Outsourced Government

Though I’ve never seen it in print, I’ve heard Joyce Davis say it a few times: The mission of the Friends of Town Hall is to restore Brewster Memorial Hall for use as Town Offices.

Last March, the voters were asked a non-binding question: Article 30(a) Do you support restoration of Brewster Memorial Hall to serve as Town Offices?  Yes 627 (48%), No 680 (52%)

Do you see the problem?

Those questions were put to the voters in the interest of enabling an informed discussion about resolving this 5+ year problem that has seen defeat of two restoration initiatives and the waste of $800,000 with little to show for it.

If you were watching the October 17 Selectmen’s meeting and got up to get a quick snack, you might have missed when the chairman presented a new $4 million Friends plan in just under 4 minutes, followed by three minutes and twenty seconds of discussion and approval by 4 of the 5 selectmen.  It wasn’t even on the agenda.

So the Friends of Town Hall have been given approval to pursue what failed to muster even a simple majority referendum of actual voters.  Rather than come up with a process to reconcile the obvious public opposition to their plans, the Selectmen have avoided any public discussion of the issue and are now handing the whole project over to the Friends with a commitment to provide $4 million of taxpayer dollars.

Outrageous.

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13 Responses to Outsourced Government

  1. Bob Tougher says:

    The results of the polling in Article 30 were somewhat confusing. The voters overwhelmingly rejected the notion of a new town office space by a vote of 756-518, and they rejected selling BMH by a vote of 679-583. The voters also approved the rehabilitation of BMH with a combination of taxpayer and private funds by a vote of 622-598. It should also be noted that there was only a 29% turnout of eligible voters on the checklist last March. There is no absolute conclusion that the voters do not want to renovate Brewster Memorial Hall. The results of the vote are listed on the town website, just click on the results on the right side of the home page.

  2. wolfeblog says:

    There was nothing confusing at all about the article 30 results. The Selectmen had just finished telling the voters that spending $200,000 would make the place safe and healthy to work in. So now the place is safe and healthy, what’s the problem? You’re talking about other alternatives to the town office problem. The Selectmen are saying there isn’t a town office problem. Maybe there would be support for new or leased space if the Selectmen said there was a need and a desire to do that, and would support an effort to do it.

    As far as the Friend’s problem that they want to restore BMH, only 48% indicated support, and only 51% said they would go along with a public/private arrangement. You need 60% to do a $4 million project. The support isn’t there, and a handful of public officials have no mandate to commit the town to support of the plans of an organization that has failed at the polls, had minority support in a professional survey of voters, and failed to garner a majority of support in a recent ballot referendum.

    Voters are going to reject this on principle.

  3. Bob Tougher says:

    Our biggest mistake may have been buying Brewster Memorial Hall for $1. The Brewster Trustees are probably still laughing over that one. The Article 30 poll told us that people don’t want to sell BMH and they don’t want a different town office space, and besides, the alternatives such as Varney Rd and Lehner St failed miserably. I wouldn’t hang my hat on a convoluted poll that only 29% of the voting public answered.

  4. wolfeblog says:

    It might be argued that the first mistake was subverting the populist move to acquire the Catholic Church property. Buying the place was a boner for sure, the right move was to sue the Brewster Trustees for breach of trust. Blowing the taxpayer’s $500,000 on a stupid Taj mahal plan is actually the biggest mistake to date. But our biggest mistakes may be yet to come because nobody seems to be learning anything from all this. You can ignore the polls and continue to imagine that somehow a small group of people are thwarting the will of the majority, but just consider how all the wasted effort could be productive if the Friends tried to find common ground and changed their all or nothing approach to preserving BMH.

    The Tocag poll predicted the defeat of the $4 million initiative two years ago, despite no organized resistance, no competing articles, full BOS and Budcom approval, public support by me and others, newspaper support, adds, yard signs – the works. The 29% that voted in last year’s referendum are the same 29% that defeated the $4 million and the same 29% that will show up at the polls in March 2014.

    I don’t know what’s convoluted about asking people, essentially verbatim, if they approve of the Friend’s mission statement. Those were simple straightforward questions. The public/private question that only got 51% approval was put on there by the friends. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

    A $4 million initiative will not have full BOS support, probably not full BUDCOM support, probably a competing warrant article, and no support from me or anyone I know.

  5. Bob Tougher says:

    I’ll make a few clarifications, and then leave it at that. First of all, the renovation Warrant Article of Brewster Memorial Hall received a 58% majority of the vote in 2011, so I wouldn’t consider that a small minority. Second and last, you stated that there were no competing articles. That is false, and in fact there were 2 competing articles, one put forward by Ms. Amatucci for town office space at the library, and a repair warrant put forward by Suzanne Ryan. I realize that both of the competing articles were amended at the Deliberative Session, however they were still on the ballot.

    I fully realize that the Friends of Town Hall have their work cut out for them, and I see the renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall as the only way to go.

  6. wolfeblog says:

    Funny how getting 58% to go along with the only choice on the ballot is a supporting majority, yet when 52% of the same voters say they don’t support the efforts of the Friends it’s a convoluted poll. You see what you want to see.

  7. Tom Bickford says:

    Town Hall Options Committee

    November 6 2008

    Synopsis

    This report to the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen from the Town Hall Options Committee presents two primary options for attaining a modem, safe town hall and office space, to the selectmen for further study. These options are:

    • Build a new town hall at the location of the present Town Community Center and former Electric Power station, plus some adjoining property, on Lehner St. at a cost of approximately $3 million.

    • Carry out a reconstruction of the existing Brewster Memorial Hall (BMH), but at a substantially reduced scope of work and for significantly less ($3.0 million), than the cost of the 2008 Warrant Article proposal ($6.7 million).

    Unfortunatelv, without the resources or funds to develop sound conceptual designs and cost estimates to accurately evaluate these two proposals, uncertainties on both remain. A final decision must be based on better design concepts and better cost estimates than are currently available. The committee recommends that the selectmen better quantify both of these options prior to selecting one option for execution.

  8. Bob Tougher says:

    Thanks for posting that, Tom. I believe the selectmen fulfilled the mission of the last paragraph in their 2011 warrant article to renovate BMH, and I also believe the Friends of Town Hall are capable of doing the same in 2014.

  9. Tom Bickford says:

    Town Hall Options Committee
    Final report
    RECOMMENDATION

    The Town Hall Options Committee recommends the Board of Selectmen take the following actions:
    • 1. Give further consideration to the concept of constructing new town offices at the Community Center/Electric Plant land (the Lehner Street complex) and adjoining lands requiring purchase. This effort also requires consideration of the Brewster Memorial Hall (BMH) re-use committee report of October 16, 2008, regarding use of BMH other than by the town.
    —– Option III Build a new Town Hall at a new site at the Lehner Street Complex site, either on land already owned by the town or on land that could be purchased. Estimated costs: $2.5 million range.

    • 2. Give further consideration to the concept of a reduced scope/lower cost renovation restoration of BMH based on the original design work of McGinley, Kalsow and Associates.
    —– Option IV Reduced scope lower cost renovation of BMH
    Carry out renovations/restorations to approximately 12,000 SF of BMH (previous plan was 21,673) bringing the building into compliance with today’s codes and ADA requirements. This will more than meet the needs of the town’s Town Hall space requirements. Estimated cost $ 3 million.
    –Work would include repair and renewal of the deteriorating building exterior, completion of interior finishes, provide an elevator, and updating of the building’s utility systems to include sprinklers, safety issues, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.
    –Areas to be renovated include the 1st floor of the main building and annex and portions of the main building 2nd floor. A large (approximately 100 person) conference room will be provided on the 1st floor of the annex. The 2nd floor of the annex and the basement of the main building are not to be renovated. At this time, a portion of the old auditorium will be used for office space, which could easily be removed. If in the future there is a need or desire to restore the auditorium, it will be possible.

    • 3. As an interim measure, initiate actions for immediate, essential maintenance and repairs on BMH to be implemented in 2009 as a Warrant Article.
    —– INTERIM MEASURE:
    Carry out essential minimal maintenance and repair to the existing Brewster Memorial Hall.
    In 2009 the Board of Selectmen should carry out a program to complete critical items of deferred maintenance and repair, as well as most urgent ADA necessities to BMH so as to prevent further deterioration of the building and minimize potential for legal action against the town. Work to include:
    • Repairing present rain leaks and remove temporary drains
    • Provide ADA access to key public areas
    • Provide ADA toilet facility on main floor
    • Repair any hazardous situations
    Estimated cost of $500,000 to $750,000.

    On the March ballot voters were offered three choices: interim repairs to Brewster Hall for $524,000, a $75,000 survey of the proposed Lehner Street site, and an $870,000 petitioned warrant article submitted by TOCAG to purchase the Varney Street building and additional land as Phase I of a $2.1 million proposal.

    All failed.

    Just a little history.

  10. Tom Bickford says:

    Given the BOS’s intention to purchase two more properties on Lehner Street and the existing parking lots off of Glendon Street, It seems like a good time to post a warrant article to appropriate funds to explore the cost and advantages of building a new state of the art municipal office building on Lehner Street. Am I correct that there is discussion of improving the intersection of Lehner St and Center Street.

  11. Tom Bickford says:

    The historic signifance of Brewster Memorial Hall is not as a town hall, but as an extraordinary example of an 1800s cultural center, built in an age without electricity, as Dr. Gavin explained in his lecture given as part of the open-house/tours of the Brewster Memorial Hall.

  12. wolfeblog says:

    Tom,

    Yes, there are plans to improve the intersection of Lehner and Center St. by improving the sight line up the hill for traffic that is trying to take a left out of Lehner St. I believe they are also trying to develop a turning lane on center St. for a left off Center St. to Lehner.

    Your point is well taken that a municipal facility on a revitalized and spruced up Lehner St. would tie downtown to the business core on Center St and make Wolfeboro more than a drive through downtown.

    These ideas, however, have the same flaw as the Brewster Hall restoration ideas. Lack of sufficient popular support. It’s not just about people supporting any of these ideas, it’s about opposing the other. We have become severely polarized over the past six years by politicians who have repeatedly tried to ram a financially expedient solution to their historic preservation efforts down the throats of a population that has said no several times. Badgering the public with more plans mutually approved by multiple committees staffed by the same people wearing different hats isn’t going to work. The town needs to take a fresh look at the problem and put more options on the table. It looks to me like the people of Wolfeboro believe that with just a little more fixing up, the building will be good enough to house the politicians that have done nothing to deserve better.

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