You can’t get there from here

I emailed the results of the article 30 ballot referendum to Andy Smith from the UNH Survey Center, here’s what he had to say:

Ouch! Seems like “none of the above” is the answer! From our work with you and these results, it seems the voters understand that restoring Brewster Hall is a costly, yet eventually inefficient and nonfunctional use of money. But there is not support for the needed upgrade of city offices to a new/different building. I would recommend joining forces with town government to push for a lowest cost solution to the town office space problem, and separate that from anything to do with Brewster Hall. Let the preservationists have a go at that on their own, once the useful town functions have been separated out. I don’t think they’ll convince enough voters to throw good money after bad for an old, but not particularly useful building.
Good luck!


As I recall Joyce Davis once said that the mission statement of the Friends of Brewster Hall is to restore Brewster Hall for use as Town Offices.  That’s what question 30(a) asked of the voters, and only 48% said yes.  It would take 60% to get the job done and the voters have rejected that twice.  Now we know why. Also, the voters made it clear that they want to see significant private funding for any restoration,  That’s not likely if the ultimate primary use is town offices.

So you have to wonder what’s going to happen.  Appropriating a couple hundred thousand a year is going to get old fast.  You can only call it a temporary fix for so long before people start to see that it’s like owning a boat – times 1000.  Besides, many of the things that have to be done for the long term require that the place be vacated.

At this point, real leadership would try to put together a real task force with the goal of separating the building preservation from town office needs.  We wouldn’t be the first town to decide that the old town hall was worth keeping for posterity but not viable as town offices.

The library trustees have been reaching out to other groups like seniors and users of the old community center to include their needs in planning their expansion.  They seem to understand that they will need broad based support to do anything.  The old library building is not in bad shape, and the structural issues with the roof could be easily and cheaply solved with minor steel work and a few internal columns.  Rather than tear it down, why not fix it for use as offices?

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6 Responses to You can’t get there from here

  1. Bob says: “At this point, REAL LEADERSHIP would try to put together a real task force with the goal of separating the building preservation from town office needs”. I couldn’t agree more with his take. But if you look at the two Town committees with the fundamental responsibility for this issue you can clearly see why this “blind ambition” has been allowed to continued for so long:

    Wolfeboro Master Plan Implementation Committee
    Roger F. Murray, III
    Frank Giebutowski
    Joyce Davis
    Stacie Jo Pope
    Linda T. Murray, For Selectmen

    Frank G is a good guy with respected credentials but will never be able to redirect the single-mindedness of the remaining members. And, I’m not too sure he wants to.

    Wolfeboro Capital Improvement Plan Committee
    Stacie Pope
    Joyce Davis
    Jim Shildneck
    Bob Tougher
    Linda Murray
    David Owen
    Peter Chamberlain

    I do not know Mr. Shildneck and Mr. Tougher but I again sincerely doubt they will have much sway with other board members.

    As I said all last summer, nothing will change until the sitting Board of Selectman is dramatically changed. We desperately need some new BOS members: members without an arcane personal agenda, that have an understanding of fundamental economics, have a vision of what could be and the will and energy to make it happen.

    Allen Kasiewicz

  2. wolfeblog says:

    I’m going to disagree a little with Allen on one point. The Board of Selectmen, along with the committees that they populate, have the ability to put anything they want on the ballot. They’ve demonstrated that fact time and again. The voters, on the other hand, have the power to say no. And they have demonstrated that as well. Turning the tables won’t work. The numbers say that there is not 60% for any substantial solution, and advancing alternate plans by replacement of the BOS rather than compromise is unlikely to attract the necessary voter support as well.

    We need to talk to our adversaries and try to find a solution that 60% can live with. The Friends tried simply reducing the scope with full public funding. Many of us stood aside but the voters still did not approve. Now it’s time for them to give up the holy grail of public funding for use as town offices and work out a compromise to achieve the basic goal of preserving the building, while the opposition gets a more practical and cost effective solution to the town office problem.

    Simply replacing the BOS will not accomplish that. We need to talk and work together.

  3. Bob Tougher says:

    Not everyone, including myself, agrees with Mr Lemaire and Mr Kasiewicz on Brewster Memorial Hall. I don’t see any option that won’t cost us a great deal of money for new or renovated town office space, and I am one who feels that BMH is one of the buildings that makes Wolfeboro the beautiful town it is. The library plan right now totals $7.9 million with the architectural concept and design, so even if the Library Board of Trustees raises half the money through private donations, it will still cost the taxpayers close to $4 million. We don’t even know where library science is going these days with the conversion to electronic books and tablets, so do we need a large library expansion? This is one of the many questions we have to address going forward. Let us not forget that the Public Safety Building is still on the horizon. We managed to defer the $4 million renovation on the building in order to give us some time to catch our collective breath with all of the bonding necessary, but the repairs being done to the building this year won’t last forever. Let us also remember that we have managed to avoid replacement of the wastewater treatment plant, to the tune of about $14 million, due to the hard work of Dave Ford. I give Dave Owen and the BOS a great deal of credit for managing this town during our crises of repairs, and I consider them unappreciated by many folks. I also give Dave Ford a great deal of credit for his aggressive approach to our road repairs, especially now in the downtown corridor. All of this work has to be appreciated by the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Committee, because they want tourists to visit our town, and they want them to be pleased enough to come back!

  4. wolfeblog says:

    The point of the post was that it’s time to put personal feelings aside and find a solution that has a chance to work. Nobody’s disputing that the town has major and growing infrastructure problems. That’s why it’s important to end this situation where the Selectmen are running the town into the ground to get BMH approved. I think the voters agree that there are higher priorities. Mr. Tougher doesn’t see any option that he likes that won’t cost a great deal of money.

    The cost of the Library expansion isn’t at issue here. The library trustees presented their plans two years ago and haven’t been told it’s too great a reach. If the Selectmen or Budget Committee don’t think it’s a good idea, they ought to say so. Tell the Library boosters that they too will have to wait in line behind a politically impossible BMH restoration. All I’m saying is that if they go forward, we could re-use the old building, because that won’t “cost a great deal of money”.

  5. I respect Bob L’s criticism but I have to disagree with it.

    One of the KEY components of the Town of Wolfeboro Master Plan is stated on page IV of that document as follows: “Leadership is a key factor to implementation because it helps the community establish its planning and development priorities for the future”.

    Many people, including myself, strongly question both the motivation and functional skills of our current BOS leadership in setting the proper priorities and implementing action plans for our Town. For example we have wasted many years fooling with the Brewster Memorial Hall issue because our leaders continued to entwine the two notions that safe and functional Town offices and restoring a landmark building was the same thing. Year after year they and a small group of dilettantes continued to recast this same notion hoping the voters would bite.

    Bob Tougher cites many examples of problems looming in the short term. I believe Wolfeboro voters are willing to INVEST their tax dollars in programs that make sense and benefit the many, IF they were managed by real leadership. For example:

    I too give Dave Ford a great deal of credit for his professional approach to managing his responsibilities for our Town. He is a professional engineer with years of education and experience and has done a creditable job with our roads and the other Public Works issues. Even when he has a problem he makes sure the voters understand the issues.

    Jack Robertson is another fine example of a professional doing his job and being respected by the voters. He clearly defined our Town’s educational infrastructure needs; developed a viable plan and convinced the electorate to support and pass a $60 million + dollar warrant article. Why was he able to do this? Because he is an extremely well educated man (PhD) with years of professional experience and he communicated with the voters his vision and gained their trust.

    Ethan Hipple, our Recreation Director, while new in his position quickly defined the needs of his department and set about to develop a plan to rectify its many shortcomings. In a very short period of time he got the voters to support the tennis court rehabilitation, the update of Foss Field, make significant improvements to the ski area and the Pop Whalen rink. He also added several new programs, shined up the Town beaches and made several significant changes to his department’s operation. He was able to demonstrate to the voters, in the one of the worst economic times on record, that his vision and plans were sound and that he had the leadership skills to spend their money that was credible.

    I believe these are great examples of how a manager should function in the spending of tax payer treasure.

    I had to laugh once when Sara Silk raised a question during a BOS meeting as to why Dave Ford always gets his warrant articles passed by the voters when many of the Selectman’s articles fail to make the needed percentages. Well, from my perspective the voters of our Town can clearly see the difference between a professional and a bunch of amateurs.

    If we had a sitting Board of Selectmen with the strong leadership skills, some sound business experience, a better understanding of fundamental economics, along with a real vision for our Town rather than a self-serving agenda, I believe the voters would support their efforts too!

  6. wolfeblog says:

    Who do you trust?

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