Teamwork! Local Government’s road to success…is easier when everyone knows where they are going….

poor_teamwork-resizedThe number of people that make up Local Government’s TEAM is much larger than anyone can imagine. We have, department heads (police, fire, highway department, water, waste water, solid waste, town clerk/tax collector, town executive 0ffices) and hired personnel in all of those departments that work hard at making government run smoothly.

Last but not least, the biggest part of that TEAM is the Legislative Body (property owners/tax payers) who raise the money and elect a Board of Selectmen (BOS). The BOS is the administrative part of the TEAM. The primary function of the BOS is to attend to the prudential affairs of the town as directed by the legislative body…RSA 41:8 and RSA 41:9.

The BOS under RSA 41:9 (VI), is “responsible for establishing and maintaining appropriate internal control procedures to insure the safeguarding of all town assets and properties.” This internal control policies are known as Town of Henniker Selectmen’s Policies (read here).

These policies are designed to effectuate an efficient and orderly implementation of the Legislative Body’s directives. Any distortion of, or failure to follow these internal control policies could lead to the break down of the orderly transaction of town business and thus puts the assets and properties of this town at risk.

The most sacrosanct of our policy’s is the Procurement Policy. This policy deals with the expenditure of tax money. In the policy document cited above [Section III-1 (page III-1-4) or (page 29-32 of 63 pages in pdf).]  clearly defines the Procurement policy.

The Procurement Policy sets forth a clear definition of Major and Non Major purchases for goods and services. Once again, another project has been brought to the public’s attention that seems to indicate that the Procurement Policy has been at best twisted and at worst completely violated.

The removal of debris ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers, which was to be removed in 2015, has been completed. The total bill for that project was $21,649 sand-pile11212016.

The intent of the policy is to make sure that projects are to be planned in detailed and all aspects of the project should be accounted for in one total price. At no point in this project was there ever adherence to the requirements of a Non Major purchase:

“For all non-major purchases over $3,000.00, it shall be the responsibility of the Department Heads to provide to the Finance Director a standard purchase order form. The Department Head must accompany the purchase order form with at least three quotations or prices and specify the method by which the quotations or prices were obtained.The purchase order shall be presented to the Finance Director for review. If the Finance Director recommends the purchase order be paid, he shall sign it and present it to the Town Administrator. By his/her signature, the Town Administrator shall approve or disapprove the purchase order.”

At the BOS meeting on November 15, 2016, pursuant to Article III.1 Non major purchase, I asked for a copy of the purchase order for the sand removal project that was subject to the Army Corps’ order. Chairman Blomback advised me that no such purchase order was necessary and Town Administrator Christine Trovato stated that no such purchase order was created for this project.

I asked Chairman Blomback if he could supply me with the invoices for this project which he did. He also sent me this email chairman-email-procurement

The Chairman’s explanation is somewhat tortuous. Video evidence contradicts the statement made that the Select Board gave the directive to clean up the site when in fact it was the Town Administrator who ordered it. Also the Chairman stated, ” that policy was instituted, at the Department Head level, to keep the selectboard informed of decisions that were flowing upward through the town flowchart.” Video evidence shows that the Select Board was confused about the cost involved:

At the 5:28 mark Selectman Fortner states that the board does not require written proof of conversations between the Town Administrator and other Department heads…yet the procurement policy stated above states just the opposite. The policy does require written proof…the creation of a purchase order singed by the Department Head, the Finance Director and the Town Administrator…to me that policy requires written proof.

Mr. Fortner asks for time to research it and get the facts…as of yet no one has returned to the conversation.

ohb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Henniker’s Big Small Government…Grant Money…The Most Dangerous Game….(part 1)

free-stuffMirror, mirror on the wall…when will my tax bill begin to fall?

As I observe our local government conducting the town’s business, one can not help but notice the enormous amount of grant money funding the improvements of our day to day operations.

The sales pitch to accept this grant $$$ is that it will not cost the town tax $$$$$. What amazes me is we get fooled time and time again by this pitch. Schools, roads, water and waste water, police and fire all have taken and spent so called “free” grant $$$$.

And today…we have a big small town, with a big small government,  very little commercial tax base and a whopping tax rate of $33.33/thousand.

And, our  tax rate is about to take an even bigger jump up…or we will once again  put off the necessary repairs and hope that future growth will come to save us.

A bit of the history behind government grant money:

“Prior to the Civil War, proposals to subsidize state and local activities were occasionally introduced in Congress, but they were routinely voted down or vetoed by presidents for being unconstitutional. In 1817, for example, President James Madison vetoed a bill that would have provided federal aid to construct roads and canals.3 In 1830, President Andrew Jackson vetoed a bill to provide aid for a road project in Kentucky arguing that it was of “purely local character” and that funding would be a “subversion of the federal system.”(read here)

The federal grant program began to take shape after J. D> Rockefeller’s coup to establish the IRS and Federal  Reserve Bank in 1913.  By 1930 there were 15 Federal Aid programs that exploded to 130 in 1960. Now there are over 1,100 federal Aid programs doling out over $561 BILIION in fy 2013. Only Social Security and National Defense receive more subsidies!

And small town America has feasted on those subsidies, causing town’s to overbuild their infrastructure far beyond their needs and means to maintain that overbuilt infrastructure.

And now, Henniker has about 50 miles of paved roads that needs to be replaced or resurfaced…all paid for by the property tax payer…leaving us only one recourse…go to the bank and borrow money!

OHB

 

 

He said what?????

i-dont-know Sometimes you hear or read things that just can’t be true!

On Juniper Ridge we are dealing with the issue of a home owner building a motocross tack on the rather small piece of property in the Village Proper residential zone.

One neighbor wanted to build a fence because of the noise and dust nuisance. The town actually had to vacate a town owned Right of Way, give the property to the owner so he could erect a barrier fence to wall himself off from the intrusion.

I am the other abutting neighbor. I asked how this track is even allowable under the zoning ordinance? motocross-from-the-desk-of-dr The Supreme Court has ruled in Forster v. Henniker that all buildings and use must be accessory and customarily incidental to the primary use. The court ruled that customarily incidental means that is has to be, ““[I]ncidental” and “subordinate” incorporate the requirement that the accessory use be minor in relation to the primary use and that it bear a reasonable relationship to that use. Id.; see Marchand v. Town of Hudson, 147 N.H. 380, 383 (2001). “[C]ustomarily” imposes an additional requirement that the accessory use “has commonly, habitually and by long practice been established as reasonably associated with the primary . . . use” in the local area.”

The court goes on to state the following; ““While the strength or degree of the customary or habitual association does not lend itself to definition by formula, and while the combination need not occur in a majority of instances of the principal use, the uses must be associated with a frequency that is substantial enough to rise above rarity.” Alfond, 129 N.H. at 29 (citation omitted).”

The first response that I was able to get out of the Select Board Chairman was a rejection because there was no commercial activity being conducted at this motocross track. I didn’t ask about that!

The next was the “not a nuisance” no violation response… I didn’t ask about nuisance. How about we apply the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding accessory use doctrine to everybody????

This is unbelievable folks…if it wasn’t on paper I would not believe it myself! legal-opinion-motocross-track

 

The staff at onlyhennikerbruce (OHB) wants to give a big shout out to…The Road Management Committee!

shout_outThe staff here at OHB wants to congratulate the Road Management Committee for the tremendous work that they are doing. I have attended the last few meetings and have had the privilege of watching this dedicated group of neighbors.

They have finished their assessment of every one of our town’s  paved roads and they have begun developing their plan of action.

I want thank each and everyone of them for allowing me to give them a tax payers opinion on the work they will be proposing.

What a joy it was having my comments welcomed by the committee, Chairman Mike Flecchia, Select Woman Tia Hooper, Mr. Bill Marko, Mr. Bob Morse, Mr Leon Parker, Mr. Leo Aucoin and Mr. Bob French.

Our safety depends upon the proper condition of our paved roads. This should be our top priority in 2017.

Great work everyone…I look forward to your presentation and I will support your efforts as our town  moves forward on this very important project of resurfacing and rebuilding or our roads.

ohb

Asbestos waste removed from town property…Board of Selectmen confused…

what's the problemAt the November 1, 2016 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, a resident asked about a project purportedly going on at the Highway Garage. The discussion that followed raises some serious questions.

The Army Corps of Engineers, had asked the town to remove debris from Army Corps property back in 2014. Because of the garage fire, the town failed to complete the project before the may 2015 deadline.

The confusion that follows is because of the Town Administrator’s failure to update the Board on the status of the project prior starting this project and failure to give running updates on the projects progress…

 

The Board must understand that better reports are needed.

Large tax increase…there are solutions!

now-what Okay so the tax bill shock is starting to wear off. I tried to prepare everyone this past summer…and now it is finally here.

Good news…there are solutions…budget season has just begun. We  must come together and discuss the concerns we all have and brainstorm some ideas. A few of  those ideas will create solutions. Those solutions will require some tough decisions.

Getting together is our first step…we must challenge the process in order to put together viable solutions.

The school budget must be first. Kristen Cochran and I would like to hear from all of you…time, place, ways to get the community together to solve our budget problem. We need everyone getting the information necessary to make these tough decisions.

Please stand up and be heard…

Henniker’s Tax rate rises as budget season begins…First Budget Advisory Committee/Board of Selectman Budget meeting completed…

budget-2016 My first meeting as a member of the Budget Advisory Committee was a very informative one. I want to thank my fellow committee members (David Woolpert, Christopher Roberts, Peter Flynn, Cheryl Morse and Michael Cyr) and the Board of Selectman for hosting such a spirited meeting.

To all those who appeared before the joint committee, I am sure my cartoon accurately depicts how you felt at the end of your presentations. Hopefully  I can ease your minds…I was impressed at the enormous effort that you put into your requested budgets.

The receipt of our tax bills clearly reflects that this budget process will be an exceptionally important one. The town must now wrestle with a 6% increase in the overall tax rate ($33.33)  and a 8% increase in the local school tax rate ($19.27).

The budget process is a complex one. The logistics of running our town are detailed and numerous. Sound economic principles must now guide us to an informed and debated budget. Emotions cannot enter into the debate.

I urge everyone to engage yourselves in this process. Bring forth your concerns by emailing the town administrator: townadministrator@henniker.org  and let your feelings be known.

I will put forth my best effort to bring to the town a budget that accurately reflects what our needs are and keep you all informed as this process moves forward.