Meeting Minutes of the Select Board

 Location:  Town offices Date:  August 5, 2021  
 Opened:    7:00 pm Adjourned: 9:00 pm  

Select Board Present: Andrea Hodson, Jay Jacobs, Kathy Scott____________________

Attendees: Emergency Management Director Jeff Cady, Karen Coteleso, Andrew Maneval, Les LaMois, Pamela Worden, Anne Cucchi, John Cucchi, Charles Faucher, Constance Boyd

Agenda– The board moved to approve the agenda with the addition of an item from Andrew Maneval.

Minutes of previous meeting 7/30– The board approved the July 30 minutes as submitted.

Class VI Road Maintenance – ApplicationTemplate– Ms. Hodson noted that the form approved by the Select Board to be used as a template for requests by property owners to maintain Class VI roads is based on language from the Town of Acworth, a town with many class VI roads. Ms. Hodson also suggested sharing a copy of the form with the Planning Board.

Andrew Maneval– Mr. Maneval requested SB support for the reconstituting and reconvening of the Broadband Committee, renamed the Telecommunications Committee.  The committee aims to return to one of its original mandates, to improve cell phone communication in town for residents, businesses and emergency services, now that the fiber/hi-speed internet project is complete. They aim to collaborate with police, fire and emergency management, who already have put forth a proposal to the Select Board for improved telecommunications as a project eligible for the Local Recovery Fund Program. Mr. Maneval also noted the potential to collaborate with other towns to mesh public and private needs and initiatives. All SB members expressed full support for the proposal. The committee will reconvene within the next two weeks.

Library Trustees used book collection box– Karen Coteleso and Les LaMois, Library Trustees, informed the SB that a partner organization, Discover Books, has offered a book bin, 44 x 44 x 72 in dimension, for the collection by the library throughout the year of used books in good condition. The library would receive $.02 per pound of books collected. The trustees and SB discussed the issues of the size of the bin, the location of the library within the historic district, and the most appropriate location for it. Following discussion, it was agreed by all that the police station and town offices were two viable locations. Ms. Coteleso will work with Discover Books to visit both properties and report back to the SB.

Fee-owned Right of Way Easement, Skatutakee Road– Andrea Hodson reiterated the four conditions, outlined on July 15, under which the SB would consider ceding the Right of Way to Pamela Worden. The conditions included: 1) drafting of the deed by the town attorney; 2) inclusion of a provision for a surety bond; 3) retention of a 7’ ROW by the town; and 4) valuation of the right of way by an independent appraiser.

Ms. Hodson then noted that, following her research and discussions with a DOT right of way specialist, she feels there is no legal reason not to agree to Ms. Worden’s request. Ms. Hodson also believes the quitclaim deed submitted by Ms. Worden’s attorney is the appropriate type of deed to be used in this case, as it equates to those granted previously to Skatutakee Road property owners.

As a point of reference for Ms. Worden, Ms. Hodson cited a quote she received for a surety bond in the amount of $2500 for a five year term.  She then noted the town has not received a response from an appraiser, but that the DOT Right-of-Way appraisal team, familiar with municipal release of easements, noted that a request for consideration of the value of the easement was not the norm.  Ms. Hodson also stated that from discussions with the town’s assessor, there would be no change to the property’s assessed value as no adjustment had been made in the past for the Right-of-Way.

Ms. Hodson stated that based on this research she now proposes that the board accept the quitclaim deed put forth by Ms. Worden’s attorney. She added that Pamela Worden owns the parcel, and the Planning Board has approved the merger of it with her other lots. In addition, other property owners along Skatutakee Road who have requested similar Right-of-Way releases, have had their boundaries reset based on the Town Meeting Warrant Article of 1978.

Jay Jacobs, while stating he disagrees with Ms. Hodson’s conclusion and believes, at a minimum, that the vote should go to Town Meeting, encouraged the board to decide the matter.  Kathy Scott believes the Town Meeting vote already happened and agreed with Ms. Hodson’s research and opinion on the quitclaim deed. She did, however, question the appropriateness of requesting a consideration from Ms. Worden for the Right-of-Way, as this has never been requested. Ms. Hodson acknowledged it would be unusual. Mr. Jacobs spoke to the value of lake access to the public afforded by the right of way. He also noted that the situation with this particular parcel differs from those of 2007-08 agreements for many reasons.

Following additional discussion about the value of the Right-of-Way, whether the relative safety of the Right-of-Way location should be a factor in the board’s decision, and the merits of a public hearing on the matter given how many public meetings had included discussions, the Board noted they were ready to vote. Prior to doing so, the chair asked for public comment.

Anne Cucchi reminded the board that this property was subject to litigation in 2011, when a court decree determined the town retained the Right-of-Way and that this is written in Ms. Worden’s deed. The Cucchis believe the town’s intention was to keep it a public Right-of-Way for public access to the lake, given its year-round usage for many activities. She stated it looks like the board is acting to deprive members of the public access to Lake Skatutakee, as well as to other lakes in Harrisville. She referred to Ms. Hodson’s statement in the July 15, 2021 minutes that this area of Skatutakee Road has a parking problem, or inadequate parking, and that the real issue is the lack of parking to the spring, at the bottom of the Cucchis’ private road, for which they were forced to pay over $30,000 because their two engineers were ignored. Ms. Cucchi added that they have people turning around there and blocking the entrance and that, to talk about parking issues and safety should involve a conversation about the spring, and that the board should be moving toward closing the spring because of this.

John Cucchi then added that they bought their property with the knowledge that the waterfront came with the property and that the Right-of-Way fee was owned by the town, which they can prove. Mr. Cucchi then mentioned the legal effort they have under way that is not yet finished. He also cited the value of his assistance to the town helping survey a 10-acre parcel and easement. Mr. Cucchi expressed intense anger, using foul language and aggressive gestures, over this and previous boards’ actions and he threatened legal and other action against individual board members and their families. The board asked him to leave, pointing to the posted rules of behavior at public meetings. When he would not, upon agreement by the board to call the police, the Cucchis then left the premises.

The board subsequently returned to the matter of the request for the quitclaim deed by Ms. Worden. Ms. Hodson reiterated she doesn’t think the matter needs to go to Town Meeting. She has further ascertained, through the state and through the town assessor, that no number was assigned to the Right-of-Way value in past, or is commonly assigned in these situations. She and Ms. Scott feel confident that the board is continuing precedent set for properties on the north side of Skatutakee Road, but the board’s action would not be relevant to other roads. Mr. Jacobs argued for the board to adhere to town counsel’s recommendation on the surety bond.

The board then discussed the requirement of a surety bond or an alternative form of indemnification, with the property owner stating that such a request imposed an unfair and unusual burden. The situation has already cost them many thousands of dollars and they purchased the property with no knowledge of what would transpire as a full deed search was conducted to assure the title was clear. Ms. Hodson noted it is the board’s job to protect the town and plan for any potential action against it, taking into account the point made by Mr. Maneval that suits are often threatened without actually being brought.

Andrea Hodson then moved to accept the quitclaim deed. Whereas Pamela Worden owns in fee simple, whereas by New Hampshire statute and approval of the town, it is only one lot by merger, and whereas everyone else got their boundaries reset, there really is no legal reason that the town can prohibit the boundary from now being that already set by the town in 2008, based upon the 1978 Town Warrant. The terms would be to accept the quitclaim deed submitted by counsel for Ms. Worden following review by Town Counsel and amended to include a consideration for a surety bond or a $10,000 savings account. Retention of a 7’ Right of Way is already included in the submitted deed as is a survey of the area prepared by Russ Huntley.  Kathy Scott seconded.

 During discussion, it was confirmed that Ms. Worden would decide between the surety bond or savings account and that the town’s attorney would draft the deed based on the deed submitted by counsel for Ms. Worden and based on the language in the previous quitclaim deeds granted to Skatutakee Road property owners.

Jay Jacobs having requested a roll call vote, members individually cast their votes. Mr. Jacobs – no; Kathy Scott – yes; Andrea Hodson – yes. The vote was 2-1 in favor. The motion passed.

Cheshire County Flood funding  – Jeff Cady confirmed that the county needs to meet a threshold claim level of $2.2 million to apply to the federal government for flood reimbursement and that towns need to meet a threshold of roughly $3,300 to join in. Jeff Cady spoke to the Road Agent about collecting information related to locations worked, amount of time and amount of material needed.  Mr. Jacobs feels the town is spending dollars to save pennies and doing more administrative work than is worth it. Andrea Hodson and Kathy Scott would like to put a system in place to keep data.  Emergency Management will work with Highway Dept and Police Department and keep SB informed as they go.

Recovery Fund – The Chair confirmed that Amy Roberts filed the town’s intention to submit an application to the state for Harrisville’s share of Local Recovery Funds. Theprocess for identifying and vetting projects will be discussed in coming weeks and months.

Other business
Anne Howe / Historic District Commission Regulations for Town Counsel review – The Board had no concerns about the packet prepared by Anne Howe for Silas Little to review.

-The SB signed the Oath of Office for Theresa Morris as Library Trustee Alternate.

-The SB acknowledged receipt of the HWY block grant funds for 2021-22.

-SB acknowledge receipt of the application from Akhil Garland to maintain Class VI roads abutting his properties, including Blood Hill Road, Cobb Hill Road, Bancroft Road, and Clymers Drive. The Road Agent is reviewing as well.