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Town Organization Minutes 01/24/2008
Suncook Valley Regional Town Association
Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date:  January 17, 2008
Minutes Prepared By:  Bruce Dyke
In Attendance:  Bruce Dyke – Chichester Town Organization Committee
    Norm Larachelle – Chichester Town Organization Committee
               Gordon Preston – Town of Barnstead – Selectman
    Ed Vien – Town of Pittsfield – Selectman
   Joanne Randall – Town of Epsom – Selectman

Location:  Epsom Town Offices
Minutes Approved:

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

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

-       The draft minutes of the November 15, 2007 meeting were reviewed and comments/changes were solicited.  No changes were made and Ed Vien made a motion to accept the minutes as presented, which was approved unanimously.

-       As a follow-up to the first meetings questions about the necessary formality of the group, Bruce Dyke explained that Chichester’s Town Administrator (at his request) contacted the NH Municipal Association to determine what, if any, additional requirements may exist for towns to participate in the SVRTA.  Beyond standard posting of meeting notices and associated minutes, no further action was deemed necessary since each town had already taken-up the matter of participation as part of their respective Board meetings after Chichester’s Board proposed the creation of the group and any such discussions/votes regarding the matter were already in the public record for each town.  The only exception to this would be a situation where the group wants to make a formal decisions involving spending money, which would require adoption of RSA53-A and requires Town Meeting and Attorney General approvals.

-       A discussion regarding the capital project budget process took place after Bruce Dyke asked each town how formal their process was.  In particular, Chichester has been considering the implementation of a formal Capital Project Request form, for both durable equipment as well as major operational changes (i.e. adding more staff, etc.) in order to streamline the process and improve the quality of documentation and due-diligence by departments making such requests.  Joanne Randall explained that Epsom’s CIP process seemed to work well in part because the Chair of the Budget Committee also was the Chair of the CIP Committee.  Epsom uses a template which requires formal quotes and other detailed information which must be provided prior to any project being added to the Town’s CIP.  It was noted that the NH Regional Planning Commission provides templates and overall guidance for the CIP process and is a good resource for any town to utilize.

-       Gordon Preston provided an update regarding his efforts to obtain a group quote for health insurance benefits from the NH Municipal Association.  At this time, he’s received “letters of intent” for all town in the SVRTA with the exception of Epsom.  Joanne indicated that she would revisit the issue with the Board of Selectmen at their next meeting and attempt to obtain their approval to participate in this non-binding exercise in order to see if any savings may be achieved.  Gordon re-iterated that participation in any group discount pool would not impact the existing benefit plans for each town involved.

-       Bruce Dyke asked the group if their towns were part of the “NHLOGIN.ORG” e-mail (listserv) group, which is an informal e-mail based mechanism that allows participating town admins to obtain feedback from other participants on any number of issues.  Bruce reviewed a recent example of one such e-mail posting and explained that Chichester has been part of that group for some time.  The other meeting attendees did not believe their towns participated  (or were aware) of this group.  Interested towns can visit for membership information.

-       Gordon Preston polled the group to see if there was interest in possible regional training seminars that could be hosted in our area and made available to SVRTA town employees.  In particular, Barnstead is looking into the possibility of a training seminar specific to NH Labor Laws.  It’s believed that many training vendors or government departments would welcome the opportunity to present to larger, regional group and area towns may be more inclined to send people to seminars held locally.  As there did seem to be a good level of interest, Gordon will distribute more information regarding the labor law seminar to the group via Bruce Dyke once he has additional details.

-       Bruce Dyke raised a topic discussed in the first meeting regarding obtaining formal approval from each town in the upcoming Town Meetings for on-going participation in the SVRTA. It was suggested that by placing a non-binding resolution on each town’s Warrant, it would afford the opportunity to ensure each town’s residents were aware of the SVRTA and their respective town’s efforts to find ways to share information and potentially improve efficiency and reduce expenses.  Bruce was going to ask one of the other Chichester Town Organization Committee members (Paul Twomey) if he’d be willing to draft a sample “resolution” which each town may elect to use at their town meeting.  Assuming Mr. Twomey is willing to draft a sample resolution, Bruce will distribute it to each SVRTA member as soon as it’s available.

-       Ed Vien raised a point discussed briefly in the first meeting regarding the possible benefit to a shared, regional equipment maintenance facility and mechanic(s).  As each town appears to have its own challenges with obtaining affordable and convenient maintenance for town vehicles and other heavy equipment, he sees potential value to a shared, centralized facility (perhaps along Route 28) which could be staffed with a shared resource to handle routine maintenance and repair activities.  The group agreed that the idea has merit and should be further discussed.

-       Ed Vien asked what other towns were doing with respect to maintaining the official town web sites.  He explained that Pittsfield has a volunteer group that shares responsibility for maintaining/updating their web site.  That group is undertaking these tasks based on the “conditional blessing” of the Board of Selectmen.    It was noted that Epsom and Barnstead are doing the same thing at this time.  Chichester utilizes a single person (volunteer) who updates the web site, but any updates are reviewed by the Town Admin.

-       Joanne Randall asked the group if any of their towns had a formal “Bid Policy.”  The following was noted:
                             Pittsfield – Does have a formal policy, but the Selectmen have the ability to waive the policy in the event of an emergency situation.
       Barnstead – The issue has been discussed, but nothing formal has been adopted as of yet.
                             Epsom – A petition to implement a policy has been submitted, but there’s some concern over the minimum dollar level associated with it.
       Chichester – Does not have a formal policy, but it’s been a topic of discussion over the past year.
                             Pembroke –  (info. request pending)

The overall sentiment of the group was that any formal bid policy must   be carefully considered and allow an override by the Selectmen in the event of emergency situations which may arise.

-       Each town provided a brief summary of their current 2008 budget process:
                      Barnstead – Operational budget to be proposed will likely be approx. 10% higher that 2007.  Barnstead will be proposing going with “contract grading” for their roads.
                      Pittsfield – Operational budget to be proposed will be approx. 1% higher than last year’s.  A warrant article for a ladder truck will also be presented.
Chichester – Operational budget to be proposed will be approx. 1% higher than last year’s.  Chichester will also be proposing a new, overhauled benefits package for town employees that will make it consistent with the benefits package for school employees.
Epsom – Operational budget proposed will be approx. 22% higher than last year’s, with the majority of the increase pertaining to the Highway Department/road projects.
Pembroke – (info. request pending)

-       Bruce Dyke asked the group how each town handles road construction/maintenance projects within their budgets (whether they are included in the operating budget or presented as warrant articles).  Barnstead and Pittsfield indicated they include such projects as part of their operating budgets and Epsom uses a combination of operational budget funding as well as warrants.  Chichester currently uses warrant articles for major road projects, but the Selectmen and Budget Committee have discussed moving such projects into the operating budget in the future.

-       Gordon Preston told the group about a free Road Management software program he had located which helps with road construction planning.  He will forward the web link for the program for anyone who may be interested.

-       The next meeting will be Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 7pm.  The location of the meeting is TBD and will be communicated approximated a week in advance.

-       The meeting adjourned at 8:55pm.

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