Laws matter…and a good example why consent agendas are bad.

shadow-government May kudos to Select Board member Tia Hooper and then Select Board member Leo Aucoin for notifying the public on January 5, 2016 of a clear violation of RSA 91-A:2. The RSA is quite clear, (I) “For the purpose of this chapter, a “meeting” means the convening of a quorum of the membership of a public body, as defined in RSA 91-A:1-a, VI, or the majority of the members of such public body if the rules of that body define “quorum” as more than a majority of its members, whether in person, by means of telephone or electronic communication, or in any other manner such that all participating members are able to communicate with each other contemporaneously, subject to the provisions set forth in RSA 91-A:2, III, for the purpose of discussing or acting upon a matter or matters over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.” (read RSA here)

In short a “Public Bodies may deliberate on matters of official business only in meetings held pursuant to and in compliance with this RSA, which means properly noticed PUBLIC MEETINGS.

January 5, 2016: Agenda Item 11, (page 5, read here) Town Administrator’s report: It appears that Town Administrator Christine Trovato sent one text message to the ENTIRE Select Board regarding a matter of business under the jurisdiction of the Select Board. By sending this test message to the entire Select Board, Ms. Trovato sought to engage the entire board in a deliberation of a matter that would be put on the Consent Agenda for the January 5th meeting.

When Mr. Huftalen questioned the Town Administrator about this text message, Ms. Trovato confirmed that she did send text message communication to the board members. More importantly, the minutes reflect that Ms. Trovato chose to characterize the communication as, “individual messages” plural. (read here page 6)

Screen shots of the text message sent from Ms. Trovato’s phone clearly indicate that the text was sent as a group message to all board members at once so the communique could be contemporaneous, which is strictly controlled by the RSA.  The to header reads, Bob, Leo, Scott, Tia, Kris.  (read here pages 7-8-9)

To make matters worse, Chairman Blombeck and Select Board member Scott Osgood actually replied by text message, advising Ms. Trovato that they would indeed support the matter that was being placed on the Consent Agenda. (read pages 7-9 here).

Consent Agenda items are items that are routinely voted on by the board without deliberation. A Consent Agenda item can be deliberated at the request of any Select Board member.

It should frighten all of us that the entire Select Board is being sent text messages and quite possibly emails, with no record of what these communications contain and not being archived for public inspection.

I think that it is time for the voters of Henniker to take action.

 

 

Where or where might those little facts be?

public_records_cartoon I have asked on four separate occasions for a copy of the Budget Advisory Committee’s 2016 recommendations; “Dave Woolpert, Chairman of the Budget Committee, stated they reviewed all requests presented to the select board and he reports that most of the concerns they submitted to them were taken into consideration. Mr. Trivellini asked if that report is available and if so he would like a copy. Town Administrator Trovato stated it is available from the front office. (read here page 4). I asked again at town meeting and by email twice.

Why is it so hard to get a response and a copy of an official public document?

I have heard testimony at Select Board meetings about some of the major project’s that are not being even considered because of the cost and potential to raise tax rates above current levels. I urge you all to read minutes and look closely at what is being said. The lack of written reports each month at Select Board meetings is significant.

No one seems to want to divulge the accurate amount of money in these law suits;

  • Bob Garrison v. Town of Henniker (Green Mountain Explosives) where the ZBA attempted to add commercial activity to the Rural Residential Zoning when it is explicitly prohibited.
  • Joe Morette v. Town of Henniker, where the ZBA tried to block development of a work force housing by disagreeing with a traffic expert’s opinion and design while the town had no such professional report that refuted Mr. Morette’s expert claims
  • Lorin Mulligan v. Cosgwell Springs, where the water department disregarded easement deeds that were plainly written from the ate 1890’s by the Norton Brothers to the Gove borthers for a tank and water pipe.
  • Forster v. Town of Henniker, continuing because a complaint over a zoning violation was never heard before the Select Board and now the ZBA wants to totally disregard two ordinance changes.

Why are we wasting our money here while important public service projects are going unfunded?

Why don’t those department heads speak out about the lack of funds being sent to them? Why are just “making do”…”squeaking by”?

Who is interested in adding $300,000 for better roads in Henniker…without increasing the current tax rate?

pot-hole-slalomn-resized Each and every year at budget time our Select Board struggles mightily with making the most out of our tax dollars.

This year was no exception. There were many concerns and discussions about expenditures.(even some via text messaging) (read here Item 11 Select Women Tia Hooper’s objection page 5-9) However, most of the discussion did take place at an open meeting.

During those budget hearings many comments centered on how the town’s legislative body has not been receiving enough information to make informed decision regarding budgetary decisions.

“Danny Aucoin commented that this budget, the town budget, is not the problem but it is the school budget that brings the tax rate up. He suggested more people attend the school budget meetings and get to the school for the vote on the budget.” (read here)

Mr. Aucoin’s comments intrigued me, so I did some research.

Here is what I discovered, one simple change in the teacher’s health insurance coverage can free up approximately $300,000. By lowering the school budget by $300,000 the town can now add that savings to the town’s road repair budget and there will be NO CHANGE IN YOUR TAX RATE!

All it takes is good corporate governance…getting the information to the voters in an understandable form, so we can go to the school meeting and vote in a proper budget. It is that simple.

 

Your tax dollars were spent on these law suits…Examine the facts…you be the judge

examine-the-factsThis week the Select Board removed from the consent agenda, the reappointment of two individuals to the Zoning Board of Adjustments.  After several minutes of discussion the board voted 3-2 to table the discussion and revisit the matter at its next meeting. The three board members wanted to do more research on the subject.

Let’s begin that research…

Three cases we should never forget:

  • CASE #1; Back in July, I posted the story of Mr. Bob Garrison’s tussel with the ZBA and Green Mountain Explosives. In that the ZBA tried to add, without consent of the Legislative Body, commercial activity to the Rural Residential Zone. (read here).

Quite an odd thing in light of the Forster Case, where the commercial enterprise has been denied activities that would improve and benefit the town and the commercial enterprise. I wonder why they were for commercial activity before they became against commercial activity?????

          “The intervenor, Green Mountain Explosives, Inc. (GME), appeals an order of the                       Superior Court (McGuire, J.) reversing the decision of the Henniker Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) granting GME two conditional variances.   We affirm.”  (read here)

  • CASE #2 should never be forgotten. On November 15, 2006 2006, Mr. Joe Morette’s life was forever changed. All he wanted to do is develop his property with affordable housing. (read here)                                                                                                                                                              On that night Mr. Morette applied to the ZBA for a special exception. Special Exceptions are much different that Variances.He was told that his project did not serve the public’s interest: 5) Plan would be in the public interest.
    Vote: Yes–2 (Kris, Leon) No–3 (Joan, Doreen, Ron). (Kris Blomback, Leon Parker, Joan Oliveira, Doreen Connor and Ron Taylor)

Doreen Connor moved to reject case #2006-108 because the applicant did not meet all seven criteria which were necessary to grant this special exception. Joan Oliveira seconded the motion. Board discussion included Kris Blomback requesting a specific reason be given to the applicant as to why the case was rejected.Doreen Connor stated that the ZBA does not give specific guidance as it is a judicial board. It was noted that the applicant has the right to appeal the Board’s decision. The motion passed, 3-2.(Yes-Ron, Doreen, Joan; No–Kris, Leon)

But that’s not all! Oh no…Mr. Morette goes back to the ZBA:

  • January 2007 withdraws his appeal and advises ZBA he will return with a modified plan,  (read here).
  • March 21, 2007, (read here). (Joan Oliveria absent)
  • May 16, 2007, (read here)  Case has to be represented because of Ms. Oliveira’s absence in March. (I urge you all to read the public comments…very enlightening)  What is very important about May 16th (excluding the comments about this project is not subsidized housing and other questionable positions)  is the following exchange that occurs: (page 2-3)

“Doreen Connor asked if there is any study done on the number of accidents on a road with 370 trips per day. Ms. Rauseo stated that they look at factors involved in accidents.She stated that based on the data, traffic should be able to navigate safely through the area. There are no statistics based on number of trips made. Ms. McCourt stated that if the road plans have to change, they will come back to the ZBA. The applicant wants to do their best in respecting property boundaries and creating the best design for the neighborhood. Kris Blomback, Board member, stated that he feels very confident that a road can be designed within the understood boundary.)

“Doreen Connor stated that she is still concerned about the overall density of the project. The Town passed the ordinance of one principal building per lot to keep this type of thing from happening. She stated that she believes that the applicant’s statistics on the anticipated number of children and cars is too low and, therefore, inaccurate.” (page3)

Doreen Connor moved that the Board deny application# 2007-102 because there was not
majority vote on the required seven criteria (Item #4 did not pass.)
Joan Oliveira seconded the motion. The motion passed, 4-1 (Kris Blomback dissenting).
In the end  Mr. Morette took the ZBA to court…and won at the Supreme Court Level. (read here)
The case was overturned by the Supreme Court for the following reason,  “In this case, we agree with the petitioners that the board’s unsubstantiated rejection of their expert’s conclusions was an insufficient basis for denying the application.”
Mr. Morette’s costs to protect his property rights were substantial…He never built the project.
We can only assume what additional property taxes could have been generated from this project.
  • CASE #3: Forster’s Christmas Tree Farm: the difference between this case and Green Mountain is clear. Mr. Forster’s Christmas tree Farm is a Commercial Enterprise designated by the Agricultural Statue 21-34: A II (a) (12).                                                                                                                                                                                               Has anyone ever wondered why the ZBA wanted to approve commercial activity for Green Mountain in the Rural Residential Zone (where is is explicitly prohibited) and deny the statutory rights of Forster’s existing agricultural commercial enterprise where is it allowed?? ???
Mr. Blomback you and the Select Board should not overlook these discrepancies. I agree with what you said way back on November 15, 2006 Mr. Morette was owed an explanation…now he is owed an APOLOGY!
I think the parties involved in the other two cases and the public are owed an explanation and apology, from the ZBA and the Select Board, as well. 

 

SelectMAN Scott Osgood lectures the members of the Henniker Legislative Body that the most restrictive warrant article is controlling. WOW!

tyranny  Notes to Henniker, NH Selectman Scott Osgood:

  1. Mr. Forster WAS AWARDED a Conditional Use Permit under your beloved most restrictive  ordinance! Did you know that?
  2. If you plan on another run for your seat…you might not want anyone to know that you are super into RESTRICTIVELY CONTROLLING the rights of property owners.
  3. If you think that your mini-lecture on , RSA 676:14, the provision which imposes the greater restriction or higher standard shall be controlling, on the night of September 6th will be forgotten…THINK AGAIN!

Call me kooky but I do not think words like…MOST RESTRICTIVE AND CONTROLLING…should be coming out of the mouths of our board members. However, these words seem to flow like water from those in our government when discussing the issue of Forster Christmas Tree Farm.

WHY IS THAT? SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG HERE!

 

Step right up…The Henniker ZBA Circus comes to town….

dog small Tonight…the Henniker Select Board’s consent agenda seeks to reappoint the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) Chair and Vice Chair without any substantive discussion about the ZBA’s dysfunction that was obviously on display earlier this summer. (read here)

The Vice Chair, didn’t even show up for the critical appeal hearings in the  Forster Christmas Tree Farm case and the Chair…well just didn’t believe that the legislative body voted last March to change the definition of Agritourism. Apparently two warrant articles wasn’t enough to change anything!

A very smart man (Albert Einstein) once wrote the definition of insanity this way:

einstein