Five Town Selectboard Workshop Minutes (DRAFT)

Walpole Town Hall

Friday, July 30, 2021

Present: Cheryl Mayberry (Facilitator) and Steve Dalessio, Walpole; Mary Ann Wolf, Joe Levesque, and Joel McCarty, Alstead; William Rescsanski, Jeremy Wood, Shelly Blouin-Andrus, and Nancy Houghton, Charlestown; Nate Chaffee and Devin Gallagher, Langdon; Jean Kobeski, Recording Secretary

Call to Order:  Cheryl Mayberry called the meeting to order at 4:31 p.m. in Walpole Town Hall. She welcomed everyone to Walpole. This meeting was being recorded.

Introductions: Selectboard members introduced themselves and stated the towns they represent. Ms. Mayberry thanked everyone for attending and Charlestown for providing the agenda.

Understanding Each Community: Ms. Mayberry asked if anyone would like to begin the discussion of any of the topics on the agenda.  Mr. Rescsanski stated he is grateful for the meeting and thanked everyone for coming.  Mr. Wood opened the discussion by explaining that he has heard of animosity among the towns, and he would like to show people that the towns do get along and are willing to help each other. He wants to see the towns reach out to each other and meet to discuss shared concerns among municipalities. Ms. Mayberry agreed; she has heard of such animosity but disagrees with it. She cited an example of collaborative meetings between the Walpole and Charlestown selectboards a few years ago to share advice, answer questions, talk about procedures, and discuss how meetings, etc. were run in each town. She said it was very helpful to see the issues from each town’s perspective.

Ms. Wolf stated she has not heard of any animosity. Mr. Wood said he has heard it especially during Covid times and discussions of school district issues. He stated considering all the changes that are happening, it would be advantageous for all the towns to get together and make some agreements, perhaps have inter-town recreational activities, or anything to bring the towns closer to create a tighter bond.

To enable the selectboard representatives present to better understand how the Walpole selectboard runs the town, Mr. Dalessio explained that selectboard members act as liaisons to each town department. They attend department meetings and interface frequently throughout the week with department directors. In this way questions can be answered, and decisions made without having to wait for the next selectboard meeting. 

Mr. Dalessio stated that cooperation among towns already exists. Some towns share highway equipment. Recreation departments have worked together. Ms. Mayberry stated that Walpole and Charlestown worked together when Charlestown had difficulties finding volunteer coaches. The Walpole Rec Director scheduled games and tried to help out. She stated it’s important to maintain those community connections and said Walpole is willing to continue to work with other communities on these programs. Mr. Dalessio said Walpole would be willing to work together on projects if they make sense financially and timewise.

Ms. Andrus stated Charlestown has a similar approach, having exofficios to each department to make some decisions. She agreed that the boards should get together, even if it is just quarterly, to discuss issues and what’s coming down the road. Mr. McCarty agreed as well. Ms. Andrus stated that the communities are inter-connected with families, so it makes sense that they be inter-connected as a board. Ms. Mayberry said it is just like anything. You must make time to do it. And you must work to maintain relationships. It’s purposeful communication and you are suggesting that between boards, and she supports that. Ms. Andrus cited the example of the football coach reaching out to all the towns about flag football. Mr. Dalessio suggested putting the rec directors in touch with each other and providing guidance rather than getting involved in all the projects. That will cause a lag in time because of the tight schedule of selectpersons.

Broadband:  Mr. Wood said he met with Peggy Pschirrer of the Walpole Selectboard to discuss Broadband. Mr. McCarty stated Alstead did not meet the criteria for SB-170. Mr. Levesque said Comcast told them they already provided 60% coverage to Alstead. “Lost Alstead”, the area with the 756- (Walpole) phone number was wired by CCI. Mr. McCarty said Alstead sent their packet to 18 providers and got zero responses. Mr. Dalessio asked if Alstead had a seat on the Southwest Region Planning Commission Broadband Committee. Mr. Levesque said he was the rep, but they haven’t been able to do anything for Alstead yet. They are still reviewing Alstead’s information.

Ms. Houghton asked if Alstead is associated with NH Electric Co-op. They are thinking of doing Broadband also. Mr. McCarty said Alstead has no more than a dozen customers. Mr. Wood said the Co-op is going to do it for their own customers. Ms. Houghton thought the Co-op was planning to do the town also. Mr. McCarty said the Alstead Broadband committee is still intact. He will put it on the next meeting agenda.

Selectboard Meetings:  Ms. Mayberry asked how often each selectboard meets. Langdon meets every Monday, except during the summer months when they meet every other Monday.  Charlestown meets every Wednesday. Alstead meets weekly. Walpole meets every Thursday at 6:30 PM. Every third Thursday they meet with all staff at 5:00 PM. Each director gives a report about activities, expenses, etc. so that each department knows what the other departments are doing. Mr. Wood explained Charlestown department heads meet once a month and then they have committees once a month. Workshops are held 2-3 times a month. Mr. Dalessio and Ms. Mayberry explained that Walpole has few committees. Instead, selectboard liaisons attend library trustee, Hooper, Planning Board, Conservation Commission meetings. Minutes of those meetings are also sent to the Selectboard, so they are aware of everything that is going on. The Selectboard gets financial reports and check registers earlier in the week so they can review.  This enables Selectboard Meetings to be more procedural.

Finances:  Mr. Wood asked if the Walpole Finance Director is elected. Mr. Dalessio answered that the position is appointed. Ms. Andrus said Walpole’s Finance Director is like their Administrator. She oversees the finances. Mr. McCarty asked about the difference between Finance Director and Treasurer. Mr. Dalessio said the Treasurer in Walpole is elected. Mr. Dalessio asked if Charlestown has a Town Manager, and the answer was negative. They have an Administrator. Walpole has a Finance Director and Manager of Administration. Both report to the Selectboard. 

Mr. McCarty asked if the towns do an audit every year. Walpole, Charlestown, Alstead. and Langdon do. He said if a town wants to be transparent and show voters how their money is being spent, they should do an audit. Charlestown’s audit goes into their annual report. Mr. McCarty said that if five towns went together to get bids for auditing services, they may get a friendlier price. It is something to think about.

Mr. Wood mentioned possibly going together to get bids for paving projects. Mr. McCarty suggested a way to get started doing this. Alstead has a volunteer who is doing long-term management of their capital improvements. He has created a spreadsheet of projects with target dates. He suggested if everyone created such a spreadsheet, coordination of projects could be done. Mr. McCarty said it is a bonus for the town because, for example, they don’t have to guess which is the worst road in town in need of paving; they already know what work will be done. Mr. McCarty said towns might also get together to save money on gravel. He said they have done some bartering with Acworth on hauling and rolling. Mr. Levesque said that equipment sharing among towns could be very beneficial. And he said that the capital improvement spreadsheet in Alstead also includes when they plan to purchase new equipment.

Transfer Station:  Ms. Wolf asked Langdon what they are doing with their transfer station. Alstead is looking for a place for storage. Mr. Chaffee said nothing right now, so Ms. Wolf said they would be in touch.

Mr. Rescsanski asked if anyone is having trouble recycling. He said Charlestown’s plastic is contaminated and there are problems with the glass. Alstead agreed then referred to Walpole. Ms. Wolf stated, “They run a tight ship.”  Mr. Dalessio and Ms. Mayberry credited Ben Hoy, the recycling center director for his good ideas and for working out deals with others. She said he is fortunate because the mission of the Town supports and helps sell his ideas.  She said he would be glad to give tours.

Mr. Dalessio explained that Walpole purchased a baler and bales everything. They crush glass themselves and crush and bale aluminum cans, which get compacted and picked up. Walpole does not do the transport. When asked the price of the baler, Mr. Dalessio said $85,000, and it paid for itself in less than four years.

Mr. McCarty suggested doing their homework (collect data about how many tons of what they are handling) then inviting Ben Hoy to the next meeting in 90 days to discuss options. Ms. Mayberry said he is a very energetic person. She credits him for helping to create the new reuse center; much of the work he did himself. Ms. Wolf stated he is also very good with volunteers because she is one and knows. She also recommended visiting the reuse center in Swanzey, run by a man named Josh. Ms. Andrus suggested to her board that they invite the Charlestown transfer/highway director to that meeting so he can hear the information first-hand.

Walpole was asked what they do with their corrugated cardboard. The answer was, they bale it and sell it. Mr. Dalessio explained that local businesses call on the recycling center to get rid of materials. For example, Shaws gave them fluorescent light tubes. Mr. G’s gives them cardboard. Lentex gives them large cardboard rolls. Selling these things generates revenue for the town. Ms. Andrus said they get the same from Whelen.

Mr. Dalessio stated that a challenge this past year was dealing with the increase in garbage generated by folks staying home due to the pandemic. However, he stated that collaboration at staff meetings leading to departments helping departments has saved the town money. 

It was stated that Alstead and Langdon share a transfer station. Langdon pays Alstead to use it. Ms. Mayberry said Walpole does not issue permits, and out of towners may drop garbage and recyclables there. Non-recyclable items must be put into Walpole trash bags, which are sold at local retailers.  She also explained that any money donated at the reuse center is distributed to the Fall Mountain Food Shelf and Friendly Meals. This amounts to roughly $125/month for each. Reuse Center staff makes the determination of whether an item is donatable or trash. Certain items unable to be donated cost 15 cents/pound for disposal, and that money goes back into the Recycling Center.

Fall Mountain Food Shelf and Friendly Meals:  Mr. Wood asked if Langdon and Alstead share the food shelf. It was explained that it is for everyone. Ms. Mayberry said she often sees cars from Vermont there. It is in Langdon, but Friendly Meals are hosted out of Alstead. It is on town property, so it is maintained by the town. Mr. Rescsanski explained that Charlestown has its own food self. Ms. Andrus stated that they host Congregate Meals instead of Friendly Meals. Mr. McCarty said that they stopped Friendly Meals because of Covid. Ms. Wood said they will reassess the program next spring.

General Community Information: Mr. Dalessio detailed projects in Walpole to emphasize the importance of building community support. He talked about the Walpole Library Renovation Project, Hooper Institute, Brownfields Project, and the Walker Road Project. Ms. Wolf talked about the Alstead community’s support of the Chase’s Mill Project, all of which were done without taxpayer money.

Public Deposit Investment Pool (PDIP):  Mr. Dalessio asked if the other towns are using PDIP for excess cash, such as highway block grants. Walpole tries to keep their checking account minimized. They have about 1-2 weeks’ worth of cash in the general checking at any one time. The rest goes into this program to earn interest. This includes trusts, capital project money, highway block grants, which are put into separate accounts until there is a need to spend it. The Finance Director and Treasurer work hand-in-hand and a phone call or email will get the money transferred. Mr. Wood said they want to do something like this in Charlestown for their water project. Mr. Rescsanski stated that Charlestown has a treasurer, but there is no analysis. He would like to see finances improved. Mr. Dalessio explained that Tom Goins, Walpole Treasurer, set this up. Other towns were asked if they had business managers or finance directors. Mr. Chaffee said a Selectboard Assistant does that work for Langdon. Mr. Dalessio said he thought Tom Goins would speak with anyone who wants to know more about the program. Walpole was asked if there is a minimum deposit required in a PDIP. Ms. Mayberry said she didn’t think so. She and Mr. Dalessio suggested putting tax money into the program until the county tax comes due. American Rescue Plan money can be put in there until plans are made for spending it.

Vilas Bridge:  Walpole was asked what was happening with the closed Vilas Bridge. Mr. Dalessio stated the project must be prioritized by the governors of NH and VT to get anything done. He said it is very difficult to raise money for a state project.  It is part of NH DOT’s 10-year plan for construction projects, but it will only be 50% funded and continually gets pushed back in the plan.  Ms. Mayberry explained that the state doesn’t see it as a transportation problem, but an infrastructure problem, so they don’t want to fund it. Mr. Dalessio says the main concern is the sewer line under the bridge.

Mr. Rescsanski asked if Walpole has an asset management plan for water/sewer. Mr. Dalessio said no, but if asked, Mark Houghton, Walpole Water/Sewer Director would know what needs to be done in the next 10 years. Ms. Mayberry said the DES has excellent workshops on the topic, including how to get community buy-in for projects.  She recommends the workshops.

Challenges Ahead:  Ms. Andrus asked one final question of the group before the workshop wrapped up. She wanted to know what each board felt was their greatest challenge moving forward.  Mr. Gallagher of Alstead said flooding. He and Mr. Chaffee agreed that there were no other problems at this time.  Mr. McCarty stated that Alstead is a remarkably supportive community, and they, like Langdon, do not have any serious challenges. Mr. Levesque said they are looking for someone to head up their transfer station. No one person is running it now. Mr. McCarty said his biggest challenge is wrapping his head around all the federal programs that are coming their way. Cheshire County hired someone to help him understand the proper way to get through the registration, application, expenditures, and recording of federal funds as they come in.

Steve Dalessio stated that Walpole needs to ensure that there is succession in place, because when someone leaves a position, they end up with information voids. Cross training is important. Ms. Mayberry said asset management is needed.

Ms. Andrus said Charlestown needs to put policies into play. Get buy-in from the community and establish a sense of togetherness, whether it be as a town or as a district

Ms. Mayberry asked if any of the other town had been contacted by the Community Power Coalition about cooperative purchasing of electrical power. Walpole has joined the coalition. After discussing what the group has to offer, there seemed to be general interest in the plan. Ms. Mayberry will send each selectboard the contact information for the coalition representative, Henry Herndon of Concord.

Mr. McCarty proposed that this body reconvene in 90 days and invite Ben Hoy to come and share information and answer questions. Ms. Mayberry will contact him about the meeting.  Mr. McCarty suggested October 29 at the same time in Walpole Town Hall. He also suggested submitting their data to Mr. Hoy in 60 days.

Adjournment:  With no further topics to discuss, Cheryl Mayberry adjourned the meeting at 6:10 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Jean Kobeski, Recording Secretary

**Draft Minutes with edits and changes to be applied at Oct. 29th Joint Meeting**

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