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Haverhill board sees mixed results on goals

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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NORTH HAVERHILL — The Haverhill Selectboard took stock of what it has accomplished this year as it reviewed its 2015 goals during a regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 2. The results were a mixed bag with some successes while other areas could still use some more work.

The board was generally pleased with the effort it has put into cleaning up hazardous properties in town. The goal had been to come up with a comprehensive plan for dealing with dilapidated buildings. Selectboard chair Wayne Fortier said the board had done some work to achieving the goal but not enough.

Haverhill Town Manager Glenn English said the board shouldn't be as hard on itself as it has investigated the issue extensively and has a considerable wealth of knowledge about the topic.

"Just because you don't have it written down, doesn't mean you don't have a comprehensive plan," English said. Fortier commented that it should be written down and suggested that be the ultimate goal.

Fortier, however, was less enthusiastic about the progress made on the town's capital improvement road plan. Fortier said it's now budget season and he expected the committee to have a prioritization on road improvements for the town to consider.

Fortier was critical about his colleague, selectman Rick Ladd's handling of the committee thus far. Ladd is the selectboard's representative to the highway advisory committee which was developed this year to help decide how capital improvement projects are prioritized and funded.

"I feel uncomfortable that two important members of the committee were not there," Fortier said, adding that English and road agent Stewart McDanolds were not present when Ladd and two volunteer members met. Fortier said he was not judging the intent of the meeting, or how it was called, but he was clearly upset that the committee seemed have strayed from its original intent.

At the 2015 annual meeting, residents voted to adopt a so-called "pay as you go" philosophy whereby $ 150,000 would be put into a capital reserve fund specifically for road projects. The highway advisory committee was designed to help determine the best ways to spend the money and to provide technical advice to the town manager and road agent.

Fortier said he had "worked hard" on the mission statement and thought it was abundantly clear that the highway advisory committee was not to work independently of the town's manager and road agent.

Ladd, who was clearly on the defense, said the meeting was posted and open to the public and the manager and the road agent could have attended if they had elected to do so.

Before the Sept. 2 meeting was held, Ladd had touted it as an organizational meeting. But the members who attended the meeting, Ladd and residents Joe Maccini and Howard Hatch, recorded minutes and generated proposals including the need to rebuild Lily Pond Road as a high priority.

Fortier said that philosophy goes counter to recommended courses of action from experts and from the town manager's and road agent's path that suggests better roads be maintained so they don't deteriorate to the point where they need complete rebuilds like Lily Pond Road.

Holding up in her hands a comprehensive plan done by the North Country Council, selectman Lynn Wheeler asked, "What are we supposed to do with this? Throw it out?"

English, who helped lobby the independent regional planning commission to do the study in Haverhill simply said; "Yup." English said he used the very report the highway advisory committee apparently rejected to make up his capital improvement plan which he submitted to the selectboard this fall.

Hatch, who is one of the two volunteer residents on the committee, expressed some concerns with the minutes that were generated from the meeting.

Ladd was the minute taker for the meeting.

Hatch said the minutes didn't reflect what happened.

"They were a little bit lacking," he said, adding the committee was presented priorities and they reacted to them. Hatch said he believes the best course of action is to focus on the center of the priority list and work on both sides of the list until the goal of better roads is achieved.

After Hatch made his statement, Ladd said there were no priorities presented to the committee. He added there's not enough information upon which to make the priorities yet.

He said road borings would need to be done to see what was under the road surfaces to help evaluate conditions and help set priorities. He said a lot of the historical data about roads and how they were constructed are held in people's memory and he considered the two volunteers serving, Hatch and Maccini, as having the most knowledge of all.

Ladd also questioned the North Country Council's methodology for prioritizing road projects in Haverhill. He said he would hope that safety would be at the top of the criterion for making decisions about using resources to make road improvements. He said Lily Pond Road was a safety hazard and said it needed to be fixed.

Ironically, earlier this year, Ladd said he could not support any improvement plan that placed Lily Pond Road as a priority as he didn't think the traffic load warranted any extensive improvements.

Fortier said the highway advisory committee needs to meet again soon with the town manager and road agent to set priorities. Ladd said the last time the committee set a meeting, it "got hammered for it."

Fortier asked English to set the meeting this time. Last time, it was called by Ladd. Fortier also appointed himself as the alternate to the committee, something he has the authority to do as chair, and vowed to attend the next meeting of the highway advisory committee.

"We've got to get a handle on it," Fortier said.

The board also discussed the fire equipment committee, which is headed up by Ladd as well. Ladd told the board the committee has met twice to consider a request from the Haverhill Corner Fire Department for a new pumper to be purchased next year.

He said the Haverhill Corner Fire Department has recommended the town purchase a new pumper for $488,957 to be included in the next budget cycle. He said the committee reviewed the proposal and voted unanimously to support it.

Fortier thanked Ladd for his work on the fire equipment committee.

Another of the board's goals was to more extensively market the business park. Fortier said the board may have fallen short on that goal and should try to be more attentive to the park in the future. He said the board did have the recent need to review covenants that dictate what can and cannot be done in the park. He added the board might also need to be a little more vigilant on enforcing the provisions of the covenant.

Work on a new community profile was also discussed. Selectman Lynn Wheeler said she has been working on that goal this year, but has come to the realization that it will take more than just her efforts to launch the project. In years past there have been numerous volunteers helping with the multi-day event and the next step to realizing the goal would be to identify those interested in the profiling exercise.

She added the community has changed some since the last profile was completed, more than a decade ago, and there are fewer people interested in volunteering to help with the project. She suggested the goal be shelved, at least until volunteers could be identified.

In other business, the board discussed the life safety inspection program the town is trying to launch and sustain.

Fortier said he had just concluded a meeting with Woodsville Fire Chief Jeff Robbins who was supportive of the new form and documenting system the town had forwarded to all three fire chiefs in town.

The form, which includes extensive checklists, is required for those doing the inspections to get paid. They also serve as a record for the town upon which any court-ordered enforcement litigation could take place.

Fortier added he was encouraged by the meeting and felt that Robbins was sincere in his promise to use the forms and document inspections to the satisfaction of the town.

"We'll see what happens," Fortier said.


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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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