For those of you who did not attend the deliberative session last night, it was a fairly low energy affair by recent standards. The paper has probably held the presses to get it into this weeks edition, so you can read the play by play tonight, but there were a few things that I’d like to comment on.
Article 16 – new radio read water meters for $500,000. I find myself opposed to this initiative, mostly because I don’t see a good case for doing it. There is an argument that monthly billing will help people with running toilets and other leaks discover their leaks sooner. That is just plain lame when talking about spending $500,000. The town says it is currently accounting for only 69% of the water fed into the system, and that towns with these systems get 80%-85% accounting, essentially 15% more.
So follow along. My wife and I think we are pretty typical of the average Wolfeboro household. We use about 100 gallons of water per day. The water department says it puts out 550,000 gallons per day. 15% of that is 82,500 gallons. 825 meters would have to be completely stopped to make this work. I think it would be easier to identify slow and stopped meters by looking at the historical billing data, at a fraction of the cost.
If you average the 550,000 gallons/day over the stated 2,000 customers, that’s 275 gallons/day each. I suspect that there are a hundred or so meters in town that account for the vast majority of the water consumption. Think Hospital, Brewster, Schools. Maybe it would be good to take a closer look at those and even install meters that are very accurate and unusually reliable. Again, at a fraction of the cost.
This article is a solution looking for a problem.
Article 17 – Operating Budget. This was a sleeper. The chairman of the budget committee litterally read the figures to everyone, as if we could not read it ourselves. Some year I am going to be shocked by a budget presentation that actually uses graphics to show us where the money goes by department and activity. As far as numbers go, all people want to know is whether it went up or down, by how much, and all things equal, what is the pressure that it puts on the tax rate.
Article 19 – Town Hall Repairs $200,000
Let the games begin. This controversial article started out as a presentation of the actual repairs being considered, and quickly degenerated into the polarized BMH debate that it represents. An amendment was proposed to add that these repairs would not satisfy life-safety and building codes. It failed. The article stayed pretty much intact.
There were some good points made on both sides of the debate. In the end, the article remained pretty much as it started.
Article 30 – Move out of BMH. $70,000
Proponents of this article successfully moved it up right after 19, being of similar subject matter. Bob Chattel represent the petitioners and made some solid points about how moving to the hospital would not only provide relief for town workers, but help the Hospital.
There was a motion to add more negative inflammatory language about BMH to the article that failed.
Roger Murray said that there was an Indoor Air Quality study last summer that was favorable. I argued that the study was dubious in that all the doors and windows were open prior to the testing, and the background outdoor CO2 level was more than twice the atmospheric CO2 levels recorded everywhere on the planet earth, and the study did call for serious mold remediation in the building. I also erroneously contradicted Mr. Murray in asserting that the airborne mold tests inside were higher than the outdoor levels. That is not true, and in fact the outdoor levels were inexplicably almost ten times the indoor levels.
Surprisingly, there was no attempt to “gut” the measure by reducing the amount to zero. A smart move by the opposition. Without BOS and BUDCOM support, it will probably fail.
Article 29 – Citizen Referendum.
Surprisingly, this article was moved up as well, not by the opponents of 19, but by Linda Murray. If you look at the way the place cleared out afterwards, I think it was simply to get it done so people could go home. Lesson learned, non-bonded articles force the special interest attendees to stay a lot longer.
There was an amendment proposed to transform question D (Do you favor rehabilitation with private funds) into three separate question: Public, Private, Public and Private. Personally, for the sake of simplicity, I would have been happy to stipulate that any result favoring private could be construed to mean a significant private component with public participation. After all, anybody that doesn’t know what all this stuff means by now isn’t going to be troubled by the question in the ballot box.
Another motion to split question C (Do you favor leasing space) into separate permanent and temporary questions was defeated. I argued that Article 30 will be a telling factor. For the record, in my opinion a no vote for this does not preclude temporary leased offices if BMH is eventually rehabilitated.
That’s pretty much it. Read the rest in the paper.