To The Daily Sun,
This letter is in response to the two warrant articles in Alton, one of which is to eliminate the position of Town Planner and the second is to eliminate the position of the Tax Assessor. The comments of this letter are not intended to refer to the particular person who is currently holding those positions, but rather to comment upon the two positions and what I feel is their importance to the Town of Alton. As an attorney in the Town of Alton whose office has been the only law office in the town for the past 15 years, I have had many occasions to utilize the services of both the Town Planner and the Tax Assessor.
With respect to the Town Planner I have found that the Town Planner expedites the process when seeking approvals for building, developing land, and encouraging business to locate in Alton. The Town Planner has, since I have been in Alton, been available to address relevant issues and thereby expedite the process by which land use issues are presented to either the Zoning Board or the Planning Board. A full time Town Planner makes that process more efficient. The benefit to the public is enormous, as the process is expedited and matters are addressed faster than otherwise would be the case. Further, the process is more thorough as the result of having the opportunity to work with the Town Planner prior to submitting land-use issues to the Zoning Board and the Planning Board thereby saving valuable time.
The benefit to the public having a Town Planner is, in my judgement, very significant. From the studies that I have read and from the information I have from other communities, an outside planner on a contract basis is not always available when needed, and the cost and expense has been found in many cases to be more than what the Town Planner position currently pays.
I have had a similar experience with the office of the Tax Assessor. The Tax Assessor's position has been very beneficial to me, my clients, and to the public in general. In my opinion, a full time Tax Assessor eliminates, in many occasions, abatement actions which are costly to the Town as well as to the tax payer. As with the position of the Town Planner, it has been my experience that outside contract assessors are not always available and that the ultimate cost of a contract assessor is frequently more than what that position pays in the Town of Alton.
Although on a number of occasions the relief I was seeking for a client has been denied or not approved, the process has always been fair and congenial. My clients and I have been dealt with professionally and courteously and attribute that, in many respects, to the ability to talk and work with the Town Planner and the Tax Assessor before the issues involved become out of hand and no easy solution remains.
When voting on these two warrant articles, I am hoping that the good citizens of Alton (many of whom I have had the please of representing) will do their homework and will inquire as to the cost of using outside contract services and how that compares to what is currently being paid to the Tax Assessor and the Town Planner. I also hope the voters in Alton recognize that with an onsite Tax Assessor and Town Planner the public is better served. Things move faster with more efficiency which benefits the public and also reduces the cost which the property owner might not otherwise incur if not for the availability to work with the Town Planer and the Tax Collector.
Arthur W. Hoover
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 11:31
To The Daily Sun,
A petitioned Warrant Article has been submitted for ballot vote to eliminate the Alton Town Planner position. The Alton Planning Board strongly urges citizens to not support petitioned Warrant Article 43 and to vote "no" to eliminate the Alton Town Planner position. The Alton Planning Board strongly supports retaining the Town Planner position for the following reasons:
• The Town Planner does considerable work on applications submitted for Planning Board review in advance of and after the Planning Board meetings. This provides for an improved process for all parties involved. This effort and organization in advance of the meetings by the Town Planner saves a huge amount of time at the meetings for the Planning Board members, the abutters, and the applicants.
a. With no Town Planner to provide staff guidance, Planning Board meetings would be disorganized and applications would take much longer for applicants, abutters, and board members. Additional meetings for applications would be likely in numerous cases. Planning Board members would not be able to focus on their role as decision makers.
• Land use law in New Hampshire is complicated. It is very difficult for citizen volunteer Planning Board members to become and remain educated on New Hampshire's ever-changing land use laws. The Town Planner keeps abreast of the land use laws and annual changes by attending planning conferences and law lectures and thereby is able to provide the Planning Board with advice and guidance.
a. Without a Town Planner a staff person knowledgeable of the state and local planning laws would not be available to advise the Planning Board. The Planning Board would more likely be subject to defending expensive lawsuits.
• The Town Planner assists the Planning Board with long-range planning activities such as rewriting Site Plan Review Regulations and Subdivision Regulations, and updating the Town Master Plan. The Town Planner does the initial work to provide a starting point for the Planning Board to review and revise. The Town Planner is responsible for changes throughout the review process.
a. Without a Town Planner there would be no one to work on long-range planning projects for the Planning Board, resulting in little or no progress being made on those projects.
• The Town Planner is the staff person responsible for drafting amendments annually to the Zoning Ordinance and shepherding them through the review process with the Zoning Amendment Committee and then the Planning Board.
a. With no Town Planner the Town would lack a staff person to work on annual amendments to the Zoning Ordinance resulting in a stagnant and outdated Zoning Ordinance.
• The Town Planner is the key Town staff person guiding the Senior Citizens Building Committee in their effort to expand and do fund-raising for the Senior & Community Center.
a. There would be no staff person to provide guidance for the Senior Citizens Building Committee in their effort to expand and do fundraising for the Senior & Community Center without the Town Planner.
• Replacing the Town Planner with an outside planning consultant would cost the Town about two times as much money for the same number of hours of service. The 2014 hourly rate including fringe benefits for the Town Planner is $42.71. Typical hourly rates for a private planning consultant would be on the order of $85-$90 per hour for a planner with comparable years of experience.
The Town Planner position is critical to the Alton Planning Board's efforts to conduct our business and carry out our responsibilities as outlined in the state statutes. The Alton Planning Board urges the citizens of Alton to vote "no" on petitioned Warrant Article 43 to eliminate the Town Planner position.
Alton Planning Board
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 11:04
To The Daily Sun,
Some people may believe that because of the Internet, tablets, and smart phones, libraries are becoming obsolete. It may surprise you to learn that nothing could be further from the truth! Like libraries across the country, the Gilmanton Year-Round Library is getting busier every year. Libraries serve the same function they always have — to ensure that everyone in the community has free access to the resources they need to live smart and fulfilling lives. In fact, what has really changed for libraries is that they have moved way beyond books. Libraries have become community living rooms, and that's certainly true for the Gilmanton Year-Round Library.
Each patron that walks in the door of the Gilmanton Year-Round Library has a different need, each of which the staff strives to meet. Some people come in for the next book written by their favorite author. Others come in to grab a DVD for family movie night. Little ones come in and receive the benefits of story time, and teens enjoy a safe place that respects them. Seniors come for an afternoon out with their friends.
From Internet service, job searching, computer assistance, public programming, after school activities — the GYRL offers a variety of services that allows everyone the same opportunities. In a small town like Gilmanton, we really serve the town in two ways — as a library and as a community center. Whether patrons stop by for a friendly chat with someone from across town, to view an art show, make a craft, receive help on their resume or do a genealogical study — community members have the right to a library that offers those services to them. Our highest goal is to create a space for all members of the community to use and enjoy.
Board of Directors
Gilmanton Year-Round Library
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 10:56
To The Daily Sun,
A year and a half ago, Ashland Elementary School faculty and administration began a discussion about student learning and effective teaching. Through their efforts and commitment, Ashland is providing an educational program that continues to meet the needs of our students and maximizes the opportunities for student success.
Students at Ashland Elementary School have made tremendous academic progress since the beginning of the school year. Grades 1-5 have shown a 75 percent increase in reading scores and an 86 percent increase in math scores. Grades 6-8 show similar progress with a 65 percent increase in reading scores and a 72 percent increase in math scores.
Ashland's assessment program is based on state and national standards and student competency for each standard. Competency is determined by collecting evidence through performance tasks such as hands-on demonstrations, oral reports, tests and other written assignments. Each piece of evidence is then evaluated according to the student's level of understanding. To be considered proficient, a student must receive 85 percent or better on assessments. Since grades are no longer averaged, the report card has a different look. A student's report is a comprehensive document that indicates which academic standards he or she is working on and the level of competency. Parents can access their child's academic progress online or, if requested, a paper copy will be sent home.
This year Ashland introduced more technology across all school programs. Technology is used as a tool for learning and to report student progress. Students in the primary and intermediate tiers have access to Kindles as well as the computer lab. Middle tier students have access to iPads (purchased or rented) that are used during class instruction, for individual research and for homework assignments.
We believe that the school has done an exemplary job in providing numerous opportunities for students to interact socially. Some examples are as follows: All School Meetings, Annual Halloween Parade, Winter Recreation Program, Winter Carnival, Pajama Day — sponsored by the Student Council, Monthly SAU Dances, Field Day, and I Love to Read Week. Social skills are also addressed in each class as part of the learning process.
As candidates for the Ashland School Board, we ask for your support. We believe that student success requires quality professionals, sound curriculum and assessment, and well-informed educational and budgetary decisions.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 10:52
To The Daily Sun,
On Tuesday, March 11, the voters of Gilford will go to the polls to decide how their tax dollars will be appropriated. As a Gilford resident and member of the Genesis Behavioral Health Board of Directors, I ask my fellow community members to vote "yes" on Article 21 to support emergency mental health care for all residents of our town.
Genesis Behavioral Health (GBH) is the community mental health center serving Belknap and southern Grafton counties. A private, non-profit organization founded in 1966 by Dr. George "Pete" Harris, a Gilford pediatrician who recognized the critical need for mental health services in the community, GBH provided behavioral health care to 3,274 Lakes Region children, families, and adults in Fiscal Year 2013.
GBH served 171 Gilford residents in Fiscal Year 2013 and provided $13,986 of uncompensated care – care the organization provided but for which they will not receive reimbursement. Thirty-six Gilford residents used emergency services in FY13.
This critical, safety net organization asks all 24 towns in its catchment area to contribute to the Emergency Services (ES) program, using a formula based upon the town's population to ensure fairness. ES provides any resident of Gilford experiencing a mental health emergency with access to a Master's-level clinician and psychiatrist 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, regardless of their ability to pay. Services are provided through a 24-hour hotline, in person, or via telemedicine to ensure rapid access to care.
We know from the headlines that the mental health crisis in New Hampshire is real. The National Institute on Mental Health reports that one in four adults experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Without proper treatment, mental illness affects one's ability to work, participate in school, contribute to the community and maintain relationships. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than $100 billion each year in the United States, causing unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives. Reduced access to mental health care leads to increased demand on many of the systems in our community, including emergency rooms, law enforcement, first responders, courts, corrections, schools and municipalities. GBH not only helps those in need, but its services also reduce costs for our town and improve the health and safety of our community.
ES is often the gateway into services for people in need of mental health treatment. Access to behavioral health care was identified as a top priority in the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health's 2013 Community Needs Assessment. Mental health related emergency department visits/observation stays in the Lakes Region are significantly higher than the overall New Hampshire rate (1,541.5 per 100,000 vs. 1,409.9). The need for crisis intervention in our community is evident.
Thank you for supporting GBH for the past four years. Any one of us, at any time, could be in a position to need their services. I am confident that my fellow Gilford residents will choose wisely and continue to appropriate funds to this worthwhile organization.
Dr. Kelley White
Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 10:37