Select Board
Friday, May 26, 2023
Meeting Minutes

Select Board: Andrew Maneval, Kathy Scott, Andrea Hodson

Attendees: Police Chief Steve LaMears, EMD Jeff Cady, Fire Chief Wayne Derosia, Dan Nowill, Treasurer Anne Havill, Town Clerk Cathy Lovas, Road Agent Wes Tarr, Gus Lerandeau , Scott Neary, Barbara Watkins, Kate Neary, Shane Long, Earl Horn, Don Scott, Tom McGregor

Agenda, minutes – With two additions under new business, the board approved the agenda as amended. The minutes of May 11 were approved, with Mr. Maneval clarifying that his comment on the sanctuary city bill outcome referred to a possibility and not an eventuality.

Ambulance service – The board heard from Kathy Scott and Chief Derosia about the Swanzey meeting, where representatives from multiple towns heard from the County EMS and from Rescue Inc. Another multi-town meeting is being scheduled in the next 2-4 weeks to discuss ambulance service options and to discuss the possibility of a regional solution.

The board also heard from resident Dan Nowill, shift commander for the City of Keene Fire Department and union president. Mr. Nowill cautioned the board about contracting with Cheshire County EMS, which the SB has been discussing. These concerns include cost increases in the 4th year, after the County’s ARPA funds are fully expended, as well as the county’s business model, lack of backup service, and allegations about its use of ARPA funds.  He also spoke to the City of Keene’s premier level of service. The city is covering Harrisville at this time.

The board noted that the County confirmed it has secured its first backup service contract with Great Brook, with 1 or 2 backup vehicles at to be placed at Cheshire Co facility. The board also confirmed that the total cost of service in year 3 of a contract would be $21,460, with no offsetting ARPA funds. Costs are not projected for year 4 and beyond.

Chief Derosia expressed disappointment that the board was prepared to vote at the last meeting, that was supposedly for discussion only, without allowing the Fire Department the opportunity to speak. Adding to Mr. Nowill’s comments, Chief Derosia stated concerns about location and availability of County vehicles to serve Harrisville given their current contract commitments.  Both urged the board to delay its decision until more questions are answered.  Police Chief LaMears agreed with the recommendation until after the follow-up meeting of multiple towns and ambulance services.

The board noted that all meetings have been open and the Fire Chief and company have been invited to weigh in. Mr. Maneval noted that, to the extent there are outstanding questions related to ambulance service protocols or inappropriate use of funds, he would like to hear more from the providers. Also, if a regional approach is a possibility sooner than anticipated, the board would like to hear more about that as well. Mr. Maneval will reach out to Rescue Inc. to obtain more information and will report back to the board.

E-bikes and Eastview Trail Easement – In light of the previous discussions and feedback from both the town attorney and counsel for the Nearys, Mr. Maneval opened discussion for limited public input on whether to allow or disallow e-bikes along the Eastview Trail based on language in the easement. The SB confirmed that, for the property owners, it was an all or nothing proposition, in that any contingencies based on speed of bike riders or other proposed modifications in use would not be considered in their minds as allowable under the easement.

Several comments were offered, many in support of the landowners’ rights to interpret the easement language as excluding e-bikes and respecting landowners’ rights as critical to maintaining the positive relationships and existing permissions for public access to trails throughout town that traverse private land.  Attendees also discussed availability of alternate routes for e-bike riders and safety considerations for trail users and e-bike riders. Those in favor of e-bike use on the Eastview Trail pointed to state regulations which consider e-bikes regular bicycles and which authorize towns to decide whether or not to allow their use on trails.

Following the closing of the public comment session, Mr. Maneval confirmed town counsel’s input that the board is free to interpret the language in the easement and to include or exclude e-bikes within it.  Counsel for the property owners provided input that the town is precluded from allowing e-bikes based on the easement language.

Mr. Maneval noted that reasons in favor of allowing e-bike use on the trail include the increase in access to trails and natural resources, particularly for the infirm, and providing cyclists more time on trails and less time on roads.  Reasons in favor of disallowing, he added, include preserving the desire of the landowners, the potential for safety risks, the availability of other options for e-bike travel, and the possible disinclination in the future of other private landowners to offer access across their land.

The board read aloud the relevant section of the easement language, which states for passive non-motorized recreational purposes, including hiking, jogging, trail running, bicycling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horseback riding. Specifically excluding from this easement any use of the old railroad bed, so-called, by motorized recreational equipment, including but not limited to motorcycles, snowmobiles, OHRVs, four(4) wheel drive pickups, dirt bikes or other motor vehicles or other motorized forms of conveyance.

The board also read aloud RSA 265:144-a as follows: I. Except as otherwise provided in this section, electric bicycles and operators of electric bicycles shall be afforded all the rights and privileges, and shall be subject to all of the duties, of a bicycle or the operator of a bicycle. An electric bicycle is a vehicle to the same extent as a bicycle.

 VII. An electric bicycle may be operated wherever a bicycle may be operated, subject to the following limitations: (a) A class 1 or class 2 electric bicycle may be ridden on bicycle paths or on multi-use paths where bicycles are permitted. However, a city, town, or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or multi-use path may prohibit the operation of a class 1 or class 2 electric bicycle on that path. 

Following discussion among the board, Mr. Maneval proposed the following motion: Expressing the Town of Harrisville’s interpretation of the easement as not precluding e-bikes but, under the subsection of NH RSA 265:144-a, the board authorize the Nearys to post signage on the 1.4 mile section of the Eastview Trail disallowing e-bikes over that ground, unless or until a future Select Board decides otherwise. Andrea Hodson seconded. The board voted 2-1 in favor with Kathy Scott opposed due to her reading of the state statute as allowing e-bikes on multi-modal trails and her regret at taking away the right of townspeople over land to which they previously had access.  

The board thus agreed to allow prohibition of e- bikes on that trail, leaving it open to future Select Boards to re-interpret language of easement as they might see fit. The board’s decision was not based on interpretation of the easement, but on the SB’s authority to allow or disallow. If there were no easement, residents wouldn’t be allowed to traverse.

Aldworth Manor – Shane Long met with the board to explain Aldworth Manor’s attempt to secure funding to repair the 100-year old stone columns at the base of Aldworth Manor Road, just above the intersection of Chesham Road. As the columns stand in the town owned right of way, Aldworth Manor may need permission and support of the town in its grant outreach efforts. The board asked Mr. Long to submit his request in writing, which he will do, and noted its support of the estate owner’s seeking funding from state, federal or other sources.

Other business – The SB approved hiring Monadnock Pest & Wildlife for mice control at the Fire Department, a quarterly maintenance cost of $145.00.

Road paving RFP – Following review, the SB moved and voted in favor to approve the bid furnished by All States Construction in the amount of $142,054.50 for the three road paving projects approved at town meeting.

Department Heads  – This portion of the meeting was deferred to September. The board noted it will plan to always start the department head meetings at 9 am.

Tax Collector – The Tax Collector submitted her resignation effective at the end of July. Andrea Hodson will post the opening.

Legal update – The board noted the property owners appear to be taking steps at junk removal, which the board expressed appreciation for and hopes will continue. Mr. Maneval will draft a letter to the property owners stating the board’s position on instituting proceedings in light of this.

The board approved the appointment of Ed Tibbetts to the ZBA.

Mr. Maneval will contact the Keene Sentinel in response to a request for comment on the town’s former police chief.

Camper on Breed Road property – The board noted it approves of 90 day occupation of the camper contingent upon submission of documentation for proper sewage disposal and water supply.

SB Calendar – The board will meet Tuesday, May 30, at 9am for a workshop, and subsequently, Thursdays, June 1, June 8,  and June 15 at 7pm.

The board signed the pay warrant in the amount of $124,810.60.