resort in it's budget. He pointed out that the proposed current memorandum of understanding which is being discussed by the delegation and the Gunstock Area Commission provides for only a $100,000 payment to the county.

Vadney rejects call for reconsideration of Belknap County budget


LACONIA — Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) chairman of the Belknap County Delegation, said Tuesday afternoon that he is not inclined to call a meeting to reconsider the $27.5 million budget passed by the delegation last week.

Belknap County Commissioners have requested the budget reconsideration, maintaining that the cuts made by the delegation threaten the ability of both the Corrections Department and the Sheriff's Department to carry out the statutory and constitutional obligations placed on their departments.

Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray said last week that he will not open the new 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed Community Corrections Center this September unless he has the money to adequately staff it.

Sheriff Mike Moyer said that the $126,736 which was cut from his budget endangers the department's ability to carry out its duties, which include serving civil process papers and court security. The cuts removed one full-time deputy position and one full-time dispatcher position and cut overtime by $10,000.

Gray made the statement after the delegation last Monday night rejected by a 7-5 vote a motion by Rep. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) to restore $95,400 which had been cut from the proposed Corrections Department budget.

Gray has maintained that he cannot safely open the annex without two additional staffers. Lang's motion would have restored the $55,400 for the two positions and $40,000 for dietary department at the jail, which Gray had added to his original $3.964 million budget request.

He also cited potential liability issues which the county could face with inadequate staffing if someone is injured in an incident. And he said that the cut places in jeopardy the possibility of obtaining $450,000 in grant funding over a three-year period for programs at the community corrections center.