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Suncook Valley Regional Town Assn. MInutes 03/19/2009
Suncook Valley Regional Town Association
Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date:  March 19, 2009
Minutes Prepared By:  Bruce Dyke
In Attendance:  Bruce Dyke - Chichester Town Organization Committee
                          David Jodoin - Town of Pembroke - Town Administrator
                     Jeff Jordan - Town of Chichester - Selectman
               Gordon Preston - Town of Barnstead - Selectman
            Joanne Randall - Town of Epsom - Selectman
               Ed Vien - Town of Pittsfield - Selectman
Location:  Chichester Selectmanís Office
Minutes Approved: 5-7-09

        -    The meeting was called to order at 7:00 by Bruce Dyke

  • The draft minutes of the January 15, 2009 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, with one participant abstaining.
  • The group welcomed representatives from the Town of Allenstown (Roger LaFleur - Selectmen and Kelley Collins - Town Administrator) who attended the meeting to gain a better understanding of the groupís purpose and to see if on-going participation may be worthwhile to their town.  
  • Each town provided a brief update regarding their recent Town Meetings:
Pembroke - David Jodoin indicated their operating budget increased by approx. 4% and a major initiative regarding curbside recycling also passed, as did all other warrant articles.

Barnstead - Gordon Preston reported that Barnsteadís operating budget was basically flat for the year (as was intended) and the town portion of the tax rate would likely fall slightly.  Only small warrant articles passed and the budget did include a 3% COLA for town employees.

Pittsfield - Ed Vien noted that Pittsfieldís town portion of the tax rate will likely decrease by approx. 3 cents and the voting results on various warrant articles was mixed.

Epsom -   Joanne Randall indicated that approx. 800 people voted on election day and although the measure to repeal SB2 in the town failed, their proposed Selectmenís budget passed which was approx. 8% higher than the default budget.  The majority of the extra funds will cover much needed highway projects and raises for the police and fire department staff only.

Chichester - Jeff Jordan reported that Chichesterís town budget was down approx. 1.5% and a couple of the larger warrant articles specific to road projects failed to pass.

  • The status of the shared assessing analysis was discussed by the group.  At this point, it appears that all towns but Strafford have provided letters to the Dept. of Revenue Administration, expressing interest in an initial analysis regarding the potential for shared assessing arrangements among some or all of the SVRTA towns.  Bruce was going to follow-up with David Hynes at DRA to ensure they have received the letters and determine the ìnext stepsî in the process.  Bruce was also going to follow-up with the Town of Strafford to see if they wish to participate in the analysis.
  • Bruce Dyke distributed a Building Inspector Position Summary Matrix to the group for review.  He advised that comparison information regarding the BI position was received from all towns and used the opportunity to clarify a couple missing data points specific to Epsom with Joanne Randallís help.  Information specific to Allenstown was added to the matrix as that additional information was deemed useful and the representatives from Allenstown who sat-in on the meeting were able to readily provide it.  Bruce indicated he would also follow-up with the Town of Northwood and add their information before sending the final matrix out to the group.  Additional discussion regarding the scope and salary info. for the BI/Code Enforcement positions in each town ended with general agreement that no significant opportunities for collaboration among the SVRTA towns seemed to exist specific to these functions, but the information was useful.
  • The issue of potential collaboration among area police departments was discussed again.  Ed Vien indicated that there may be value in having a future meeting in which representatives from the police departments of each SVRTA town be invited to attend for a general discussion and brainstorming session.  Further discussions among the group supported the thought that opportunities for collaboration among some or all of the town PDs likely exists, but would likely have to start with very targeted areas.
  • Gordon Preston updated the group on his prior discussion with a representative from a large office supply distributor who is still interested in providing a quote for a cooperative buying agreement among the SVRTA towns.  Each town rep. agreed to send Gordon information regarding their respective office supply budgets for 2009.
  • Gordon Preston reminded the group again 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.
  • On a somewhat related topic of joint supply purchases, Gordon Preston also noted that area towns may be able to receive a bulk purchase discount on plowing blades by dealing directly with the manufacturer or regional distributors.  Each town rep. agreed to send Gordon information regarding the type and quantity of blades expected to be used by their town this year.   He will follow-up with the group regarding any potential purchase discount.
  • Police dispatch - The group discussed the current status regarding police dispatch costs which have dramatically risen for many towns, especially those who currently contract with Bow.  As a result of the cost increases, the Towns of Epsom and Allenstown are moving to Merrimack County Dispatch in early summer.  The Town of Pembroke also investigated making the transition, but County dispatch is presently unable to accommodate them.  This issue will likely present some challenges in terms of communications interoperability as both Pembroke and Allenstown will be part of different systems after the change.
  • 5-year assessing rule - David Jodoin explained to the group that the Town of Pembroke was considering challenging a requirement by the DRA which will force them to re-assess their town even though their equalization rates are well within the acceptable range (low 90 percentile).  This represents a considerable cost to the town and Pembroke is weighing their options.  In general, the group thought it would be a tough challenge.  On a related topic, Gordon Preston pointed out that with respect to issues such as this, the State seems much less willing to work with towns as used to be the case.
  • Cell phone plans -  Bruce Dyke advised the group that Chichester is just about finished obtaining quotes for a new cellular service plan for all town cell phones.  In particular, Sprint/Nextel has provided the town with the same aggressive pricing/plan options that is part of the State contract.  If Chichesterís selectmen choose this particular plan it will reduce cellular costs by approximately half.  Although this is not seen as an area where a cooperative agreement will drive further discounts, it should be understood that such opportunities to ìpiggybackî on the States plan do exist.
  • Park & Ride - Ed Vien mentioned that Pittsfield is working with the State DOT to explore the potential for placing a ìPark & Rideî in the location currently used for the State DOT shed on Route 28.  Discussions regarding this are still in early stages, but other towns interested in the value of adding such a facility (especially Chichester) should write a letter to the State in support of the project.  Ed noted that such a facility may help reduce traffic volume at both the Epsom Circle and on the ìMain St. shortcutî through Chichester.
  • Stimulus requests - A brief discussion regarding the types of Federal ìstimulusî projects which have been submitted by SVRTA towns occurred.  Pittsfield, Pembroke, Barnstead, Epsom, Chichester (and Allenstown) have all submitted projects for consideration, which mainly deal with bridge and road improvements.  Epsom has submitted a project relating to river evulsion and Allenstown has a request specific to their wastewater treatment plant.
  • The next meeting will be Thursday, May 7th at 7pm.  The location will be determined at a later date.
  • A motion was made to adjourn the meeting by Ed Vien and seconded by Joanne Randall. The meeting adjourned at 9:15pm.  

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