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Police Look Forward to Working with New Community Group
By Penny Williams     4-17-17

The voters of Raymond sent a message to the supporters of a proposed new police station by turning down the $6,800,000 bond article in the March election by a vote of 650 in favor to 1,006 opposed.

Other high-cost measures were also defeated that day, including a bond to expand Lamprey River Elementary School and an article to purchase two vehicles for Public Works. The Town budget was also defeated.

With uncertainty as to why the proposed police station bond was defeated, Police Chief David Salois said the Police Building Committee convened in April for an in-depth discussion about what happened.

"We looked at the election results and considered the good and the bad," he said. "We will move forward at some point because there is a clear need for this new building."

What emerged from the committee meeting was the determination to understand what Raymond needs and Raymond wants, and how best to address this going forward, he said.

The Police Building Committee decided that the best way to accomplish this is to work with the Joint Committee formed by the Board of Selectmen, which includes School Board, Selectmen, and community members. The purpose of that committee is to decide on the town's priorities and then move on to address how the proposed school bond, police station, and Public Works vehicles can best be funded within the context of the town's priorities.

"We are looking forward to being part of that discussion," Salois said.

In the meantime, Salois said the Police Building Committee will look at what short-term solutions can be developed for the current station. He said his committee is committed to working with the newly formed joint committee - its first meeting is April 20 - to reach solutions for Raymond and determine how to proceed with the new police building.

"We are approaching this with an open mind," he said. "I think this committee is a great idea and that it will provide an opportunity for us all to take the first step."

Asked what short-term solutions might be considered, he said no decisions have been made, but the possibility of using portables was suggested. The Police Building Committee will review the specific needs and consider what can be done in the short term to alleviate each issue, and noted this would also be brought to the combined committee. He emphasized that the combined committee is the best forum to get things in perspective and to get started on moving forward.

"I believe meeting with this committee will be a great step for us to take," Salois said. "I think the vote showed that things were too expensive for the taxpayers, so we need to go back to the drawing board and work through this committee to decide how best to move forward. There’s lots of talent on that committee and we think that this is the best forum and way to make good decisions on how to move forward."

The combined committee plans to meet on Thursday, April 20. It was decided that the first step needs to be prioritizing town needs. Once a list of priorities has been agreed upon, the committee, either as a whole or in sub-committees, will focus on each of the major big-ticket projects, and the group will work on how these can best be achieved.


Raymond Selectmen, School Board to Work Together on Prioritizing Town Needs   By Penny Williams    4-12-17

A rambling discussion, punctuated by comments from residents in the audience, took place when the Raymond Board of Selectmen met with the Raymond School Board on Monday, April 3 to discuss how the two boards might work together to prioritize community needs and take advantage of efficiencies. The discussion was brought to an abrupt stop when resident Doug Vogel said he would give the boards five minutes to come up with a plan and if that didn't happen, he would form a community committee to take over the effort.

This brought the discussion to some conclusions. It was decided that both boards should have two representatives and four community members sit on the proposed committee, which should be in place by April 19. Interested residents should contact the Town Office with their letters or emails of interest in serving.

The decision was made that the Boards would meet April 20 at 7 p.m. at an as yet undetermined location to get the committee started.

Representing the Board of Selectmen on the committee will be Jonathan Wood and Jack Barnes. Representing the School Board will be Joe Saulnier and Janice Arsenault.

Numerous comments were made about what the committee should do. A previous committee met during 2015 and submitted a report but never got back together with the Board of Selectmen during 2016.

 People speaking both on the boards and from the audience said that if an effort were made, efficiencies could be found, such as sharing a finance director. Several people wanted the Town to prioritize its needs and not merely move ahead with the same projects voters have said they don't favor.

One resident asked if a space needs evaluation, such as was undertaken by the police department, had been done by the school district, to which School Board Chairman John Harmon responded that the district had been investigating the need for facilities expansion for 10 years, making improvements along the way. However, the boards basically agreed that it was unrealistic to put forward both big ticket projects - the elementary school expansion and the new police department, both defeated at the polls in March - at the same time.

Resident Gary Brown said it is time for the townspeople to tell the boards what they want. He said a new police station is necessary but the school expansion is not needed. He also questioned what has been done to bring businesses to town to increase revenue, a theme echoed by several speakers.

Resident Ed French said developing revenue-producing business is what the town should be focusing on and added that town government should be "looking outside the box."

Harmon said the focus of the committee should be on sharing resources. He said that if the focus of the committee were to look at the two building projects that were defeated in March, that was an entirely different direction and should have a separate committee.

The two boards struggled with the concept of one committee vs. two. Selectman Chair Jonathan Wood said he thought the first thing that needs to be done is for the committee to develop a list of priorities.

Several residents complained that Raymond is at fault for not collecting back taxes and that people owing back taxes shouldn't be allowed on boards and committees.

Members of the audience said waste exists and needs to be reined in. Another resident asked why the facilities bond proposal called for renovating and expanding the elementary school when it is in a flood zone.

The current Lamprey River Elementary School is in the flood zone but has never been flooded, even during the two years when Raymond had 100-year floods, Raymond School Superintendent Ellen Small told Raymond Area News. She noted that the proposed addition is not in the flood zone, and the proposed renovations include flood proofing the existing building with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) approved materials.

At the school board meeting held prior to meeting with the selectmen, school board members discussed whether to move forward with seeking voter approval of the elementary school renovation and expansion plan. Harmon said was important to have a position before the next combined meeting.

The board said that not to continue would result in a loss of momentum, and the school’s problems would not be going away. Members said the building project needs to continue but the board should prioritize what to do after further discussions with the selectmen. No decision was made on how to proceed.

After the school board members left the meeting, the selectmen said that both topics - resources, efficiencies and combined efforts, and the two defeated building projects - should be the subjects of the single committee. Barnes said, however, that the list of efficiencies and resources should be prioritized first, before the building projects were discussed.

The decision was made to start the conversation with the committee's creation at the April 20 meeting of the school board and board of selectmen.

 


Board of Selectmen Meetings 3-20-17 and 3-27-17
by Penny Williams    3-30-17

Jonathan Wood will chair the Raymond Board of Selectmen for the coming year. Jack Barnes will serve as vice chair.

Wood will also serve as selectmen’s representative to the Planning Board and the Business and Economic Development Committee, and will be alternate representative for the Highway Safety Committee and Friends of Raymond Recreation Committee.

Barnes will be selectmen’s representative to the Budget Committee, Historic District Commission and Scholarship Committee, and will be the selectmen’s representative in negotiations and an alternate to the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee.

Selectman Greg Bemis will represent the selectmen on the CIP Committee, Friends of Raymond Recreation Committee and Scholarship Committee, and will be the alternate for the Cable Committee, Historic District Commission and Planning Board.

Selectman Wayne Welch will serve as representative to the Highway Safety Committee and alternate for the Budget Committee and the Raymond Business and Economic Development Committee.

Newly elected selectman George Plante will be representative to the Cable Committee and Raymond Business and Economic Development Committee, and will serve as alternate for negotiations.

At its recent meeting, the board discussed an action plan for dealing with the default budget. Voters shot down the Operating Budget in March, and Town Manager Craig Wheeler said he and his staff are working to overlay the default budget over the proposed operating budget, but the bottom line is the town will have to deal with $8,300,144 ($7,468,819 for the default town operating budget and $831,324 for the water department budget), rather than the proposed $8,527,969.

Wheeler said there needs to be a painstaking effort of going line by line to see what the new line amount is under the default. He said he hoped to have everything worked out in the next two weeks, and noted that some payments would be arbitrarily delayed until fall, when the Town would have a better handle on both revenues and expenditures.

A proposed new police station was also defeated at the polls in March, and Wheeler said the committee that worked with the Police Department on the building proposal would continue meeting, with Barnes and Wood remaining on that committee.

In other business:

• Wheeler said he has received several applications from highly qualified candidates for the Town's Financial Director job. The deadline for resumes was March 31. He said he was putting together a committee to review the resumes and reduce the candidate pool to two or three persons to be invited in for an interview.

• At the board’s Monday, March 27 meeting, Police Chief David Salois gave letters of merit to Corporal Brian Stice and Officer Ryan Stanton for their handling of a suicidal incident on Election Day morning.

• Wood announced a joint meeting with the School Board will take place at the April 3 Board of Selectmen meeting. He said the School Board has already chosen two representatives who will, over the course of the year, meet with selectmen representatives in a sub-committee role to discuss and work on resolving any issues of concern. The Board decided to wait until the April 3 meeting to select its representatives.

• Wheeler said resident Dana Hanson has submitted several Right to Know requests from the town. Wheeler said her requests were for: all records for town vehicles including fuel and mileage for the year 2016 and year to date 2017, all employee time sheet records for the year 2016 and year to date 2017, and all resident emails collected by the town.

Wheeler said he plans to respond to Hanson's requests consistent with the state statute."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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895-4735

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