They were packin’ em’ in at the library last night, and the meeting was delayed at the start as the Selectmen were meeting elsewhere with their town-council before the meeting. The big crowd was caused by a confluence of two large issues that are destined to dominate the annual town meeting this year.
First up was a public hearing on a petition by residents of Winnipesaukee Drive to have their private road rebuilt and accepted as a town road. The town has estimated the cost to be about $1.1 million. The road is a mile long.
The private subdivision was approved in the late 1990’s. It was said that the developer made a commitment to purchasers to maintain the road until more than half of the lots are sold. It was also stated that 24 of 48 have been sold, 46 of them are in Wolfeboro, the others are in Alton. The road is a wreck. Residents have petitioned to have the town finance rebuilding the road with a bond issue, and pass the cost back to the individual lot owners through a betterment assessment over ten years.
Sounds straightforward. But towards the end, the attorney for the developer got up and spoke. He said that his client is in favor of having the road rebuilt, but there are options other than building to town specs. One, that was later described by a resident as resurfacing of only part of the road, would cost as little as $90,000.
The big bomb was when the attorney suggested that the town should consider rebuilding the road at the taxpayer’s expense. He cited a court case where a town had originally planned to do a betterment assessment, but was later sued and directed to remove the assessments.
It’s a beauty. The Selectmen decided to go forward with the full reconstruction and betterment assessment, subject to the statutory opportunity for a majority of owners to object within ten days. If the town approves the bond issue, we could end up eating the cost with a lawsuit from the developer.
There was a brief sideshow when one of the Selectmen accused the developer’s attorney of having a conflict of interest, in his capacity as the Town Moderator, should he sue the town. The attorney responded by saying that he saw no conflict and that hardly a year goes by where he doesn’t have occasion to sue the town for something.
The other big issue was the conference with the Friends of Town Hall. They announced that they have pledges for about $720,000 from 160 donors, and are committed to keeping up their efforts.
That was followed by the Town Planner with a brief slideshow presentation of a plan to renovate the first floor, part of the basement, and the second floor hall. No questions were solicited from the audience. Of course by that time most of the audience were members of the Friends and it’s their plan.
There was no discussion of any cost estimates having been developed, or what state any actual plans might be in. It’s all very hush-hush.
Nevertheless, there was great enthusiasm expressed by several of the Selectmen who couldn’t wait to vote and approve….. something. The proposed warrant article has to be returned to Town Council for review because they changed the wording and added some bolding of statements. In the end they voted to move all four of the bonded articles to public hearing.