Selectmen in the dark… Part II…Applying the brakes to the runaway government train!

dark Editor’s note: New Hampshire’s General Court has dutifully kept pace with the ever changing landscape of electronic communications. The proper conduct of our elected officials  has been clearly defined;

  • RSA 49-D:4 Non-Interference by the Elected Body. – The elected body shall act in all matters as a body, and shall not seek individually to influence the official acts of the chief administrative officer, or any other official, or to direct or request, except in writing, the appointment of any person to, or his removal from, office; or to interfere in any way with the performance by such officers of their duties. Any member violating the provisions of this section, as determined through procedures established in the charter, shall forfeit his office. (read here)
  • RSA 91-A:1 Preamble. – Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.(read here)
  • RSA 91-A:2-a Communications Outside Meetings. –
        I. Unless exempted from the definition of “meeting” under RSA 91-A:2, I, public bodies shall deliberate on matters over which they have supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power only in meetings held pursuant to and in compliance with the provisions of RSA 91-A:2, II or III.
        II. Communications outside a meeting, including, but not limited to, sequential communications among members of a public body, shall not be used to circumvent the spirit and purpose of this chapter as expressed in RSA 91-A:1. (read here)
  • “The elected body shall act in all matters as a body, and shall not seek individually to influence the official acts of the chief administrative officer, or any other official, or to direct or request, except in writing, the appointment of any person to, or his removal from, office; or to interfere in any way with the performance by such officers of their duties. Any member [who does so], as determined through procedures established in the charter, shall forfeit his office.” RSA 49-C:19 (city charters); RSA 49-D:4 (town charters).

    In other words, no single member of a governing body in a municipality with a charter has the authority to direct or interfere with the official activities of the chief executive officer of the municipality or other officials. Furthermore, it should be noted that even in towns without a charter, the selectmen are only authorized to act as a board by majority vote. RSA 41:8. Although there is no statute authorizing removal of a selectman for improper interference, the old saying that “one selectman cannot do anything” is still valid. Only the board may act.

    Christine Fillmore and David Connell are attorneys with the New Hampshire Local Government Center’s Legal Services and Government Affairs Department. (read here)

PART II

Planning Board minutes indicate that on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Selectmen Hopper and Fortner and several Planning Board members are concerned with this rather hastily assembled Zoning Ordinance change,

“The Chair raised a concern relative to the proposed zoning changes offered by Selectmen Osgood relative to the building inspector, a public hearing is scheduled for February 1. The change would involve two questions on the ballot and he believed it would be confusing to the voters and what would happen if both passed (like last year with Steve Forester’s petition). Mr.Fortner has a similar concern and noted the full Board of Selectmen have not fully discussed this matter. Ms. Hooper expressed similar concern along with Mr. Higginson concurred. Mr. Tirrell made a motion to cancel the proposed public hearing, seconded by Mr. Higginson, all in favor 4–0.”

The real problem on January 25, 2017, not to mention the lack of communication prior to the meeting is, Selectmen Osgood was never given authority to offer anything to the Planning Board as a selectmen!

The rest of the story;

On the night of January 3, 2017 at the BOS meeting,  the Town Administrator once again raised the code enforcement issue. The BOS takes the following action,

       “A motion was made by Chair Blomback to not proceed with interviewing and hiring a     building  inspector until there is further research from Selectman Osgood. Vice Chair Hooper seconded. Selectman Fortner amended the above motion to change the parameters of the board’s decision whether we move forward. No second. Motion fails. Original motion passed 3-2 (Fortner, Osgood).”

 Two weeks later on, Monday January 16, 2017, Mr. Osgood sends an email  addressed only to Chairman Blomback, Town Administrator Trovato and Secretary Palmisano (no fellow board members were included)  1-16-2017-osgood-email  outlining proposed Zoning Ordinance changes attached.
After reading the complete record obtained from the town, 1-2017-right-to-know-response, it appears that no attempt was made by Chairman Blomback, Administrator Trovato nor Secretary Palmisano, to send this email on to the rest of the BOS or the Planning Board.  RSA 675:3 requires that all proposed Zoning Changes have a public hearing before the Planning Board prior to being placed on the Town Meeting Warrant.

On the afternoon of January 17, 2017, at 3:21 pm, Town Administrator Trovato sends an email to Land Consultant Fougere 1-17-2017-trovato-fougere-email questioning the legitimacy of the changes because the submission dates may have passed.

  • Note a response was sent from Mr. Fougere’s business email account, fougereplanning@comcast.net, to an email account entitled “Henniker Planner” at 4:24 pm. The text to that email was not available in the information sent to OHB. The contents of that email are unknown at this time.

On the night of January 17, 2017 the issue came before the BOS. (read here). During the meeting, despite the order from January 3rd to do only research and report back to the BOS, Selectmen Osgood hands out the drafts of the proposed Zoning Ordinance changes he had emailed the night before to Chairman Blomback, Ms. Trovato and Ms. Palmisano :

      “Selectman Osgood handed out a draft of revised zoning ordinance that allows for a full                        code enforcement system and then wrote one without code enforcement.” (linked minutes                   page 2, 2nd paragraph)

     A motion was made by Selectman Fortner to continue the search for a building inspector.
     Selectman French seconded. Motion passed 3-1 (Blomback).
     Selectman Osgood moved to amend the motion that the town may contract to a third party for        building inspections.Amendment was not accepted by Selectman Fortner who put forth                      the  original motion. Motion failed.
     A motion was made by Chair Blomback to have the Town Administrator contact Bart Mayer
     to see if the deadlines are applicable to the proposed amendments made to the zoning                        language, and to clarify if the proposed amendments must go before the planning board and           finally to provide further clarification on the issue to provide builders some temporary relief.            Selectman French seconded.
     Motion passed 4-0.
Clearly, Mr. Blomback’s motion indicates he does not have working knowledge of RSA 675:3, sections 1-2-3.
What happens next is a flurry of emails, phone calls and individual discussions from January 17, 2017 to the night of January 25, 2017,

all designed to fast track a zoning change (“offered by Selectmen Osgood” without selectboard approval. As noted by Select Board members Fortner and Hooper the BOS has not fully discussed this zoning change) to be placed onto the agenda of the Planning Board meeting scheduled for January 25, 2017 and to notice up  a Public Hearing before the complete Planning Board even deliberated.

Clearly, individual actions through selective email communications by town officials is not the type of Transparent Governance the public is entitled to.
It is hard to understand why  emails with important information were not immediately forwarded to all of the proper parties.
 
All of these official know what  proper email policy is. Why anyone would withhold information until the last minute is beyond explanation. Complete and open discussion is quintessential for good effective government.

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…PEACE!

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.wordpress.com

 

Advertisements

Board of Selectmen kept in the dark as board member Osgood single-handedly pushes for zoning changes…Dysfunction and lack of respect for procedure and others…order of the day for Henniker’s BOS: PART I

dark During the fall of 2016, (beginning in November) many questions pertaining to the town’s building code and code enforcement came before the Board of Selectmen (BOS). Despite lengthy discussion, no action was taken by the BOS.

However, from January 3, 2017 to the night of January 25, 2017, through a series of emails copied to only a few and private phone calls, 1-16-2017-osgood-email, proposed Zoning Changes land on the desk of Planning Board Chairman Ron Taylor, courtesy of Selectmen Osgood (with out BOS approval) and he is looking for the changes to be passed as quickly as possible: “I spoke with Ron on Saturday at the Transfer station. He seemed very concerned about it, but did not recommend acting against it. In fact, he told me he expected the Board to approve it.”  1-25-2017-osgood-fougere-concerns-but-approve-email

In fact Part time land consultant Mark Fougere is “scrambling”  to get Mr Osgood’s unauthorized changes approved, “Scott, We are attempting to scramble to have a hearing on Feb. 1 for these changes. I have an email out to see who can make it, since it is not our regular meeting. I have a conflict that night and cannot make it.” 1-19-2017-fougere-osgood-scramble-email

The entire story will be told in chronological order in Part II.

For now, it is clear from the emails that have been obtained by request,  that town officials, despite their repeated claims otherwise, are not conducting business in a transparent fashion. Not only is the general public being kept in the dark, the board members are also not being informed.

These types of actions cannot be tolerated:

  • Selectmen Osgood should immediately withdraw from re-election.
  • Mr. Osgood should reimburse the town for any of the costs due to the unauthorized contact with the Land Use Consultant in this matter
  • Chairman Blomback due to the lack of response to the improper email you received on January 16, 2017,  you should step down immediately.
  • Town Administrator Trovato’s contract should be terminated
  • Part time Land Use Consultant Fougere’s contract should be terminated
Please note documents received by OHB in response to our request 1-2017-request-for-info-1-25-2017-meeting reveals that several town officials may have acted without authority and have failed to keep others informed properly.
The entire 18 page  record sent to OHB can be seen here 1-2017-right-to-know-response. OHB has no reason to believe that any other official documents exist and what we received is the complete record from the town officials. The opinions expressed in this blog are derived from what we believe to be that complete record.
PART II: The story begins on January 3, 2017!

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…PEACE!

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.wordpress.com

 

Residents of Western Ave., Hall Ave. and Davison Road….BE ALERT…Off Road Vehicles are about to come your way!

eat-my-dustPlaced at the very end of the public hearing handout, you will find the proposed changes in Article V  Operation of Off Highway Road Vehicles Chapter 120:15-19. (read here page 83-88)

The primary changes that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) are considering will allow Off Road Vehicles to travel ALL of Western Ave from Route 114 to Hillsboro town line, Hall Ave., Davison Road from Liberty Hill to Mobile Station, Gulf Road and Emery Hill Road.

The history:  the off road vehicle trail system has been quietly developed on Rural Residential property for many years. In March of 2014 the BOS adopted Article V Chapter 120:15-19 sanctioning the use of these Rural Residential properties for this extremely large interconnected recreational roadway. It is been said that this behind the scenes roadway system now stretches through numerous towns.(read here Item #2) (read here Item #1)

Some of the comments regarding limited use by local’s only, made by residents in support of adoption of this policy and found in the minutes linked above, are extremely misleading.

Last summer, I spoke directly with several Weare residents who were passing through Henniker on this roadway system heading north into Sutton.

However, many properties are posted and the system at points is interrupted. It is at these interruption points that many towns allow these Off Road Vehicles to travel town roads to reach the next entry way onto the trail.

Billed as a system of recreation trails in the sparsely populated sections of the town, this system did not draw the attention of the residents of the much more densely populated town center.

However, in May of 2016, the BOS held hearings where the trail system’s numerous problems, which have recently developed, were discussed: (read here Item #4)

  • “Martha Sunderland stated the trail is great and the Club is great however if we expand then there are costs to this. She spends thousands fixing her road. She thinks the trail network has expanded so fast that the town has not caught up with how to handle it.”(read here item #1)   
  • Mike Schoenegge stated that he knows the Club is working hard on this. He wants to express his formal concern again. He and his family have been Henniker taxpayers for four decades and he has had to expend quite a bit of money for repairs to the roads.The Barletta property considerable damage and then was shut down by Fish and Game. He does not think the town has budgeted appropriate resources for this issue. He would like to see a cost analysis done. How does the town decide what roads to open and are the abutters notified? We never were. If you open more paved roads, it will drive the users to unpaved roads. (read here item #1)
  • Leon Parker stated that we have the same arguments every year. He had 10 people recently near his home
    both adults and kids. This request
    is for a change in the ordinance and is separate than the other issues. He
    would like the Board to find a way to deal with inappropriate activity. (read here Item #1)
  • Pat Fuchs asked for help as she is having problems with 4wheelers who are digging up the driveway and in their pool. She has called the police and they referred her to the Town Administrator. (read here Item #1)
  • Comments from June 21, 2016 BOS meeting

It is clear from all of these discussions that these trails have created destruction and vandalism. Private property owners who have property on the trail system  have shared their stories of the loss of peace, tranquility and personal property.

Important questions that need to be considered:

  1. Why are we even considering bringing these types of vehicles into the center of town, where the population has a higher density and much more automobile & pedestrian traffic? How much peace and tranquility will the residents of Western Ave, Hall Ave and Davison Road lose?
  2. Did any of these homeowners, along these downtown routes, ever expect the roads right in front of their homes to be used for Off Road Vehicles?

OHB doubts very much that homeowners in the downtown area ever thought that Off Road Vehicles would be traveling right in front of their homes.

 

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…PEACE!

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.wordpress.com

Budget 2017…Helpful Tips everyone should know…

budget-cuts Once again the budget hearings are upon us. On Tuesday, February 7, 2017 the Henniker Board of Selectmen help the public hearing regarding the 2017 proposed budget.

The Henniker School Board will hold a public hearing on its proposed 2017/2018 Henniker School District budget on February 15, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the cafeteria at Henniker Community School, 51 Western Avenue, Henniker, NH 03242.

OHB thought it would be helpful to supply everyone a few helpful hints and a few links to documents that might help everyone understand how to evaluate  our budgets.

  1. Town’s total property assessed evaluation for tax purpose is $393,513,800.
  2. Rule of thumb, to quickly calculate your tax rate per thousand simply use $393,513 in all of your calculations. For example Police Budget is $1,158,423.00/393,513= $2.93, Thus the currently proposed Police budget will create a tax of $2.93/$1,000 assessed valuation of your home. So, if you have a home assessed at $300,000, you would multiply 300x$2.93=$870. That is what your home would be charged as your portion of the police budget tax bill

Now if you intend to cut the budget keep the following in mind,

  1. In order to reduce the tax rate by  $1.00 you would need to cut the budget by $393,513.
  2. For every reduction of $39,315 you shave off $0.10
  3. and for every reduction of $3,931 your reduce the budget by a penny.

Good luck and I hope to see YOU at the meetings!!

Property taxes read here

Henniker Tax Rate History read here

Henniker Proposed 2017 Budget read here

 

 

 

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…PEACE!

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.wordpress.com