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Suncook Valley Regional Town Assn. MInutes 06/19/2008
Suncook Valley Regional Town Association
Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date:   June 19, 2008
Minutes Prepared By:  Bruce Dyke
In Attendance:  James Barnard – Town of Barnstead – Selectman
                     Robert Blodgett – Town of Epsom - Selectman
                          Bruce Dyke – Chichester Town Organization Committee
                     Jeff Jordon – Town of Chichester - Selectman
    Norm Larachelle – Chichester Town Organization Committee
    Allen Mayville – Chichester Town Organization Committee
               Gordon Preston – Town of Barnstead – Selectman
               Larry Preston – Town of Pembroke - Selectman
    Ed Vien – Town of Pittsfield – Selectman
Location:  Pembroke Town Hall
Minutes Approved: 8/21/08

        -    The meeting was called to order at 7:05 by Bruce Dyke

-       Bruce Dyke welcomed the group back for the fourth meeting of the Suncook Valley Regional Town Association and thanked Selectman Larry Preston for hosting the meeting.

-       The draft minutes of the April 3, 2008 meeting were reviewed and comments/changes were solicited.  A motion was made by Ed Vien to accept the minutes as presented, which was approved by the entire group.

-       Gordon Preston updated the group on the status of the group health insurance quote put together by the Local Government Center.  All towns should have received formal letters from the LGC regarding potential reductions to their current (2008) plan rates which range from 12% to 20% (varies by town).  The group was pleased to see an opportunity for meaningful reductions and understands that actual savings wouldn’t be realized until the next budget year and any additional increases to health insurance premiums that are likely to occur for 2009.  

Gordon Preston also noted that the overall costs (or savings) to the group could be impacted by extraordinary health insurance claims by any one town in the group, should the group decide to move forward on this opportunity.
The possibility of other towns not currently affiliated with the SVRTA participating in the joint insurance bid/contract was discussed.  The group agreed that the opportunity should be extended to any other interested area town as the larger group would provide a “buffer” against any adverse claims experience by any one town (with respect to the previous point noted above).  Group members will reach out to other towns with whom they may have contact in the coming weeks and determine if interest beyond the SVRTA members exists.

Bruce Dyke will take the action to contact the LGA and get a better understanding of the mechanics required to put a joint health insurance agreement in place.  He will also attempt to arrange for a representative of the LGA to attend the next SVRTA meeting to discuss the “next steps” of this process so we can be well positioned to move forward with this effort in conjunction with the next fiscal year.

Larry Preston will also contact Primex and see if they are interested in providing a quote for the consolidated town benefits packages.

-       Ed Vien provided an overview of the current status of the State fueling station located at the intersection of Routes 28 and 107.  He referenced a recent letter received from the State DOT indicating the facility was projected to be closed on August 7th.  The new facility being constructed in Alton will be available instead, although it’s not deemed to be practical for Barnstead or Pittsfield who both use the current facility.   It was noted that Chichester maintains their own fuel tank (at the Highway Dept garage).  Allen Mayville noted that local oil companies may be willing to provide a regional facility.  Jim Barnard explained that discussions with the owner of the Bosco Bell gas station had taken place regarding the possibility of their ability to provide diesel to the area towns since they have tank capacity.  A self-serve card-swipe system would likely be put into place with such an arrangement.  Further discussions are expected.

With regard to the old fueling station property itself, Ed Vien indicated the State expected that to be deemed as “surplus property” by mid-winter and at that time it may be possible to pursue acquiring it as a possible site for a regional maintenance garage.

-       The group welcomed Mr. David Hynes who is an Assessment Representative Supervisor for the State of NH – Dept of Revenue.  He provided the group with an overview of a program his department has underway whereby they assist smaller towns with forming Assessing Cooperatives.  This allows multiple towns to hire a shared Assessor, which in conjunction with existing assessment clerical staff at each respective town provides a higher quality of services to town residents and saves money.  At this time cooperatives exist between New London, Sunapee and Newbury, as well as Durham and Lee, with Madbury also expected to join in 2009.  

This program has shown good success thus far not only in terms of cost savings to towns, but also with regard to providing more consistent assessments.  Under this arrangement, one town hires the assessor, but the other town(s) in the cooperative pay a pro-rated portion of that employees costs, based on parcel counts per town.

Towns with current, multi-year assessing contracts can “opt out” of them by not voting to keep/fund current vendor contracts at town meeting.  

Most towns in the SVRTA are already using the same software, which is a benefit.

My Hynes provided the group with some documentation regarding the steps required to form an Assessing Cooperative and said that interested towns could simply forward a “letter of interest” to his office.  At that time, his office will do a financial analysis in terms of the likely savings for the proposed cooperative and a follow-up presentation to the respective Boards of Selectmen would be arranged.

This issue was of definite interest to the SVRTA members present at the meeting and it was generally agreed that each member would bring the proposal back to their respective Selectboard for further discussion and consideration.  Interested parties will send formal notice to their Assessment Monitor.

-       Ed Vien advised the group of a current situation regarding the scale at the BCEP facility.  The State has informed BCEP that it cannot charge customers a per-pound rate for trash loads under 200lbs, citing an administrative rule issue.  This is despite the fact that the scale is accurate to one pound and the group that certifies the scale’s accuracy is the same group that has cited this administrative rule.  It seems the admin. rule in question dates back to earlier days when scales were not as reliable and should be changed or eliminated.  Legislation (HB1332) which does away with the rule in question has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.  SVRTA members were urged to contact the Governor’s office (271-2121) and voice their support for the change, since this current situation is cause a loss of BCEP revenue and will trickle down to the associated town in the form of higher fees for that facility.

-       Bruce Dyke reminded the group that he owes a consolidated summary of Legal expense budget and per-hour rate summaries for all SVRTA towns.  This was an action item from the last meeting.  All the data has been collected, but was not in a presentable form for this meeting.  It will be sent out within the next week.  In general, Bruce reported that the data showed some notable variances in terms of hourly rates being paid by area towns.

-       Gordon Preston provided an update on an initiative he had started in recent weeks, in hopes of getting the SVRTA members and other interested, area towns to collaborate on a pre-buy heating oil contract for the coming winter season.  Although we had the potential of combining usage among area towns which would represent close to 250,000 gallons of oil, two of the larger users involved moved ahead on their own and locked into a contract in the last several days.  At this point, it doesn’t appear as though further pursuit of this opportunity will be worthwhile for this year, but the group agreed it’s something that should be pursued early next year with regard to the 2009/2010 heating season.

-       It was noted that Barnstead is likely to have a co-gen plant built within its town that may be a source of steam heat for local building (perhaps up to 20 miles away?)

-       Ed Vien noted that a bio-fuel plant specializing in vegetable oil processing may be built in Pittsfield.

-       Bruce Dyke reviewed the recent press coverage the SVRTA has received in the Concord Monitor.  He also shared a letter dated back in 1978 from the Hooksett Board of Selectmen to the Chichester Board of Selectmen for the purpose of restarting activity among the “Suncook Valley Selectmen’s Association.”  It was an interesting bit of history and shows that similar groups have tried this type of collaboration in the past.

-       Bruce Dyke and Jeff Jordan polled the group for an interest level in a possible shared/regional building inspector.  This was an area of interest to the group and will be further discussed at the next meeting.  Ed Vien noted that Pittsfield also has an HSA Inspector in addition to their regular building inspector.  The HSA Inspector deals with multi-family buildings and is not accountable to the Selectmen.

-       Gordon Preston informed the group of what appeared to be recent activity by the State Dept. of Labor with regard to labor audits along the “Route 28 corridor.”  

-       The next meeting will be Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 7pm.  The next meeting will be held at the Pittsfield Town Hall.

-       The meeting adjourned at 9:15pm.

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