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Suncook Valley Regional Town Assn. MInutes 12/04/2008
Suncook Valley Regional Town Association
Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date:   December 4, 2008
Minutes Prepared By:  Bruce Dyke
In Attendance:  Keith Cota - Town of Epsom - Selectman
                          Bruce Dyke - Chichester Town Organization Committee
                          Stephanie Gray - Town of Strafford - Selectwoman
                     Jeff Jordon - Town of Chichester - Selectman
                          Norm LaRochelle - Chichester Town Organization Committee
                          Stephen Leighton - Town of Strafford - Selectman
    Allen Mayville - Chichester Town Organization Committee
               Gordon Preston - Town of Barnstead - Selectman
               Ed Vien - Town of Pittsfield - Selectman
Location:  Strafford Selectmenís Office
Minutes Approved: January 15, 2009

        -    The meeting was called to order at 7:15 by Bruce Dyke

  • Bruce Dyke welcomed the group back for the 7th meeting of the Suncook Valley Regional Town Association and noted that the group had just celebrated the first anniversary of itís initial meeting (11/15/07).   A brief discussion among members with regard to the groupís accomplishments thus far took place.
  • The draft minutes of the October 2, 2008 meeting were reviewed and comments/changes were solicited.  A motion was made by Ed Vien to accept the minutes as presented and seconded by Gordon Preston.  The minutes were approved unanimously.
  • A brief update regarding the joint heath insurance cooperative arrangement took place.  Bruce advised the group that all participating towns should have received their 2009 rates from LGC by this point in time, which reflect a 13.5 reduction over 2008 rate.  A quick poll of the group was taken to determine the combined value of savings to the towns, which was estimated to be around $100,000 (not including any changes to costs associated with employee status changes that may occur in 2009).  Gordon Preston expressed an interest in expanding the insurance arrangement to other area towns for 2010 and volunteered to check with LGC to see if that would be permitted.  He will advise the group of his findings on that point at the next meeting.
  • The group discussed the status of the potential shared assessing opportunity that had been discussed during the June 19, 2008 meeting at which time David Hynes from the NH Dept of Revenue made a presentation to the group.  During the August 20, 2008 meeting, the group had decided to pursue the sending a ìletter of interest/intentî to Mr. Hynes office with each of their respective Boards of Selectmen which would allow NH Dept. of Revenue to conduct an analysis of any potential merits of a shared assessing arrangement among any combination of SVRTA towns.  Itís unclear if all towns have sent their letters of intent and the group agreed to check the status and follow-up with Bruce.
  • Bruce apologized to the group for the delay in sending out a survey to member towns regarding current Building Inspector/Code Enforcement positions within each town as we discussed in the August meeting.  He indicated that the survey would be distributed ASAP and the responses summarized into a matrix for review by the group.  That summary will be distributed as soon as all data is received, rather than waiting for the next meeting.  With regard to this topic, Gordon Preston indicated that he didnít believe substantial financial savings were at stake in terms of possible collaboration.  However, Ed Vien and Steve Leighton noted that a cooperative arrangement among multiple towns could improve overall coverage and make it easier to attract qualified individuals who may not be able to consider such a position on a part-time basis.
  • Bruce updated the group on the recent Local Government Center Annual Conference held in mid-November.  He was asked to facilitate a roundtable discussion regarding regionalization that did generate some interest from several other towns in attendance.  He also thought the issue may be featured in a future LGC newsletter.
  • Gordon Preston discussed the potential opportunities that exist with regard to collaboration among area police departments.  He noted the 5 departments that exist along the route 28 corridor alone (from Pembroke to Barnstead) along with the fact that the expense of 5 police chiefs alone was substantial.
Ed Vien noted that consolidation of certain functions in a regional approach could free-up funds to actually increase patrol coverage.  He also noted that response times between border towns wasnít a major issue as heís seen first-hand during past police ìride-alongsî heís done.

It was also noted that a larger department could offer more career advancement opportunity and level out disparities in salary rates, both of which would likely improve staff retention rates.

Futher discussion took place regarding the challenges of pursuing possible consolidation or collaboration among police departments due to ìturfî issues that often exist among departments and life-safety fears that are often used as an excuse not to pursue such opportunities.  However, the group did agree that a opportunities in a number of ìspecialty areasî did likely exist which included:
  • Accident investigation/reconstruction
  • Drug task force
  • K-9 units
  • Court prosecutor
  • Detective
The group agreed to work with their respective Boards of Selectmen to discuss the issue of potential collaborative arrangements with their Police Chief by initially focusing on two specific questions:
  • What service/task does their dept do very well that may be of use to other area departments?
  • What needs exist that arenít being funded, but may be available from other towns?
  • Representatives from each town provided a brief summary of their 2009 budget planning process and initiatives as follows:
  • Pittsfield - Ed Vien said Pittsfield is working toward a level-funded operating budget.  No major warrant articles known at this point, but itís possible the issue of a FD ladder truck may come up again.  Employee salary increases targeted at 3%.
  • Barnstead - Gordon Preston indicated that Barnstead is striving for a $100k reducing in their current 2008 operating budget rates due to lower revenue expectations for 2009.  No new vehicle purchases are planned and expenses for  staff education/course expenses are frozen.  Employee salary increases targeted at 3%.
  • Epsom -  Keith Cota said the requested budget will be approx. 12% higher than current (SB2 default budget).  Employee raises targeted around 5.7% with majority to address Fire & Police staff.  Keith Cota expressed concern that Epsom may end-up with a default budget once again and explained that even though the budget is voted upon by several hundred residents, the actual budget creation process (deliberative session) is driven mainly by a very small group of citizens who actually end-up with substantial authority as a result of the deliberative session but also may not reflect the true desires of the overall town population.  Gordon Preston and Steve Leighton also noted the impact that small ìspecial interestî groups in a given town can have substantial impacts on the make-up of a final SB2 budget.
  • Chichester - Jeff Jordan explained that Chichester is looking for a level-funded budget with the exception of employee salary increases, which have been targeted at 3.5%.  Only one major Warrant Article is known at this point, which is a paving project for Cantebury Rd.
  • Strafford - Steve Leighton indicated that Strafford was working toward a flat operating budget with no employee raises planned.  Only one major Warrant Article was expected, which was for a bridge replacement project.
  • Pembroke - Although nobody from Pembroke was present for this meeting, Bruce Dyke noted the e-mail sent to the group by one of their Selectmen (Larry Preston) which indicated that Pembroke was anticipating an operating budget increase of 5% or less.
  • As part of the budget discussion, Bruce polled the group to determine how each town was handling the budgeting of road reconstruction projects.  Specifically, he wanted to know if towns were including such expenses in their operating budgets or handling them as Warrant Articles.  It appears as though only Chichester and Epsom are handling these expenses through Warrant Articles.
  • Ed Vien noted that the BCEP budget for 2009 will also be level funded.
  • Gordon Preston noted that a Barnstead resident with legal background had offered to assist the SVRTA with drafting any potential cooperative agreements, etc. that may be needed.  Although this individual is not licensed to practice law in NH, the ability to get initial draft documents from him for official review by respective town counsels was seen as a convenient option down the road, if the need arises.
  • Bruce Dyke updated the group on the Southern NH Planning Commission meeting he attended on December 2nd.  He was invited to attend the meeting and give a brief overview of the SVRTA.  The meeting went well and during that meeting a presentation was also given by CCA Global Partners regarding the potential for forming a purchasing cooperative specific to municipalities.  This type of arrangement could be used for purchases ranging from office supplies, long distance contracts, heavy equipment, computer equipment, etc.  He will advise the group if any such opportunity arises.
  • On the topic of purchasing cooperatives, Stephanie Gray advised the group of the National Association of EMS Managers and the substantial discounts that can be obtained by being part of that group.  Stephanie will forward the web address to Bruce for distribution among the SVRTA members.
  • Bruce thanked the Strafford Board of Selectmen for hosting this meeting and for their decision to join the SVRTA.
  • The next meeting will be Thursday, January 15, 2008 at 7pm and is expected to be held at the Epsom Town Hall.
  • The meeting adjourned at 9:20pm

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