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Plowing private roads in faux issue; town's been doing it for decades

To The Daily Sun,

It would seem both the Moultonborough Board of Selectmen and town administrator have a difficult road ahead of them. They're hearing from the electorate the roads in town are not being kept up this winter to the same quality of plowing, sanding and winging back the banks as the standard set by previous road agents.

This problem is somewhat self-inflicted. In the past — for as long as this silver-haired observer has been observing — the job of road agent, was an elected post. Last year, when we bid adieu to the former police chief, then road agent (elected) and public works director (appointed as an "ad on" to the road agent job), the selectmen put in the town warrant, article 16, changing it to an appointed position. The warrant shows the Selectboard recommended the change — 3 yes, 1 no and 1 abstention — with mixed feelings.

The Advisory Budget Committee went for the plan unanimously. Why not, they had no skin in the game. It wasn't any major change in the budget and no responsibility for a good hire or bad.

So, way back in the days of rotating road agents, when Doc Mallard ran against the road agent he would promise to do better at ... plowing. The road agent's job back then, and it would seem also now, was always about PLOWING. When he was elected and started to slack off on the promise of cleaner winter roads, Tom Conney would re-run for his old position with the same promise. And back and forth it would go. Now I'm not questioning either of these good men's reputations, since they are both plowing roads in a much higher place these days, and not able to defend their efforts. But my point is twofold. It is always about plowing and the electorate had no one to blame but themselves when they didn't get the service they expected.

A former town administrator and the Selectboard of a few years ago thought it would be a good idea if the very able former police chief, then road agent (elected), would take on the additional duties of public works. He did and it worked very well, with this very able person. Moral in the Highway/Public Works Department was pretty high and things were rolling along smoothly. And the roads were well plowed and sanded all winter long. That is until that multi-tasking road agent was chosen for a town administrator job in another town ... but that's a bed-time-story for another night, kids.

Then over the last two or three years we have had the selectmen hire people for the two key positions: town administrator and public works director. Now the credit or blame for a job well done ... or not, falls in the laps of the Selectboard. I would point out that they also hired a new police chief in the fairly recent past.

So how did they fair in their hiring of these three key posts. Aside from the fact that not one of their three "new" hires is a resident of Moultonborough — tax paying, kids in school, part of the community resident — they seem to have failed in the two of the three hires. The road agent isn't doing what he was expected to do, with his credentials, and the town administrator isn't managing the situation to the satisfactory of the residents. Now the Selectboard has to do something. I don't know the police chief but I've not heard any bad reports. He is after all, very experienced and came with good credentials.

I only hope that this new faux issue/effort of plowing town roads but not private roads is NOT created as part of making a job easier for the new road agent (appointed). Private roads have been plowed in Moultonborough since before any of the present Selectboard members were born. It's not that we can't afford it. After all we will be able to afford the back-on-the-ballot community center (sic) that has yet to be put to bed.

I would remind all the above-mentioned officials about 80-90 percent of the people using those "private" roads (depending on how many miles of private roads there are... 100 or 200?) are paying 75 percent of the town administrator's and road agent's paychecks each week, snow or no snow. And that's about all these property owners get for their tax dollars. Let's get the job done even if the Selectboard has to do the hard work their jobs require.

Rick Heath
Moultonborough

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