The Harrisville Conservation met at the town offices on Chesham Road on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.
Members present: Winston Sims, Harry Wolhandler, Andrea Polizos, Jay Jacobs, Andrew Maneval Selectman attendee
Members absent: Doug Gline, Les Lamois
Minutes of February 1, 2017
Motion to approve by Andrea Polizoz. Seconded by Harry Wolhandler. All voted in favor.
Minutes of Feb 13, 2017.
Winston Sims voted to approve. Andrea Polizos seconded. All voted in favor.
Land Conservation Trust Fund
HCC members expressed their frustration to Jay Jacobs over not having been included in discussions about the proposed Warrant Article to close the Land Conservation Trust Fund. Explaining that the process felt secretive, they asked him why and how the Select Board had come to the decision they had.
Jay Jacobs explained that in no way was the process intended to be secretive, that the Select Board meetings and the budget hearings are open to the public and that the decision came about during the last meeting and final review prior to posting for the budget hearing. It was at that time, Jay Jacobs explained, when discussion came up about the fund and the idea that it might be redundant given the $56,000 already available to the HCC for conservation purposes. He further explained his feeling that more conservation-oriented organizations (including Monadnock Conservancy, the Harris Center and the Society for the Preservation of Enhanced Forests) are involved in conservation efforts, that Harrisville is a wealthy town and has private means available and that a significant percentage of the town’s land is already in conservation. Without a specific proposal for the use of the money, or a specific set of priorities on desirable land to be conserved, Jay Jacobs stated that the money could be used for other more immediate needs in the town and that, should a specific priority or immediate conservation initiative arise, the Select Board would have the ability to propose an allocation of funds for that purpose.
Andrew Maneval offered that, on reflection, he believes it would have been better to have more discussion about it but that, like all institutions, the town rushes to get the budget prepared and to get the warrants drafted and lined up for presentation at the public hearing. He stated as well that the idea came up and the SB members agreed on it. But, he emphasized, the SB doesn’t ultimately decide; the voters do. Mr. Maneval further explained that he believed the HCC has some available assets through the use of its other fund, that in either case, funds couldn’t be used without a vote at Town Meeting, and that any interested parties who want to access money could through a vote.
Winston Sims and Harry Wolhandler stated it was unusual that the HCC wasn’t brought into the discussion, that it wasn’t in the minutes and that it seemed high-handed. Winston Sims stated his belief that the HCC is accountable for how it spends money. Harry Wolhandler offered that he isn’t necessarily against what the SB decided but that a certain level of communication and comfort about how the decision was arrived at was owed. Andrew Maneval stated that it was a good discussion to consider the relativity between spending through warrant articles and a board’s seeing it within its own mandate or on an emergency basis.
Winston Sims noted that conservation organizations such as the Harris Center only take on parcels of land of significant size and that he has been approached by private landholders in town about smaller pieces that owners want to conserve. He also stated he disagreed with Jay Jacobs’s statement that the independent conservation organizations meet the desired needs of the HCC.
Discussion ensued regarding Winston Sims’s request for the SB to withdraw the proposed warrant article and Jay Jacobs and Andrew Maneval responding that the decision could not be made at the HCC meeting or without a public hearing. Jay Jacobs stated that, in hindsight, it would have been better to consult with the HCC and that the SB would consider the HCC’s suggestion.
Opportunities for the HCC
Winston Sims asked the SB’s views of opportunities for the HCC and what the members perceive should be the focus in the year ahead. Andrew Maneval offered the following: He believes the HCC, as a guidance offering body, should keep its focus pertinent to threats to natural resources, especially in light of the possibility that the EPA could be defunded significantly; he encouraged the HCC to think about the proposed warrant article on the $3,000 allocation for the Lake Host Program as a vanguard for other voluntary efforts relative to protecting lakes and natural resources in town; he stressed the goal of spearheading volunteer-related efforts (e.g. related to invasive species or education about local flora and fauna or trail work) and less about governing or regulatory missions.
When asked if such initiatives fell under government protection, Andrew Maneval stated that any volunteer working under the supervision or control of a town agency is covered.
Jay Jacobs suggested in the year ahead that the HCC work to compile the results of VLAP tests on water quality over the years for all the bodies of water in town in an easily readable format and to include statistics for the normal and acceptable ranges. He suggested this baseline data could be helpful in the course of projects undergoing zoning review with respect to perceived impact on wetlands, steep slopes or shoreland.
Regarding thoughts on the Lake Host Program, Jay Jacobs mentioned more could probably be done and that it could be more efficient. He suggested the idea of a camera to observe high traffic times for monitoring watercraft. Andrew Maneval agreed it was a good program and that he would love to see more widespread support. Discussion ensued about how to recruit more volunteers, particularly young people, and point persons to coordinate.
Andrea Polizos mentioned the idea of a possible after school program (e.g., a “Junior Ranger” program).
When Winston Sims raised the idea of updating the NRI, Andrew Maneval mentioned the discussion already of getting an official town map prepared that could be used in zoning and for defining road classes and rights of way. He also mentioned that the Trails Committee is creating a trail map. Winston Sims suggested this information, including information about new lands in conservation, should feed into the NRI.
Regarding ground work on wetlands, Winston Sims mentioned legislation put forward in Concord to place a buffer around wetlands. Mr. Sims added that the planning board subcommittee on aquifer protection met with Charles Michal and, more recently, with Pierce Rigrod from the State DES to discuss ideas. Andrew Maneval noted it is looking like a project for 2018 and that proper governance resided at the PB with HCC involvement to help with planning efforts.
Winston Sims added that watershed protection could be an appropriate topic for Community Conversations in the future given its wide-ranging implications.
The meeting adjourned at 8:45 pm, after Harry Wolhandler made the motion and Andrea Polizos seconded.