Tail wagging the dog

Last Tuesday night, after the results of the election were announced at the polls, Dave Bowers was shaking his head and saying that he couldn’t understand the voters rejecting the asset management plan.  Yesterday, that same issue was brought up again in the Grunter editorial.  What’s puzzling to them is that they see this as the way to resolve many of the infrastructure issue.

I’m not puzzled at all.  Let’s look at the planning process in place already, the Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP.  For the past five years, this group has been putting millions into the CIP for Brewster Hall renovation, with no public input and arguably without adequate public support.  Then when it comes time to justify the big warrant articles, the CIP is cited as one of the reasons to do it.  Behind the curtain, it’s all the same people.

So why would the citizens of Wolfeboro want to commission and fund yet another feeder committee that will be used to justify poorly conceived and unsupported plans?  I get it.

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4 Responses to Tail wagging the dog

  1. John Linville says:

    Here’s another take on the issue. We have Department heads and we have a Town Manager who should be responsible for taking care of town assets and they should be directed by the BOS who has statuatory responsiblity for town assets by the RSAs if I am remembering correctly. We have a long and sordid history in this town of elected and hired town government doing a poor job of taking care of such things as our sewer plant, our buildings and other infrastructure. So from my perspective, why pay money for an outsider to develop an asset management plan when we already pay people, i.e. town government, who are perfectly capabile of doing the job? Maybe our DPW should stop chasing the rainbow of rebuilding Rt 28 and concentrate more on protecting and preserving what we have.
    If you have mold in your basement at home, do you need someone to come in and tell you that? If your roof is leaking or your sills are rotting or you have asbestos on your pipes, what do you do? You self identify, you get bids and you rectify the situation. You don’t hire a consultant to tell you what common sense already has told you. But somehow we can’t get any out of the box forward thinking from town government. They, as engineers would put it, “run things in town to failure” rather than adopt a preventative maintenance approach to fix issues. Just look at some of the salaries paid to department heads, at those prices I truly believe they could manage town assets without consultants!
    And the blog is correct, our CIP is a joke! As well as the master plan. And yes, I did participate in the last Master Plan effort. It isn’t a long term plan for the town when items are shifted in and out yearly to match the latest BOS brainstorm. Rather it becomes cover for the BOS, who love to say “its in the CIP”. Having worked for private industry, with 90 employees reporting to me and an annual operating budget of several million dollars, we did five year budgeting, upcoming year fixed in stone and following four years pretty solid. My Vice President would have replaced me if I did what the BOS does with planning. But then I was in the private sector, answerable to shareholders and the PUC. Local government at times is accountable to non one and doesn’t have to worry about controlling costs it would seem. The only option is to say NO as the taxpayers did with the assets management issue.

  2. John Linville says:

    Let me give you a more illustrative example of why I am piqued at the thought of having someone draw up an asset management plan. When the Citizen’s Electric Reivew Board examined the Electric Department, I went to the library and went back through 20 years (1985-2005) of Annual Town Reports. I noted everywhere that either the voters approved an outside review of the Electric Department or the Department’s annual summary indicated a review had taken place. The Town Manager and the Electric Department could not find any of those reports, In fact, a couple of them we wanted to see on the Committee were retrieved from the consultant firms who happened to archive their product at their offices. We, as a town, did not keep the reports as reference nor as checklists to see if we had completed suggested ideas. In fact a couple of years ago I asked the Town Manager how many of the 18 suggestions for improvement the Electric Review Committee had formally submitted to the BOS were actually done. The answer? “I don’t know, haven’t looked at that document in a while, guess I should”. Bottom line? The voters were right, why spend money down a rathole creating a report which will be ignored and tossed in the circular file because no one in town government has any pride of authorship!

  3. wolfeblog says:

    Boy, I guess I pushed one of John’s buttons with that post. But what he says rings true. I haven’t had the benefit of involvement in as much town business as he has, but from my five years of collecting Brewster Hall documents, many bought and paid from outside engineers, consultants, etc., I don’t see much continuity.

    When I was on the Energy Committee I came across a report from a committee established in the 80’s, no doubt around the time of the oil embargo. They made some great long term recommendations like ensuring that new sub-developments had street and lot orientation to allow unencumbered access to the energy of the sun. Seems like something relevant today. I asked the town planner if he was aware of these guidelines. You know the answer.

    With Brewster Hall there was the Turner engineering report saying it would take five million to fix, that nobody wanted to believe. Then the community wide survey indicating lack of support that nobody wanted to believe. Then the mold report recommending remediation that they claim says everything is hunky-dory.

    And with a straight face someone will claim that we study things to death.

  4. Bob Tougher says:

    I sit on the CIP Committee, and it has been very busy over the last couple of years. We passed along the idea of the asset management plan to the Planning Board, but when I read the warrant article I was very disappointed, and argued against it at the Budget Committee hearing. The warrant article asked for $50 thousand up front, but it really didn’t state that the town was asking for $250 thousand over 5 years, with the additional $200 thousand being added to the budget in $50 thousand increments over the following 4 years. There was no decision as to who would run the plan, and no real idea of just how much the software would cost, and if it was compatible with the town software. I was afraid that additional staff would be necessary, which would cost thousands of dollars more. I suggested to the Budget Committee that we do not recommend the warrant article, and we didn’t. I am told that an asset management plan is a good idea, but I felt there were too many loose ends with the article the way it was written.
    I have supported the renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall, and I have no regrets. A healthy majority, over 58%, supported the warrant article last year, but unfortunately it did not meet the 60% threshold for bonding. That’s how Democracy works, and hopefully we’ll get something done sooner than later.
    The town has made a great deal of progress in repairs on roads and buildings. The Sewer Treatment plant is working well, and it looks as if we won’t be needing a new plant for many years. Despite our problems with the RIBs, we still have a long term plan for sewer disposal using the remaining spray fields with the RIBs. The same goes for the Water Treatment Plant. Repairs done this year should make it serviceable for many years to come. Dave Ford has done a great job with managing the repairs on all of the above, and in fact I think everyone who works for the town does a great job.
    There is much more to speak about, but I’ll leave it for another time.

    Bob Tougher

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