Select Board
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Meeting Minutes

Select Board:  Andrew Maneval, Andrea Hodson, Kathy Scott

Attendees: Assessor Lynn Cook, Road Agent Wes Tarr, EMD Jeff Cady, Police Chief Steve LaMears, Treasurer Anne Havill, Town Clerk Cathy Lovas, Earl Horn, Les LaMois, Harry Wolhandler, Erin Hammerstedt, Doug Gline, Don Scott, Donna Sprague, Ned Hulbert

The meeting opened at 7:05 pm.

Second Budget Hearing to present the proposed 2024 Operating Budget and Draft Warrant
The board reviewed updates to the proposed budget, based on feedback at the first budget hearing on Jan 18 and further discussions with department heads and board and committee chairs.  The SB noted that the updated budget reflects cuts of just over $18,000 from the first draft.

Increases in certain lines include a 3.2% COLA for town employees, funding for 4 elections in 2024 and funding for a new generator which ultimately, if a grant is received, would cost the town $10K (grant funding would total $30K). If the grant is not awarded, the town will not purchase the equipment and there would be no hit to the budget.

Warrant Article on the Recycling Center – There was much discussion about the proposed Recycling Center budget and what budget lines would look like if the Warrant Article proposing to expand recycling operations passes versus if it does not.  The board clarified that the operating budget indicates expenses only and does not show revenues.  The proposed budget reflects a vote of yes to expand recycling operations. Should the Warrant Article fail, the budget will be modified on the floor.

The SB further clarified that modifications to the Transfer Station facility would be phased in, and that the anticipated start date for the new system would be around Memorial Day weekend; thus, the 2024 calendar year budget is only proportionately affected.

Warrant Article on Elderly Exemptions – Assessor Lynn Cook explained the process for Elderly Exemptions, and options the Town has to modify exemption amounts and income and asset qualification thresholds to reflect cost of living adjustments and rise in property values.  She further shared exemption information for neighboring towns and how Harrisville compares.  The last time Harrisville voted to modify exemption amounts and qualification levels was in 2007.  The existing income and asset eligibility limits make it difficult for Harrisville residents over the age of 65 to qualify. However, to raise these limits too significantly would affect the budget and increase the tax impact on the general population.

The draft Warrant Article proposes raising the exemption amount to $50,000 from the current $20,000, the exemption being a deduction off the assessed value of a property.  If the article passes, a $50,000 deduction off the median assessed value and a tax rate of $12.56 would result in a deduction in taxes of $632.

The assessor further explained that income and assets are defined as salary/social security, savings, investments, life insurance policies, bank account balances, etc.   She noted that, given the rise in real estate values in town, offering the exemption is a way towns can assist elderly property owners and longtime residents who are on a fixed income.

Warrant articles (#6, #7 and #8) on Village Road Rebuild – The board explained the three proposed articles on the Village Road rebuild for Church and School Streets, and Church Alley, and the costs to the town pending voting results.  The SB supports the discontinuance of Church Alley as a road for vehicular use, given the costs to repair the road up to safe travel and maintenance specifications.  Its reclassification to a Class B Trail would maintain the public right of way for non-vehicular passage.

Attendees raised questions about parking, and the need for additional parking in this busy section of town. The SB explained that the town only controls parking along Church Street, where two additional spaces would be created; the parking areas adjacent to the store and post office are owned by Historic Harrisville, and thus are privately owned and maintained.   Attendees also asked if the project plans were stamped by a professional engineer. The board and Road Work Committee noted that, though not stamped, the plans have been reviewed, and modified slightly, by a professional civil engineer familiar with Harrisville roads.

Article 9, Brush Truck – This is a requested appropriation for a brush truck, the central vehicle used by the Fire Dept for brush/forest fires.  $40K will be provided by private donations, and $40K is being asked from the town.

Article 10, South Road Bridge over the Minnewawa Brook – This article asks the town to commit to bridge replacement, a project that would have no tax impact, as 100% of the cost for bridge replacement is available via a federal grant. However, for the first phase of the project, the town is responsible for 20% of the cost of updating the engineering design, anticipated to be $100,000, with 80% of this cost to be reimbursed.

The timetable for this bridge project, if approved by voters, is anticipated as follows: Summer 2024 – update the engineering design; Late 2024 – issue RFP for construction;  Spring / Summer 2025 – bridge replacement.

Warrant Article on Conflict of Interest Policy  – Andrew Maneval explained that a Conflict of Interest Policy is being put forward for adoption as a Town Ordinance, largely to require disclosure of any conflict of interest for any town board or committee member involved in a given matter or issue.  He added that decision regarding recusal is up to the individual.

Other business
— Zoning Amendments – The SB acknowledged the vote by the Planning Board on Mon 2/5 to bring forth Zoning Amendments on the official ballot for Town Meeting.  The board will clarify the summary language that describes proposed amendment # 3 and # 4.

At 8:40 pm, the SB closed the public hearing on the budget and warrant, turning to regular business.

Agenda, minutes of Feb 2 – With the addition of an update on the Northern Border Regional Commission and on the town’s gravel pit, the board approved the agenda as amended.  The SB voted in favor to approve the minutes.

Decision on recommendation of the Elderly Exemption Warrant Article – Following discussion on information shared by the Assessor, and questions and feedback during the Budget Hearing, the board unanimously agreed to bring the article forward and to recommend it, noting the voters will have the final say.

Date, time and location for Town Meeting- The board confirmed that Town Elections and the Deliberative Session on the Warrant will take place Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at Wells Memorial School. Polling hours are 11:00 AM to 7:00 pm, with Town Meeting beginning at 7:00 pm.

Other business
-Northern Border Regional Commission (ME, NH, VT and NY) – Mr. Maneval shared the deadline dates for grant applications, should the SB decide to pursue projects that may be eligible for funding. Categories for funding include water and wastewater, revitalizing transportation, workforce development and facilities, and growing outdoor recreation. The first deadline is 3/15.  $12.5 million is allocated for New Hampshire, with 80/20 shared costs.

-Gravel pit- The Road Agent is moving along with reclamation as sand and gravel is excavated.

– The SB signed the Elderly Deferral application for Map 20 – Lot 31.

-Draft SB Agenda for February 15 – Code enforcement update; warrant article assignments; correspondence and other business

The meeting adjourned at 9:25 pm.