To The Daily Sun,
A public forum is scheduled for Wednesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Town Hall in Gilford. The Gilford Selectboard has offered this forum in order to give the public an opportunity to discuss the impending demolition of Kimball's Castle in Gilford.
The selectboard's choice to allow the demolition of the castle and have the Kimball property turned into one that allows only a single-family residence came from the fact that the castle is in a state of decay. It has been deemed unsafe to the public by the building inspector in Gilford even though it sits on private property. The property does not belong to the town of Gilford. However, the Gilford Selectboard is named as a trustee of the property and has control of the numerous easements that have been placed on the entire property. This gives the selectboard power to direct the fate of the property.
The Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee has been extensively exploring the available options that include the acquisition of the property and its addition to the wildlife forest. None of these options includes the use of taxpayer money to achieve the goal of obtaining the entire property.
Sandy McGonagle, chair of the committee, has been working with the members of her group in order to make an in-depth presentation on these options during the public forum. The group has been working closely with Maggie Stier of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. The Kimball property has become a priority for Maggie and a focus for her ever since Kimball's Castle was placed on the alliance's Seven to Save list last fall.
It is imperative that the public, especially the residents of Gilford, come forward and voice their opinions about the demolition of the castle. The topic has been widely discussed by many, including a large number of individuals on Facebook. However, the only way for the fate of the castle and its surrounding acreage to change is through an old-fashioned, face-to-face public forum that requires the residents of Gilford to show up and speak up.
Remember, if the decision of the selectboard is allowed to stand, Kimball's Castle will be forever removed from the landscape, the property will become home to a single residence, and a memorial marker will be constructed as a reminder of what once stood there.
The current trend is for memorial markers to be placed at or near the site of a demolished historical structure. However, in the Lakes Region we are losing our historic buildings at an alarming rate. If a marker is placed at the location of each structure we have demolished, then the local landscape will quickly become dotted with them. No longer will they remind of us of the history we lost. Instead, they might just become painful reminders of the fact that we didn't care enough to or didn't possess the ability to accomplish the job of preservation.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 08:39
To The Daily Sun,
Calling all budding politicians, political junkies, folks who want to make a difference or those just interested in learning more about the political process.
This is no April Fools joke. The filing deadline to run for state political office is just over two months away: June 4-13.
From county commissioner to state senator to state representative, and more, there are opportunities to serve in public office waiting to be filled.
The experience of running for office is simply great. The opportunity to meet people and learn their stories is truly unforgettable. Serving those people, once elected, is another life-changing experience, especially in New Hampshire's unique system.
If you have ever thought about running for office but want to know more, please get in touch with me. If you want to make a positive contribution to your state, please call me. If you have concerns about the direction our state is heading, it's time to get involved, so let me hear from you.
Kate Miller, Chair
Belknap County Democrats
Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 08:35
To The Daily Sun,Ever wonder why some of our best and brightest don’t go into teaching? Perhaps it’s because no matter how well you perform or how in demand your specialty, you will be compensated the same as a person with lesser skills in an oversupplied field. This dysfunctional compensation plan does three things no white collar business could abide: Requires us to pay too much for certain employees; reduces the pool of potential candidates for the most in-demand jobs; and puts us at a disadvantage when competing to fill key positions.Instead of helping the Winnisquam Regional School District's position, the school board missed a number of opportunities and maintained business as usual at the annual meeting, even dredging up the dreaded “averages” slide to show how our salary structure is below average. Unfortunately, except in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, someone has to be below average. Key to competing for resources is how one defines terms, presents strengths, and prioritizes.The board and the union (who are supposed to be sitting on opposite sides of the table) want us to think “salary” when they make comparisons unfavorable to Winnisquam. Appropriate for assembly line workers 40 years ago, perhaps, but not for professionals today.Teachers are considered white collar professionals except when it’s time to negotiate. Then their unions represent teachers in calcified classifications where skills, subject matter expertise, and marketability can’t factor into salary. No wonder our public schools produce so many economic functional illiterates: The organization’s foundation is built on economic principles that run counter to our everyday experiences.In the real world we recognize differentiation and willingly pay more for certain goods and services. Imagine if generic brands and name-brands were priced the same. You’d either be paying too much for one or not enough for the other. Eventually name brands would disappear. It’s similar with teachers. With salaries based primarily on degree earned and years of service, we’re offering too much to some and not enough to others, putting us at a competitive disadvantage.The salary focus also ignores a big driver of workplace satisfaction, important for hiring and retention: The work environment. Our district claims to make “data-driven” decisions but downplays the poor and mistrustful working environment revealed by the district’s own teacher survey data.Instead of data we had the spectacle of the budget committee chairwoman using the terms “data driven” and “return on investment,” yet minutes later looking dazed and confused when asked to explain how returns on our investments are calculated. If you’re going to employ business terms, you’d better be able to explain them.Next, a board member tried to excuse a same-old/same-old teacher contract by hinting at a merit or assessment-based contract in the future. Do that and you’ll be up for Nobel Prizes in both economics and peace. I don’t know what’s worse: The board member believing his own words or the board thinking they were pulling the wool over the eyes of anyone remotely knowledgeable of school board/teacher union symbiosis.But the big draw this year was America’s favorite pastime. No, not baseball, or even football (though football was at the heart of the discussion). This was all about our real pastime: getting what we want by spending other people’s money. So a program founded on a lie was finally brought into the budget (as we all knew it would). Sports may teach life lessons, but the lasting lesson for students attending the annual meeting was that working hard to earn something you want is for suckers. It’s easier to simply assemble a working majority (just 170 in this case) and vote to spend other people's money. Never mind that the board hadn’t even bothered to project 10 year costs for the program they recommended. No one really cares about data when spending somebody else’s money.
Predictions: under current leadership, in five years district spending will have risen faster than inflation despite stable or declining student enrollment. We’ll still own one of the worst-performing elementary schools in the state. Our test scores will be in the bottom quartile. A teacher survey would reveal the same dis-satisfactions as the previous survey. There will still be no effective plan to manage costs and improve performance. But as long as the same working majority attends the one meeting that counts, no one will be held to account.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 08:29
To The Daily Sun,
I would like to compliment Gunstock Ski Area for their exceptional care and dedication to the Nordic Center Trail grooming. This has continued throughout the winter season into this spring. When many Nordic Centers are picking and choosing which terrain to groom, Gunstock has consistently worked the groomer over the entire trail system. It's a pleasure to cross country ski and Gunstock. Thank you.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 09:46
To The Daily Sun,
As a homeowner in New Hampshire for the past year and a half, I would like to express my displeasure with a specific aspect of the public services that my taxes contribute to: Our USPS mail delivery. In these past 18 months, I have had mail service suspended multiple times, totaling nearly four months of a lack of service. Here is a synopsis of some of my experiences:
I received a note from my carrier that there was a bee's nest near the box. The budding nest was removed and sprayed for within minutes of that day's mail. It resulted in over two weeks of suspended delivery.
Our mail carrier once told me that we weren't receiving mail because she, "couldn't turn around in our driveway." We live at the end of our street. I watch her turn around in our neighbor's driveway every day. When asked about the nonsensical nature of her response, she gave no explanation and left. For the record, I also joyously invited her to use our driveway at will, especially if it meant actually receiving mail.
I've been told my snowbank is not sufficiently cleared. I have my driveway and mailbox plowed during major storms, snow-blowed for others, and I am a 33-year-old male, lifetime New Hampshire resident who knows my way around a shovel all too well. My mailbox is clear, always. For the last month, the snowbank behind our mailbox is about 3-4 feet higher than anyone on our street, because of the extreme amounts of snow I've cleared from around it. My mailbox is much more accessible than most neighbors. Due to the previous difficulties with my mail, I'm very cognizant of it and spend extra time clearing it, making this claim all-the-more frustrating.
I have spoken with three different supervisors in the past two months about receiving my mail. The first time, I was told the supervisor would come check out my home personally and call me back. I never received a call. The next week I stopped by the post office to collect my mail, and asked the counter clerk if I could speak with a supervisor. She went out back, returned to tell me that he was "in a meeting," took my info and promised a phone call that never came. The third attempt, I finally did get a call back, another week later, from a man named Paul, who very clearly spoke to my carrier instead of inspecting my box himself, and was quite argumentative. At the end of the conversation, Paul instructed me to continue to pick my mail up at the post office, and "do a better job next year."
Today, despite the insulting nature of Paul's directive, I kindly stopped in to collect my mail, planning to leave before another frustrating encounter. Upon requesting my mail, I was told to wait for a supervisor. After a minute, a man came out front, threw a pile of mail on the counter in front of me, and barked at me to, "clear your mailbox." I briefly attempted to explain that I had spoken with somebody about my box already, and he interrupted me with a loud, angry declaration that, "You need to clear your mailbox." I would hesitate to allow parents to discipline a child with the tone of voice that this man used to speak to a grown man in public as part of his profession. It was probably the most egregious violation of every customer service law ever written, and I'm still a little in shock. Needless to say I don't know if it was Paul, as all I could think to do was kindly, quietly ask who his supervisor was. Surprisingly, he went to get her.
This leads me to my next point. I finally got to speak to the postmaster today, Kathy Hayes. While it was refreshing to finally speak to someone who seemed concerned about my predicament, it was also overwhelmingly obvious that she wanted the conversation centered on what I was doing wrong, and why this was all my fault. No apologies, no concern for the failures of her "supervisors," nor the inexplicable actions of her carrier. Just a calm, methodical discussion of my problems and what I have to do about my property.
A couple of weeks ago, at the height of my frustrations with a lack of service, I decided not to let it get the best of me. Since I have a sense of humor, I grabbed a 15-foot red rug from work and placed it in front of my mailbox. Shockingly, this rug laid perfectly flat from driveway to street running underneath my mailbox, with no hindrance from snowbanks. I placed a funny welcoming sign for our carrier to the royal red carpet on the mail post. My wife and I watched as our carrier finally drove up to our mailbox, stopped at it, and drove off uninhibited by any of the many excuses we've received. She still did not give us any mail, however. We can only speculate she either wanted to read the sign, or wanted to muddy our rug with her tires. Either way, it was pretty clear she wasn't concerned with snowbanks, bees, turning around in our driveway, or any other nonsense.
When I took a picture of my "red carpet" and posted it on Facebook for a few laughs, I was greeted with many, many comments about other people's experience with the Post Office. What shocked me was not their surprise or confusion at my struggles, but the commonality of their own, separate experiences. What I'm going through is not the exception, it seems to have become the rule. How sad that a once-respected, proud profession as morphed from the strong successes of, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night," into the organizationally accepted failures of, "by any excuse plausible."
It's very clear to me, and to the many distress stories near and far, that any highly-publicized USPS problems are not in logistics, not in technological changes in communication, nor in the cost-effectiveness of the task at hand.
The struggles of the U.S. Post Office are not coming 45-cents at a time. They are interpersonal. They are organizational culture. They are one person, one customer at a time. They seem rooted in a loss of the importance of customer service, from the actual hand that should want to reach into a residential mailbox, to the incompetence of people actually, mindbogglingly, given promotions to the title of supervisor, and all the way to people given the position of "Postmaster."
People who have seemingly lost touch with where their priority should lie. When a postmaster forgets that she works for the residents of her own city, it might be time for a substantial review of the mission of the whole organization. I can only hope this letter might provoke some thought, and spur a little motivation to move in that direction.
For what it's worth, in addition to being a homeowner, I am a business operator in this city — a senior manager for a large employer (520 employees) in this state, a director on the local chamber of commerce; a director for the regional tourism association, a director of a statewide hospitality industry trade association. I have 17 personal years of New Hampshire public customer service experience, and as mentioned, a lifelong resident of our fine state. I take pride in the many successes of New Hampshire. Specifically, I have spent a lifetime dedicating myself personally and professionally to the idea that good, caring local business is a victory for all involved. Because of that belief, I want to speak up in regards to the ever-present, ever-mounting losses of the state's USPS.
I would be more than happy to discuss this matter further. Since I cannot yet do without the Postal Service for 100 percent of the correspondence necessary for my profession, home, and community affiliations (I think I'm up to about 95 percent), I still hold out hopes of someday getting reliable mail service. I've considered purchasing a P.O. Box, but the thought of coupling the same tax contributions I'm already making toward the post office with actually paying their office more money directly, simply due to their incompetence, is just too much for my stomach to swallow.
I can only hope that getting my story out can somehow make a difference.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 09:43