Suncook Valley Regional Town Association
Meeting Date: November 16, 2011
Minutes Prepared By: Bruce Dyke
In Attendance: Keith Cota - Town of Epsom - Selectman
Bruce Dyke – Chichester Town Organization Committee
David Jodoin – Town of Pembroke – Town Administrator
David Kerr – Town of Barnstead – Selectman
Steve Leighton – Town of Strafford - Selectman
Sandra McKenney – Town of Allenstown – Selectman
Location: Epsom Fire Department
Minutes Approved: TBA
1. The meeting was called to order at 7:10pm by Bruce Dyke
2. The draft minutes of the September 22, 2011 meeting were reviewed and comments/changes were solicited. A motion was made by Sandy McKenney to accept the minutes as presented and seconded by David Jodoin. The minutes were approved without further discussion by a unanimous vote.
3. The group discussed the current status of the proposal received from Glacial Energy specific to discounted electric rates. At this point, no SVRTA towns have elected to enter into an agreement with Glacial beyond the Town of Allenstown and the BCEP which already have prior agreements in place. Bruce noted that BCEP recently advised him that their Glacial rates have been running higher than PSNH and that they were looking at different options at this point.
4. he heating oil group rate project was also discussed. No SVRTA towns elected to contract with Fuller Oil specific to the pre-buy or capped price options they made available to the group in September. However it was noted that Epsom, Strafford and Barnstead have all contracted with other vendors for capped price contracts, although none seemed to be for substantial savings over current market rates. It was suggested that the process for looking at possible bulk purchase options for the 2012/2013 winter season be started earlier next year in hopes of securing more favorable pricing.
5. Health insurance renewal notices from LGC that were recently sent to all SVRTA towns (except Northwood) were discussed. It was noted that the range of rate increases varied between the towns with some being as low as 3.5% and others being just over 10%. There had been some question about a 9% rate increase cap for the SVRTA for this second year of the 2-year contract. However, Bruce contacted LGC who confirmed the rate cap was specific to property & liability policies only. Bruce was going to follow-up with LGC to determine the average rate increase for both the SVRTA group and overall for the “Under 100” pool that to which we used to belong.
David Jodoin noted that the group should begin assessing plans for exploring health insurance options in the near future, as the group will need to make a decision by late summer concerning our intention for renewing our current arrangement with LGC. The group agreed with that assessment and the topic will be formally raised in our January meeting. David also noted that Primex has discontinued their health insurance offering.
On a related topic, it was noted that several of the SVRTA towns provide rebates to employees who are eligible for health insurance but opt not to take it. Epsom, Barnstead and Pembroke have such programs which range in value from 10% of the town’s portion of annual cost for an employee’s plan (in Pembroke) to fixed amounts ranging from $2,000 in Epsom and $2,500 to $3,000 in Barnstead.
6. Sandy McKenney provided copies of initial quotes for Fire Dept. turnout gear that were obtained by Allenstown’s Fire Chief. However, the quotes were not based on any assumed group/bulk purchase. Sandy is going to ask her Fire Chief to contact each of the SVRTA related Fire Chiefs to determine if any opportunity for a bulk purchase exists and obtain a new quote as warranted.
7. David Kerr provided another update on Barnstead’s on-going effort to outsource their police department. Negotiations continue with the Sheriff’s Department, but there is some disagreement over the number of positions needed to adequately cover the town. The issue will be brought to a vote at the next town meeting.
8. Each town provided a brief summary of 2012 budget goals based on the budgeting process to date:
- Pemboke: No major CAPEX projects are planned and the overall goal for the operating budget is to keep it pretty much flat. Planned salary increases for the upcoming year will include a COLA of 2.39% and merit increases ranging from 0% to 2.5%.
- Allenstown: The operating budget is likely to be level funded and no salary increases are planned.
- Barnstead: The goal is for a level funded budget and no salary increases are planned.
- Chichester: The goal is for a level funded budget. There is likely going to be a proposed warrant article for a new fire truck and one major road project.
- Strafford: It likely going to have a flat operating budget with no major warrant articles expected. Staff raises of 3% are being proposed.
- Epsom: The propsosed budget is approximately 2% over the default budget and includes a 2.5% COLA. Planned warrant articles are planned for a propsed 7th police offer position, a new dump truck and ambulance.
It was noted that no towns have seen any significant drop in revenues this year.
9. Keith Cota mentioned that Epsom recently switched their phone service to Bayring and are expecting savings in excess of 40%.
10. David Jodoin asked the group if any towns were billing utilities for property taxes on telephone poles. Allenstown, Epsom, Barnstead and Strafford all confirmed they are taxing the utilities.
11. David Jodoin reminded the group of the 2003 federal NPDES permitting process requirements which involve mapping all water/sewer/catch basin infrastructure. This is supposed to be down (as applicable) for all municipalities by 2015 and towns/cities should plan for it as completing that task can be somewhat costly.
12. Keith indicated that Epsom was in the process of renegotiating their Cable Franchise Agreement and the town was investigating the potential for utilizing a community access channel as part of that agreement in order to broadcast selectmen’s meetings, etc. The group discussed some of the challenges in managing a public access channel, especially with regard to finding people to operate the equipment, record meetings, etc.
13. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 7pm, at the Chichester Grange Hall.
14. A motion was made to adjourn the meeting by David Jodoin and seconded by Sandy McKenney and passed unanimously by the group. The meeting adjourned at 8:35pm.